Updated: Nov 16
Many women experience signs and symptoms of Premenstrual Syndrome (PMS) throughout their lives - so much so, that it has become 'normal'. Even though PMS is common, it does not mean it's normal or healthy. These symptoms are your body's way of telling you there is an imbalance and it needs support.
A healthy cycle can actually come and go without any major symptoms - yes it's true! Let's chat hormones, symptoms and how you can support a healthier cycle and flow.
Estrogens are sex hormones responsible for growth and development of the reproductive system. Estrogens are a family of hormones which include Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2), and Estriol (E3). There are also other forms of estrogen, often referred to as “estrogen metabolites” which are primarily metabolized in the liver and excreted from the body through the digestive and urinary tracts.
Estrogens are essential for a variety of other functions because estrogen receptors are found throughout the body. We’re talking blood sugar, cholesterol, stress response, bone, skin, hair, urinary tract, cognitive health, sleep and more!
With all of these functions of estrogen it makes sense that when estrogen is too high- or too low, we can experience an array of different symptoms.
Estrogen metabolism is a term that describes the production, use, and elimination of estrogens through various pathways in the body. The metabolism of estrogens is impacted by a number of factors including:
Health conditions (metabolic syndrome, anorexia nervosa, hypothyroidism, autoimmunity)
When estrogen metabolism is out of balance, estrogens are not properly metabolized and eliminated. Disruptions in estrogen metabolism can damage DNA, and in some cases, predispose individuals to cancer. Some estrogen metabolites have been associated with a higher risk of cancers, including breast, ovarian, and prostate.
When there is too much estrogen in the body, a condition called “Estrogen Dominance” may be present. Estrogen dominance is a condition where there are increased estrogen levels relative to progesterone levels in the body. This may be the result of overproduction of estrogen by the body or simply an imbalance in the estrogen to progesterone ratio OR changes in estrogen metabolism and excretion.
Estrogen Dominance can exacerbate endometriosis, premenstrual syndrome (PMS), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD), and, as stated, put women and men at higher risk for certain cancers.
Estrogen Dominance Symptoms:
Breast tenderness or fullness
Headaches – cyclic
Heavy flow (with or without clotting)
Fibrocystic lumps in breast
Fibroids in uterus
Low mood / anxiety
Menstrual cycles shorter than 21 days
And if estrogen stays high for too long, your risk of certain conditions increases:
Certain cancers (breast, ovarian, endometrial)
Gynecomastia (breast tissue growth)
We Talked About Symptoms of High Estrogen, but What About Low Estrogen?
Weight loss resistance or weight gain (belly fat)
Moodiness or irritability
What is Progesterone?
Progesterone is often known as “the pregnancy hormone”. Its main function is to prepare the endometrium (lining of your uterus) for a fertilized egg to implant and grow. If pregnancy doesn't occur, the endometrium sheds during your mentrual period. If conception occurs, progesterone increases to support the pregnancy. However, it also helps to support mood, thyroid function and lactation.
Low Progesterone Signs and Symptoms in Women:
Low Progesterone in Men:
How to Bring the Body Back into Balance, Naturally:
1) Support healthy detoxification:
Regular bowel movements detoxify the body of excess estrogen, rather than recirculating it. If you struggle with constipation let’s work together to get you regular.
Staying hydrated: Drink half your body weight in ounces of water daily. Include electrolytes or make your own electrolyte drink like adding lemon/lime juice and a tiny pinch of Celtic sea salt. Filter out toxins with fluids!
Increase fiber intake gradually from vegetables, legumes, fruit, nuts and seeds. Bonus points for flax seeds which naturally work to balance progesterone:estrogen levels. Fiber binds harmful estrogen metabolites and other toxins in the digestive tract, which can be eliminated by the body. Multiple studies have shown a decreased risk of breast cancer with higher amounts of fiber in the diet. Most individuals should aim for a minimum of 25 grams of fiber per day. Fiber, coupled with hydration and other strategies for healthy elimination, ensure that estrogen metabolites are not reabsorbed and recirculated in the body.
Get moving: Find an exercise regime you enjoy and keep it up or focus on an active lifestyle. Sweating is a fabulous way to support detoxification. Utilizing infrared saunas is another great way to support detox.
Increase leafy greens, broccoli and cabbage: This family of vegetables (brassica veggies) has been shown in many studies to positively influence estrogen metabolism and reduce overall cancer risk. Cruciferous vegetables contain an important phytonutrient called sulforaphane. Sulphoraphane supports the body in producing glutathione, a key antioxidant, and also upregulates another important detoxification pathway called Nrf2.
Reduce or eliminate alcohol and refined sugars: Alcohol is metabolized in the liver, as is estrogen. Higher levels of alcohol consumption may disrupt estrogen metabolism, and increase breast and overall cancer risk. Alcohol intake should be taken into account with each individual’s other risk factors.
Try castor oil packs! We love them and you will too. They support circulation and detoxification, regularity, reduce overall inflammation and so much more. Castor oil packs can even dissolve cysts (ovarian/breast/other) and decrease uterine fibroids! Read more about benefits HERE.
Keep in mind that several genetic variants related to detoxification may impact estrogen metabolism, including COMT, CYP1A1, CYP1B1, and GST. Research shows that diet and lifestyle modifications can be supportive for individuals with some of these genetic variants. Talk to us if you are interested in understanding how genetics may be impacting your hormonal and overall health.
2) Maintain a healthy weight:
Some estrogen as well as toxins can store in adipose (fat) tissue, so maintaining a healthy weight can aid in the elimination of excess estrogen.
Losing weight in a healthy sustainable way (1-2 pounds a week at most) can be a challenge because excess estrogen and toxin overload are linked to weight loss resistance. Working with a licensed nutritionist to guide you is a total game changer. Consider our functional weight loss program that includes testing to build a completely personalized plan for you.
Healthy fats keep you full and satisfied – they don’t make you fat (refined sugar is more often to blame for weight gain). Omega 3 fats from fish, fish oil, and nuts/seeds like flax, chia, hemp and walnuts have been shown to reduce levels of inflammation in the body, which may indirectly support healthy estrogen metabolism. Fish choices that are good sources of omega-3’s include wild caught salmon, sardines, herring, mackerel, and anchovies. Farm-raised fish contain PCB’s and other chemicals which should be avoided because of their ability to disrupt estrogen metabolism.
3) Focus on gut health:
A healthy gut and your microbiome (gut bacteria) is essential for healthy hormones. Increase prebiotic foods like fiber-rich vegetables, legumes and seeds like flaxseed as well as probiotic rich foods like kimchi, sauerkraut and coconut yogurt. Here’s a whole list of probiotics and prebiotics.
Incorporate gut healing foods like healthy fats, proteins, zinc, vitamin C and more to keep your gut happy and healthy. A happy and healthy gut = happy and healthy hormones.
4) Increase colorful fruits and vegetables:
The more color the higher the antioxidants. Antioxidants are associated with lower risk of all cancers, including breast cancer. Antioxidant-rich foods are brightly colored fruits and vegetables, green tea, dark chocolate, herbs, and spices. These foods have been shown to neutralize cancer-inducing free radicals and support detoxification pathways in the body. Eat a “rainbow of colors” to include antioxidant-rich foods in your daily diet (see below for handout).
5) Try Seed Cycling!
We love it and you will too! All you need is organic ground flaxseed (and pumpkin seeds if you'd like) and either organic/raw sesame or sunflower seeds. It is a powerful ‘food as medicine’ practice for both sexes and all ages (from onset of periods through menopause). More info HERE.
6) Reduce chemical exposures through your foods, household and skincare products:
Xenoestrogens are chemicals that mimic estrogen in the body. Many personal care and home products contain chemicals that can disrupt healthy estrogen metabolism. For more information on choosing body and home care products, visit the Environmental Working Group website at ewg.org.
Certain medications, including oral birth control, and hormone replacement therapy (HRT) influence normal estrogen metabolism in the body and may increase the risk of hormone-related cancers. ALWAYS work with a functional practitioner when doing HRT and discuss the benefits and risks of oral birth control or HRT with your functional medicine provider.
Use clean body care, cosmetics, and household products (check out Pure Haven).
Eat organic whenever possible.
Work towards a solution for clean water in the home.
Choose pasture-raised, hormone-free meats only.
Use glass, ceramic, and stainless-steel food and drink containers, instead of plastic.
Certain supplements may be supportive for individuals with symptoms related to disruptions in estrogen metabolism. Interestingly, two commonly recommended supplements, diindolylmethane (DIM), and Indole-3-carbinol (I3C), are extracted from cruciferous vegetables! There is also some evidence that melatonin, N-acetyl-cystine, and methylated B vitamins may support healthy estrogen metabolism as well as they are essential for detox.
Supplement recommendations should always be tailored for each person’s unique physiology and health goals. Work with us to create a tailored supplement protocol.
8) Herbal Teas:
Herbal teas are a fabulous way to support hydration as well as detoxification. Try milk thistle, dandelion root or different detox herbal blends like Traditional Medicinals Everyday Detox or Yogi Detox. There are also great blends for an overall healthier cycle like (Healthy Cycle Tea by Traditional Medicinals).
Lastly, if you’re dealing with any of these symptoms, consider booking a free 15-minute consultation to discuss how we can help guide you in healing from the source.