Originally published: 26.JUL.2019
Last updated: 31.AUG.2023
Estrogen dominance is a term used in some medical literature to describe what occurs when estrogen supersedes the effect of progesterone in the bloodstream. In other words, it refers to a hormonal imbalance between estrogen and progesterone. It is most commonly seen in women over the age of 35 and symptoms can range from weight gain to increased PMS symptoms.
In this article, we will discuss what you should know about estrogen dominance, including what it really means and the risk factors associated with it. Plus, learn about the inner workings of the female sex hormones: estrogen and progesterone to get a better idea of how a change in levels can really impact your body.
- At the time of writing, estrogen dominance is still a theory. So while we will use the term throughout the article, we will also refer to it as ‘high estrogen’ and/or ‘estrogen imbalance’.
- What is Estrogen Dominance?
- What are the Risk Factors for Estrogen Dominance in Women?
- What is the Purpose of Estrogen in Women?
- What Role Does Progesterone Play in Estrogen Dominance
What is Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen dominance is defined as a hormone imbalance in which estrogen levels are increased relative to progesterone levels in the blood. It is also described as an imbalance in the levels of estrogen vs. progesterone in the blood. It occurs when there is not enough progesterone in the blood to balance the effects of estrogen.
For some women, this is a condition they have from the time they begin their menstrual cycle, for others, it is a condition that begins with perimenopause.
Having too much estrogen or high levels of estrogen can affect both men and women, however, it is more common in women, especially in women who are approaching menopause.
What are the Risk Factors for Estrogen Dominance in Women?
Risk factors and causes of high estrogen levels can vary from person to person. Your likelihood of experiencing may be impacted by factors such as your age, contraception, and lifestyle. There is also an emerging school of thought that claims that one’s diet may impact the risk of estrogen dominance.
Some of the factors that can put you at increased risk of a hormonal imbalance such as estrogen dominance include
Age: As women begin to move further away from their reproductive years, there is a higher likelihood that they will experience hormonal fluctuations. In this case, there is a higher likelihood that the effects of estrogen will outweigh that of progesterone. For instance, estrogen will likely drop by 35% whereas progesterone is likely to drop by 75%.
Birth control: A large proportion of contraceptives such as birth control pills use estrogen to prevent pregnancy. Synthetic estrogens may prevent pregnancy but depending on the brand and how often you take your birth control, you may be preventing the drop in estrogen which occurs during the shedding of the uterine lining which in turn may lead to increased levels of estrogen and low levels of progesterone.
Diet: There are claims that foods containing phytoestrogens may impact on your risk of developing estrogen dominance. Read: “Foods That Increase Estrogen: Do They Exist?” to gain more insight into the role that your diet may have on your estrogen levels.
Related health conditions: Certain health conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and ovarian tumors are said to have an impact on your circulating estrogen levels, though research is unclear on whether high estrogen causes the health condition or the health condition causes high estrogen.
Related article: What Causes Estrogen Dominance?
What is the Purpose of Estrogen in Women?
Estrogen is used for several reasons and may be necessary at different stages of a female’s life.
Synthetic forms of estrogen are most commonly associated with birth control but estrogen-containing products are also used to control acne, PMS symptoms, and menopause in the form of hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Some of the most common uses of estrogen include:
- Preventing pregnancy
- Controlling PMS symptoms
- Regulating hormone-related acne
- Preventing severe bloating and cramps during the menstrual cycle
- Regulating menopausal symptoms
What Role Does Progesterone Play in Estrogen Dominance?
Estrogen is known as the “female” sex hormone. Estrogen helps regulate the menstrual cycle, controlling the growth of the uterine lining during the first part of the cycle. It is primarily produced in the ovaries, however, it is also produced by fat cells and the adrenal glands.
Progesterone is another “female” sex hormone. It is released by the corpus luteum (the shell that develops in the ovary once the egg breaks free and starts its journey from the fallopian tube to the womb.
The goal of the egg that has just been released from the fallopian tube is to make its way from the fallopian tube to the womb to be fertilized by a healthy sperm.
Progesterone prepares the body for pregnancy if the released egg is fertilized. If the egg is not fertilized, the corpus luteum eventually fully breaks down, with the production of progesterone decreasing and a new menstrual cycle beginning.
Overall, the functions of estrogen and progesterone can either be complementary or work in opposition to one another to produce a range of everyday symptoms and side effects.
Your progesterone and estrogen levels fluctuate with the beginning of your menstrual cycle.
When you start your period, your body is producing some estrogen and almost no progesterone. Just before ovulation, your estrogen levels increase dramatically and they are involved in a process that stimulates the release of the egg from the ovaries.
This graph illustrates the rise and fall of hormones during your cycle, indicating when you should take a female hormone test.
If you are concerned or curious that you may be experiencing estrogen dominance symptoms or signs of a hormonal imbalance, it’s important to find out more. You can do this by speaking with your healthcare provider or if you would prefer, you can test from home with online results using LetsGetChecked’s range of Female Hormone Tests.
Here's how it works
- The test is shipped directly to you
- Activate your test and answer a few health-related questions
- Your health record will be reviewed by a medical team member and should you need any support services, they will be provided
- Collect your sample at a time that suits you
- Send your sample back to our laboratory using the pre-paid shipping label provided
- Your sample will be processed in an anonymous and timely manner
- Your results will be reviewed by our team of doctors. A member of our nursing team will contact you to offer guidance on the best next steps for you.
Related article: How do you Check Estrogen Levels From Home?