The Estrogen Situation

As soon as I turned 50, my ovaries gave up. Until now, they have been brimming over with eggs. Like a virtual fetus farm. I honestly thought I would never run out. But I was wrong. And this past month, I couldn't even squeeze out a single one. Not one itty bitty ovum. Apparently my ovaries are now running on empty. Like a Jackson Browne song, but much sadder.

You might not think this lack of ovulation means much. If you're not trying to get pregnant, and most 50 year old women are not, why should you give a rat's behind what your ovaries are doing? If they are just lazing around and producing nothing whatsoever, why shouldn't you relax, too? Well, there happens to be a teeny weeny problem with their underachievement. In a word: progesterone.

When an egg is released from your ovary, and it travels down your fallopian tube, it releases progesterone along the way. This hormone functions along with your normal estrogen levels to keep everything hunky dory. (Not technically a medical term.) Without progesterone, you can be left with a situation called estrogen dominance. And I can attest, it is not pretty. (As I mentioned before: BELLY FAT.)

I could discuss at length all the ugly symptoms caused by estrogen dominance. But how about we move on to something more positive? Like the steps you can take to improve the situation. Because there are many simple tweaks which can make a big difference. I have already started tweaking and I will continue to report to you as my symptoms (hopefully) diminish. The steps I am taking will be listed below. Most of these have been gleaned from The Wisdom of Menopause by Dr. Christiane Northrup.

Over the summer, I neglected to take my fish oil. Omega-3's are crucial for reducing internal inflammation. This can help with moodiness, aching joints, and weight gain. I have returned to my daily dosage.

Keeping the blood sugar stable is crucial to combating the expanding waistline. Eating at least 3 meals per day, preferably 5-6 smaller meals, is a part of that plan. Over the summer I had been experimenting with 2-3 meals per day, often skipping breakfast. The result: I gained over 5 pounds. Never stuff yourself. Even if you are filling up on completely healthy foods, eating too much will cause an overproduction of insulin.

Do not skimp on the protein. Dr. Northrup encourages women at mid-life to raise the percentage of protein in the diet to at least 40%. This is quite high. There are several reasons for this. A diet high in protein and low in carbohydrates helps to deactivate excess estrogen, thereby decreasing the symptoms of estrogen dominance, while also decreasing the risk of cancers stimulated by excess estrogen, such as breast cancer. In one study, women eating a diet containing 44% protein showed a profound shift in their ability to deactivate excess estrogen.

Cut way back on alcohol. Alcohol interferes with estrogen metabolism causing hormonal imbalances. Sugar is another enemy. We already knew this, though, so I don't need to harp on it here.

I have also returned to taking all my supplements on a daily basis. Dr. Northrup recommends most of the ones I am already taking, including all the B vitamins, magnesium, Vitamin E, and Vitamin C.

A couple of supplements I am now considering: Chasteberry, often sold under the name Vitex, comes from the chaste tree, native to the Mediterranean. It has been shown to suppress appetite, relieve depression, and improve sleep in addition to assisting in hormone regulation. Recommended by Dr. Northrup for women experiencing PMS-like symptoms. Can cause rashes for those who are allergic.

Flaxseeds and/or flaxseed oil with lignans is another potent food supplement which has anti-cancer properties as well as phytoestrogens, antioxidants, and fiber. Flaxseed contains omega-3 as well as omega-6 oils.

If anyone else out there is experiencing the early stages of menopause, including estrogen dominance, I would be very interested in hearing about the steps you are taking in order to relieve your symptoms. I will be experimenting with natural remedies, such as the ones listed above, and I will be reporting back to you in the coming months to let you know how these are working. Let's stay in touch and help each other through the change!