Hormone Imbalance

Here we will be discussing the imbalance of the sex hormones: estrogen, testosterone and progesterone. All 3 of these are present in both males and females. Estrogen is present in higher quantities in females and are responsible for the development of female characteristics. Testosterone is higher in males and is responsible for development of male characteristics. Progesterone is found in equal levels in both men and women through all ages. The only exception to this is during the fertile phase of the menstrual cycle in women, and during pregnancy.

When a female ovulates, progesterone spikes for about 10-12 days. This spike prepares the uterus for possible implantation of the egg. If no implantation occurs, progesterone levels will drop back to normal and menstruation will begin. If implantation does occur, progesterone levels remain high to prevent the implanted egg from being rejected by the body (miscarriage). By the 2nd trimester of pregnancy the placenta starts producing progesterone 20-40X's more than normal levels to help maintain the pregnancy. This increase in progesterone by the placenta is the reason why miscarriage risk drops significantly after the 1st trimester is over.

Hormone imbalances can present in different ways. But the overwhelming majority are caused by an imbalance called estrogen dominance. This condition is not specifically implying there is too much estrogen in the body, But instead discribes symptoms that occur when the normal ratio between estrogen and progesterone increases in favor of estrogen. This can be caused by too much estrogen, too little progesterone, or a combination of both. Lets explore this further...

Estrogen Dominance

The term estrogen dominance is a condition often related to only women, However, as we will see it can occur in men as well. In women, this occurs when the hormones progesterone and estrogen are out of balance. The reason is progesterone is an antagonist to estrogen, and they need to be present in the proper ratio for the body to perform correctly.

Estrogen dominance symptoms in Women

  • Uterine or breast fibroids
  • Irregular menstrual cycle
  • PMS
  • Premature menopause
  • Any condition that required a hysterectomy
  • Endometriosis
  • Ovarian cysts
  • Blood clots
  • PCOS
  • Difficulty getting pregnant
  • Recurring miscarriages (1st trimester)
  • Post partum depression/fatigue
  • Breast & uterine cancer (estrogen dominant)
  • Hot flashes
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Painful intercourse
  • Breast tenderness

Adrenal dysfunction is the most common reason for this hormonal imbalance. Prolonged stress causes progesterone to be used at an accelerated rate by the adrenal gland in order to produce our stress hormones. Stress is interpreted by the body as a situation representing an immenent threat to our survival. And making babies is not essential for dealing with an imminent threat! Therefore the body's progesterone receptors are down regulated to conserve progesterone for adrenal gland use. Over time this process can cause progesterone levels to drop and create an estrogen dominant state.

There is another potential problem potentially associated with over active adrenals (stress). The adrenal hormones are eventually broken down and converted into estrogen so they can be broken down by the liver and excreted. Liver dysfunction, toxicity, or disease can impair this process and cause estrogen levels to rise. Causing or contributing to an estrogen dominant state.

Another source of excess estrogen in our body is the consumption of synthetic estrogens. These can be found in different types of plastics we use when cooking and drinking, as well as foods we eat such as soy products. Synthetic estrogens are also found in prescription hormone replacement therapies and female contraceptives. Our liver has a difficult time breaking down these synthetic chemicals. They can build up in our body and mimic, or worsen estrogen dominant symptoms. These toxic metabolites can also increase the stress on an overburdened liver and further impair its function. Creating a vicious cycle.

Interestingly it should be noted that synthetic progesterone (Progestin) comes with a host of side effects that look identical to estrogen dominance. This includes increased risk of: breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart problems, blood clotting disorders, stroke, endometriosis, uterine fibroids, fluid retention and weight gain. Whereas the natural progesterone produced in our body does the exact opposite. It decreases the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer, heart problems, blood clotting disorders, stroke, endometriosis and uterine fibroids. It also prevents bloating, weight gain and help reverse osteoporosis! This truly demonstrates the difference between synthetic progesterone, and the natural progesterone our body makes.

Progesterone deficiency can not only lead to excessive estrogen, but can also cause decreased levels of testosterone and increased levels of Dihydrotestosterone (DHT) an androgenic hormone. The reason for this is progesterone inhibits the conversion of testosterone onto estrogen (estradiol) and DHT. (by inhibiting the enzymes aromatase & 5-alpha-reductase respectively) If progesterone is deficient, it can no longer minimize the breakdown of testosterone into these 2 hormones. The net effect is lower testosterone, higher estrogen and higher DHT. This is the exact hormonal issue we see almost universaly as we get older! This hormone imbalance can cause loss of libido, hair loss, hair growth (in unwanted areas) and decreased muscle tone in both men and women.

Estrogen dominance symptoms in men

  • Enlarged prostate
  • Prostate cancer
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Frequent urination at night
  • Balding
  • Sterility