Menopause Symptom Groups or Types Part 1: Estrogen Dominance

Menopause can be classified into as many as twelve different types. This classification is based on the levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone—yes, women have testosterone, although at lower levels than men—and the levels of testosterone can make a significant difference during menopause. For now, to keep things a bit more straightforward, let’s look at the more common types of menopause and the hormone levels and symptoms associated with those. In other articles, we’ll discuss testosterone as well as cortisol—the adrenal hormone that can also play a critical role.

  • Normal levels of all hormones
  • Progesterone deficiency/Estrogen dominance:
  • Estrogen deficiency

It is really the ratios of the levels of hormones that is critical. Estrogen and progesterone, for example, often “oppose” each other’s actions—in reality, these two hormones balance each other’s functions. Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) is an example of excess estrogen—and many of the symptoms of PMS and estrogen dominance are very similar.

During menopause, the levels of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone can all change. In addition, the thyroid and adrenal glands can be affected and the hormones secreted from these glands may be affected. All of these changes can have a significant effect on your health and well-being, and it’s not always a simple task to figure out exactly which hormone(s) is or are affected. The most straightforward approach is that if you are having any difficulties, have all the hormones checked.

To be honest, this process is not always very easy. Some physicians do not believe it is necessary or may not really understand the complex processes that may be going on. The first thing to do if you are having significant problems during menopause is to find a physician who is an expert in the area and who is willing to “walk you through” the process of testing—and who is trained in interpreting the results. Most naturopathic physicians and integrative medicine physicians will be happy to “walk you through” the complete hormone testing—and be able to provide you with the much simpler saliva tests. You can provide the saliva samples in the comfort of your own home and mail in the samples.

The second thing to understand is that hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is not the only possible approach that you and your healthcare professional can take. There are dietary approaches, botanical and supplement approaches that work very well and are very safe. Hormone levels are complicated and there is no real “magic bullet”, pill or cream that will work for everyone.

Finally, you should realized that if you and your healthcare professional determine that HRT is right for you, the ideal approach is to taper down the HRT therapy as soon as possible. HRT is essentially an attempt to minimize the ups and downs or the rapid fluctuations in hormone levels that is often at the root of any symptoms you may be experiencing. But, you should remember that the normal biology of estrogen and progesterone indicates that at some point, those levels should be allowed to reach their normal lows.

Estrogen Dominance

estrogen dominance phaseFigure 1: Estrogen Dominance

Estrogen dominance—or, more precisely, the condition where there is not enough progesterone around to balance the estrogen— can cause symptoms such as:

  • Anxiety
  • Breast tenderness
  • Irregular bleeding (in perimenopause)
  • Bloating (water retention)
  • Weight gain
  • Headaches
  • Thyroid and energy issues
  • Insomnia
  • Foggy thinking or difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings
  • Decreased sex drive.

Estrogen dominance may also make you more at risk for breast and uterine cancer, blood clotting disorders and autoimmune diseases.

If these are symptoms that you are too familiar with—please get your hormone levels tested (but, as we said before, get ALL your hormone levels tested). Progesterone replacement therapy may be one approach that will work for you. But first, you need to know what the ratio of your estrogen and progesterone are (this can determine the dosage of progesterone) and you need to know the levels of other hormones like the thyroid or adrenal hormones that may be affecting your symptoms.

You should also be aware that dietary changes—whether or not you use HRT—can also help you. Try the following dietary approaches as well:

  • Increase the amount of fiber in your diet. This helps eliminate excess estrogen from your body
  • Limit the amount of processed foods and refined carbohydrates that you eat. Use whole grain foods that are minimally processed.
  • Eat lots of fresh fruit and vegetables—especially the leafy green vegetables. These types of foods help your liver remove the excess estrogens. Then—with the increased amount of fiber in your diet, those estrogens are gone!
  • Be kind to your liver! The main function of the liver is to remove toxins. Those toxins can include drugs, caffeine, alcohol, drugs and environmental xenoestrogens (estrogen-like molecules that contaminate most sources of water, the ground and air). Limit what you can.

Another approach that can help is to minimize the stress in your life—easier said than done, but it can be done! Learn how to take care of yourself better by saying “no” to unnecessary demands on your time and attention—and learn how to say “yes” to doing the sorts of things that YOU like and YOU can relax with!

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