Estrogen is considered the female hormone because levels of estrogen are higher in women than they are in men. However, the hormone is present in both genders. When estrogen levels are high, or progesterone (an endogenous steroid and sex hormone) levels are low in women, the result is estrogen dominance and symptoms that are both uncomfortable and inconvenient. Some symptoms of estrogen dominance may be life-altering or, at the least, may hinder day to day tasks. Women who believe they are experiencing hormonal imbalances should seek a doctor’s advice and begin treatment quickly.
Depression or Anxiety
Women who are feeling depressed or anxious, particularly without a history of mental illness, may be experiencing estrogen dominance. Depression is characterized by a general feeling of sadness. Other symptoms may include withdrawal, fatigue and a loss of interest in socialization, work or hobbies. Anxiety presents as fear or worry that becomes overbearing and may result in panic attacks. Both can be disorders on their own or may be symptoms of a larger issue. Doctors will typically perform blood tests to determine if depression or anxiety is the result of estrogen dominance. Depression and anxiety can be managed with prescription medications and counseling.
Women who find their scale climbing without explanation would be wise to have their hormone levels tested. Weight gain — especially around the mid-section — is a common symptom of estrogen dominance. This can sometimes be the result of stress, a potential cause of a hormone imbalance. High levels of stress will increase cortisol in the body, which may also result in weight gain around the middle.
Breast tenderness is often dismissed as a sign of oncoming menstruation. However, it may also be a sign of estrogen dominance. Women who experience any of the following should consider visiting a doctor:
- Tenderness that does not let up at the onset/end of menstruation
- Pain or swelling that is becoming more severe over time
- Breast tenderness that occurs more than one week before menstruation begins
Missed or late periods can be alarming for women of any age. Often, a missed or late period will leave women fearing unplanned pregnancy, and estrogen dominance is often the last thing that comes to mind as an underlying cause. However, elevated hormone levels can be responsible for irregular menstruation. Not only does elevated estrogen often result in missed or late menstrual periods, but it also can result in more frequent periods, which can be just as alarming as a missed period for many women.
Water retention is when the body does not efficiently flush fluids out through the urinary tract. Unexcreted fluids get stored in the body and may result in swelling or bloating. Most commonly, patients notice water retention in the hands, feet, ankles or mid-section. However, in severe cases, bloating can be seen in the face, neck, breasts or other areas of the body.
Estrogen dominance often causes patients to feel as though they are unable to think clearly. Many patients report feeling scatterbrained or unable to hold a train of thought. This symptom can range in severity and often has a considerable effect on day to day life. This brain fog may interfere with the ability to perform successfully at work or school. It may also have a negative effect on relationships.
Insomnia is the inability to fall asleep or to stay asleep throughout the night. People with insomnia may experience excessive daytime sleepiness, as well as mood swings, depression, anxiety, or irritability. High levels of estrogen can cause irregular activity in the brain, which may result in sleep difficulties.
Couples who are struggling to conceive should consider seeking medical help. Hormonal imbalances such as low levels of progesterone or high levels of estrogen may result in infertility. Early detection and treatment make it possible to reverse damage and improve chances of conception. However, when left untreated infertility may be permanent.
Fibrocystic breasts feel lumpy and are typically uncomfortable. They contain multiple small, benign cysts located in the breast tissue. A person with elevated estrogen levels may experience this condition in one or both breasts. The cysts may change in size dependant on menstrual cycles and may become more painful as menstruation approaches.
Uterine fibroids are benign tumors located inside the uterus on the smooth muscle. They may be asymptomatic, or they may result in heavy menstrual flow or uterine cramping. When the cysts are large, they may also put pressure on the bladder and cause a frequent urge to urinate. Uterine fibroids are always non-cancerous.