While I have been open in my weekly newsletter (have you signed up yet?) and on Instagram about the health journey I’ve been on the past 2-3 months, I have yet to write about my experience with estrogen dominance all in one place. Now that I have a better understanding of what is going on and have started to see physical changes in myself from adjusting my diet and habits, I’m ready to open up about it with a little more detail. If discussing women’s health isn’t your thing, please just skip this post.
My Story of Estrogen Dominance
It started two months ago in November when I experienced some mid-cycle spotting. My cycles have never been typical- always long and a slightly unpredictable, I had never experienced this symptom before. I wasn’t going to pay it much attention and was ready to chalk it up to stress, but when I plugged it into the My Flo app where I track my cycles, it popped up with a warning that said this was not normal and to visit my OBGYN immediately. I’m not an alarmist, but the warning got in my head enough to warrant a call to my doctor- just to check things out.
I got in to see my doctor quite quickly and after an exam and some chatting, he was ready to call it a fluke. However, he did mention that if it happened again to come back in and we’d dig a little deeper.
When I had mid-cycle spotting again in December, I got a little nervous and immediately went back into the office. I had an ultrasound done that immediately revealed multiple cysts on both my ovaries. I have a history of one doctor saying I had polycystic ovarian syndrome and another doctor saying I don’t, so this wasn’t a complete surprise to me, even if it was an interesting confirmation of polycystic ovaries.
My doctor still seemed to think it couldn’t be anything bad because I was young(ish) and healthy, but since I was 35, he said he’d feel better if we did a uterine lining biopsy, though he was quite sure it would come back benign.
Well, a week later my phone rang at 5:30 PM from the doctor’s office and when I answered, it was him, which to me is never a good sign. He said he was very surprised, but the biopsy had come back showing slight hyperplasia, which though isn’t anything terribly worrisome at this moment, is abnormal and surprising.
My doctor asked me to get some base labs done and asked me about my blood sugar history. I had always had self-diagnosed blood sugar issues but hadn’t felt the spikes and falls in years because I learned how to control them with diet. He asked me if I had gestational diabetes, which I didn’t technically though I had a horrific experience with the blood glucose test and was told I didn’t have to take it again.
He ran my fasting glucose (92), fasting insulin (6.6), and my A1C (4.8). While all three came back within the normal range for their office, both my fasting insulin and fasting glucose were considered on the higher side according to doctors that specialize in hormones.
My mind was swirling with questions and the first thing he assured me was that this wasn’t going to turn into cancer overnight or anything, but it was something not to dismiss. He recommended I take three cycles of progesterone then we would do another biopsy in three months to see if it was clear. He also hinted at the fact that he was quite certain I would have to either take hormones, or get a hormonal IUD, or start on Metformin (a diabetic drug to regulate insulin) to keep this issue from occurring again.
I was incredibly disheartened by that. I don’t want to take hormones or medication if I can help it, so I asked if I could use the three months of progesterone to work on getting my blood sugars more stable on my own. He said that would be fine, though he doubted I would be able to make that big of a difference through diet alone because, again, I was already “so healthy and fit” (his words, not mine).
I was (am) determined to give it my best effort so I started researching. I read Mark Hyman‘s books about blood sugar control, I starting listening to podcasts focused on female hormones and estrogen dominance like Naturally Nourished. I scheduled a phone consult with Ali Damron.
And here I am now; a little over halfway through a three month journey to regulate and shorten my cycles, and balance my hormones.
Estrogen Dominance: Frequently Asked Questions
What is estrogen dominance?
Estrogen dominance is essentially having too much estrogen in your body. This can lead to negative side effects ranging from fatigue and anxiety to fibroids, endometriosis, abnormal menstruation, autoimmune issues, and breast, ovarian, or endometrial cancer.
There’s no set number that indicates estrogen dominance, so getting an estrogen level drawn isn’t necessarily helpful. It is the amount of estrogen you have relative to your other sex hormones and is diagnosed through presentation of symptoms.
What are symptoms of estrogen dominance?
They can be different for everyone, but some of the common symptoms of estrogen dominance can include:
- Irregular or otherwise abnormal menstrual periods
- Bloating (water retention)
- Breast swelling and tenderness
- Fibrocystic breasts
- Decreased sex drive
- Headaches (especially premenstrually)
- Mood swings (most often irritability and depression)
- Weight and/or fat gain (particularly around the abdomen, hips, and thighs)
- Cold hands and feet (a symptom of thyroid dysfunction)
- Hair loss
- Thyroid dysfunction
- Sluggish metabolism
- Foggy thinking, memory loss
- Trouble sleeping/insomnia
How did you know you were estrogen dominant?
Again, it’s different for everyone, so if you experience any of the above symptoms, it’s worth mentioning to your doctor. For me, the only real symptom I had was mid-cycle spotting. However, once we started digging more into it, more signs were revealed. My polycystic ovaries, daily bloating (which I really never felt was abnormal, but now that I don’t have it at all anymore is mind-blowing to me), and PMS cramping were all tell-tale signs.
What supplements are you taking?
Please never start on a supplement without consulting your own medical professional first, but I have been advised to take two supplements that are very popular for estrogen dominance: Calcium D-Glucarate and DIM.
What dietary changes have you made?
A lot of you have asked for details on how I’m eating now that I have discovered I’m estrogen dominant. While I’m happy to share what I’m doing (with the guidance of professionals), I don’t want you to blindly apply this to yourself. Each person is unique in what is “healthy” or what changes they may have enact to find out what foods work and don’t work for them.
While I’m personally a fan of all things in moderation, my health dictates that I need to switch things up a little bit right now. I’m willing to give it a solid try and approach my health proactively and in a holistic way in hopes of being able to avoid medication. So with that disclaimer, here’s my current dietary situation:
- I’m adding in high-quality animal protein a couple times a week and using it as an accessory, not as a main event. I’m using Butcher Box and am so far very pleased with the quality.
- I’m also eating a lot (LOT) of non-starchy vegetables, healthy fats like avocado and seeds, and some fruit (mostly berries).
- I’m drinking celery juice on on empty stomach every morning after a 13+ hour non-eating window.
- I’m drinking a lot of water (not my strong suit, but I’m trying) and dandelion root tea 1-2 times per day.
- I’m trying to eat 3 meals a day and limit snacking to give my gut time to rest between meals.
- For the time being I have eliminated dairy, most processed foods, beans, and grains. Once I get everything straightened out I fully expect (hope?) to add back in moderate amounts of quinoa, beans, and brown rice.
What about exercising with estrogen dominance?
Exercise is helpful with reducing estrogen in the body. I’m figuring out exercise so I can stay active while not stressing my body. From what I’ve learned, estrogen, insulin, and cortisol (that stress hormone) are all intertwined. I’m aiming to run 2 times a week and do gentle strength (not HIIT) 2 times a week. I shoot for 10,000+ steps a day (I love my garage treadmill for getting those steps in). I’m also adding yoga in a couple times a week, even if it’s just a quick 10 minute session.
Have you had to make any other lifestyles changes?
Since estrogen can be influenced by your environment, I’m making a few other changes as well. I’m finally getting rid of all the plastic food containers in my kitchen and using glass instead. I had been slowly transitioning, but now I just went for it. I also am starting to experiment with more nontoxic beauty products, lotions, detergents, cleaners, and more.
I also am ensuring I get at least 7 hours or sleep at night and keeping my stress levels in check the best I can. Again, cortisol is a big player with hormones and sleep and inner peace help regulate it.
I’m staying this course for another month and a half when I’ll be finished with my progesterone and have a repeat biopsy. If that is clear, I will continue on this path for a few cycles and hopefully see them shorten and regulate. My ovarian cysts should also disappear, so I’ll be asking about having another ultrasound in a few months, too. I’ll update you when I know more!
Did I miss anything? If so, please leave a comment below!
Have you ever dealt with hormone related issues?
If so, what helped you?