Is Estrogen Dominance Making You Fat?

Estrogen is the hormone that ultimately makes us women.  It’s the hormone that can make us bitchy and bossy, but also sweet and sappy.  Estrogen is necessary to keep our bodies functioning optimally, but an excess of this hormone can result in a condition termed estrogen dominance, which can make fat loss and achieving a lean body challenging.  Estrogen dominance is far more common than you think. And, when estrogen imbalances occur, our fat burning and muscle building efforts are negatively impacted. Wondering if estrogen imbalances are hindering your body goals – keep reading.

What is Estrogen Dominance?

Estrogen dominance is caused by an imbalance between the amount of estrogen and the amount of progesterone—the two primary female hormones secreted by the ovaries that are present in the female body.  Estrogen plays a significant role in reproduction and regulating ovulation also known as our period, aunt flo, mother nature’s gift, or any other ridiculous name it has been called. Estrogen is the name given to a group of hormones. A balanced ratio of estrogen hormones is necessary for optimal health, while the other female hormone progesterone counterbalances estrogen in our bodies.

The Balancing Act With Progesterone

Progesterone plays a role in fetal development during pregnancy, ensuring a protective affect against the growth effects of estrogen. When progesterone is secreted, further ovulation is prevented from taking place. Progesterone is also secreted during the luteal phase of a cycle. Progesterone acts as an antagonist to estrogen. While estrogen can increase body fat, slow metabolism, increase bloating and water retention, progesterone can actually help your body use fat for energy, increase metabolism, reduce bloating and even reduce water retention.

As we age, the effects of excess estrogen become more relevant. Between the ages of 35 and 50, there is a significant reduction in the production of progesterone in the body. Estrogen declines to a lesser extent. With this drop, there can be insufficient progesterone to counterbalance estrogen, which can lead to estrogen dominance. That said estrogen dominance could also occur as a result of biochemical imbalances, genetics and your environment.

How is Your Weight Loss Impacted By Estrogen?

High levels of estrogen can prevent fat breakdown by increasing the presence of a specific receptor in fat tissue called the anti-lipolytic adrenergic receptor. Activating this receptor prevents fat oxidation and blocks the fat metabolizing pathways from occurring.

This anti fat burning effect is compounded by the fact that women also have a higher number of alpha-receptors over the fat burning beta-receptors! In fact, beta-receptors are 12 times more active for fat burning in men than us women! And, the rate of release of the single most important hormone for fat burning—norepinephrine—is 50% higher in men. As a result, women are definitely at a disadvantage when it comes to burning the fat hanging around the hips, thighs and butt!

If that weren’t enough, fat is not an innate object. It also contains aromatase enzymes that break down the one hormone we need more of to increase our lean muscle and enhance our metabolism—testosterone! Aromatase in our fat tissue breaks down androgen (a precursor to testosterone) into estrogen. This further increases estrogen levels in the body.

Cortisol is also in high supply in fat tissue. This catabolic hormone prevents fat burning, decreases insulin’s effectiveness and eats away at muscle tissue.  Well isn’t that great!  So what can you do about it?  Use the following factors to balance your estrogen and progesterone.

How to Reduce Estrogen Dominance – 6 Factors: 

Keeping your estrogen and progesterone levels in balance starts with these six factors.

1. Environment

The environment we live in is loaded with xenoestrogens found in pesticides placed on the food we eat, plastics, fuels and even the daily toiletries we use on our skin such as your shampoo and body wash! Xenoestrogens are man-made chemicals that act like estrogen in the body.

What You Can Do About It: Reduce your exposure to harmful xenoestrogens by using BPA-free containers, choose organic fresh vegetables and fruits, organic meats and dairy and paraben- and sulphate-free shampoos, conditioners, body washes, lotions, make-up and sunscreens to help you eliminate the amount of extra estrogen your body is exposed to.

2. Medication

If you are using birth control or hormone replacement, you’re essentially supplying your body with a synthetic form of estrogen. It has been shown that hormonal therapy can affect insulin sensitivity, carbohydrate metabolism, glucose intolerance and changes in cholesterol levels. If you ever wondered why you gained fat weight while on the pill, it’s probably a result of excess estrogen.  This hormone blocks fat burning receptors, preventing them from being activated, therefore decreasing fat oxidation and halting fat burning!

What You Can Do About It: Discuss low dose options with your physician, or consider other forms of birth control that do not impact estrogen levels.  In addition, consider using supplements that can help lower your estrogen levels – such as DIM – di-indole-methane, which is a natural compound found in cruciferous vegetables  such as broccoli and kale.  It can help reduce the amount of active estrogen in the body and help metabolize it into less active forms.

3. Food

If you are not buying organic, free-range meat, poultry or dairy products, they will contain a higher amount of estrogen-like hormones and pesticides from the feed they’re receiving.  It has been shown that dairy is a source of estrogen exposure in humans.  This is the result of the dairy industry practices, where estrogens are given to ensure dairy cows are producing plenty of milk.  Excess estrogen also goes for fruit and vegetables that have been sprayed by pesticides, which act like estrogen in the blood stream.

What You Can Do About It: Buy organic fresh fruit and vegetables whenever possible.  If not available, be sure to wash your veggies and fruit and remove the peel. Choose organic dairy that uses sustainable processes, free range, organic poultry and grass feed beef.  In addition, be sure to choose whey protein that is hormone-free!

4. Stress

Stress can result in higher cortisol levels, reduce insulin levels, shut-off fat burning hormones and also increase estrogen. The body uses progesterone to produce cortisol when the body is under stress.  This is known as the pregnolone steal, where by pregnolone is produced in excess to generate more progesterone.  This can impair your body’s ability to regulate blood sugar, causing greater cravings for sugary food, as well as affecting your body’s ability to process carbohydrates. Excess estrogen and cortisol can also cause sleep disturbances. Lack of sleep can reduce recovery, and have a direct impact on your ability to lose weight.

What You Can Do About It: Get between 6 to 8 hours of sleep every night and de-stress by performing regular yoga and mediation. One study showed that those who did a 4-month meditation program experienced much lower average cortisol levels, while also improving their ability to cope with stress.

5. Excess Body Fat

Fat contains enzymes that aromatize the muscle-building hormone testosterone into estrogen. The more body fat you have, the more aromatization occurs, which can lead to increases in estrogen and imbalances in the estrogen to progesterone ratio. What’s more, the estrogen present in body fat can actually block the enzymes responsible for fat breakdown including regulating the HSL or hormone sensitive lipase and blocking LPL or lipoprotein lipase.

What You Can Do About It: Regular exercise is the key! Exercise can have a significant impact on lowering estrogen levels, not to mention reduce stress, improving insulin sensitivity and increasing fat oxidation and fat utilization as fuel. Use a variety of compound movements such as barbell squats for your booty or shoulder presses and barbell rows to develop your curves.  Stick to 8 to 12 reps, 4 to 5 sets.

6. Low Fibre Diet

If you are following a diet that is low in fibre and high in refined sugar, you will increase estrogen in the body. A lack of fibre in the diet can inhibit excretion of unwanted estrogen and promote re-absorption of estrogen back into the bloodstream. Dietary fibre can bind to estrogen in the digestive tract and remove it. Dietary fibre also reduces the production of a bacterial enzyme that uncouples bound estrogen allowing it to be re-absorbed.

What You Can Do About It: Research has shown that women on a high fibre diet have lower levels of circulating estrogen. Eat a diet rich in fibre including a variety of organic whole grains, fruits and vegetables. A few good sources of fibre include beans, berries, oatmeal, sweet potato, broccoli and dark leafy greens. The recommended daily intake of fibre is 25 grams per day.

Until Next Time,

Be Fierce & Rule the World!

Lauren Jacobsen

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