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The Estrogen Dominance Post: Where Its Coming From, and What to Do About It

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Estrogen dominance — the condition of having higher estrogen relative to progesterone levels — is one that plagues millions of women at all ages.  It can occur during reproductive years, perimenopause, and menopause.  It can also be coming from a wide variety of sources within a woman’s diet and lifestyle.  This makes estrogen dominance a bit of a complex nut to crack.  But a holistic approach to health should at least get everyone on the right track, and provide a proper learning environment in which you can figure out precisely where your dysregulation is coming from.

Estrogen dominance occurs when estrogen levels run too high, or on the flip side when progesterone levels run too low.   There are some natural swings throughout a woman’s life that can make estrogen dominance more or less of a problem.  Progesterone tends to fall during perimenopause, for example, so this can be the primary source of hormonal discomfort for women cresting age 35 or so.  Progesterone levels also fall during menopause, though estrogen levels should be low at that time, too.  The reasons estrogen may remain relatively high in a woman’s later years are largely to do with the same mechanisms that occur in the reproductive years.  In each the reproductive years, perimenopause, and menopause, a woman is subject to be influenced by her dietary and lifestyle choices.

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Estrogen dominance is a big deal.  It can cause a wide variety of symptoms, as well as put us at greater risk for a wide variety of diseases and conditions.  Symtpoms associated with estrogen dominance include:

Weight gain

PMS

Mood swings

High emotional sensitivity

Heavy Periods

Breast Tenderness

Headaches

Decreased libido

Sluggish Metabolism

Insomnia

Conditions we find more often in women with estrogen dominance and that may in fact explicitly develop as a result of estrogen dominance include:

Cystic Fibroids

Endometriosis

Adenomyosis

Hypothyroidism (estrogen is antagonistic to thyroid hormone)

Breast Cancer

Ovarian Cancer

Cervival Cancer

These aren’t problems we can just shrug off of our shoulders.  In many ways, we can reasonably view estrogen dominance as contributing to the deaths of thousands of women every year.

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The causes of estrogen dominance

The causes of estrogen dominance are wide and varied, but largely have to do with metabolic dysregulation and organ malfunction.  Some dietary factors may also offset the balance.

1) Being overweight:

Fat cells perform a function called “aromatization” which converts testosterone to estrogen.  The more body fat we have on us, then, the more and more our bodies tip their balances towards estrogen and away from testosterone.

Now, this doesn’t mean testosterone levels will be necessarily low in overweight women.  To the contrary: testosterone levels also happen to climb the higher and higher insulin levels are.   For this reason, a woman predisposed to insulin insensitivity will likely experience increases in both testosterone and estrogen levels.  Progesterone receives no bump from weight gain, however:  progesterone thus remains incapable of offsetting the estrogen increases associated with higher body fat percentages in overweight women.

2) Overburdening the liver:

The liver is responsible for clearing the body of “old” hormones, especially estrogen.  If the liver is overburdened with a hyper-caloric diet, with high volumes of sugar, with high volumes of alcohol, or with high volumes of processing chemicals, then, it becomes sluggish in it’s ability to process everything.  When the liver slows down, estrogen ends up becoming back-logged in a way, and wreaks havoc on the reproductive system as it waits for the liver to heal and to catch up in it’s bloodstream clearing capacity.

This effect is interestingly even more pronounced in men than it is in women, and it accounts largely for the development of breast-like fat deposits in heavy drinkers.  Being overweight and being stressed may also contribute to this process in men.

3) Stress:

Stress wreaks havoc on all of our bodily systems.  Perhaps most pressingly for women, however, it decreases the production of progesterone in the body.  When a woman is stressed, her adrenal glands “steal” the precursor to progesterone and instead use it to produce cortisol, the stress hormone.  For this reason, high volumes of stress can yank the rug out from under progesterone, which can precipitously tip hormonal balance in favor of estrogen.

4) Consumptions of phyto and xenoestrogens:

Much as I have difficulty with soy in my own life, I typically preach caution when talking about soy.  I honestly belieeve that it is a good therapeutic tool for some women, and each of us needs to use it appropriately.

In every single case, however, soy, flax, legumes, and other sources of estrogen outside of the body  interfere with our bodies own production of estrogen.  In the case of estrogen dominant women, it may be causing too much estrogen to be produced.  Phytoestrogens can increase the aromatization process in fat cells that I described above.  They can also simply just dump an increased estrogen load into the body, which automatically tips the balance.  In a properly functioning metabolism, the liver should probably be able to clear out this increased estrogen load.  But sometimes the load is too heavy or the liver not quite strong enough, and that becomes an impossibility.

5) A low fiber diet:

Estrogen is processed in the liver, but it is also processed partly by gut flora, and also excreted through the digestive track.

It has been shown time and time again that low fiber diets are associated with estrogen dominance.  There are many cofounding variables that may play a role here, but the general idea is that estrogen can be reaborsed through the intestinal walls.  With poor gut flora and with slow intestinal motility, estrogen sits too long in the gut and gets reabsorbed back into the bloodstream.

Fiber is generally correlated with improved digestive pace and motion, though not exclusively.  A proper amount of fiber helps push things along in the digestive track.  Too much fiber can obviously be damaging.  It causes something health advocates like to call “roughage.”  It is abrasive, and it can lead to gut deteriorating conditions such as diverticulitis.  In any case, however, meeting a minimum requirement for estrogen processing such as regularly consuming fruits and vegetables can be quite helpful for gut motility and health.

Increasing fruit and vegetable intake can also, of course, increase nutrient status, which can boost liver function, hormone function, and the processing of all of these chemicals.

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Moving beyond estrogen dominance

How do we mitigate estrogen dominance, then?   We eat diets designed to cool inflammation, to support organ- and particularly liver- function, to minimize phytoestrogen intake, and to maximize nutrient status.

This means that we want to eat a paleo-template type diet, which includes animal products, both the protein and the fat, seafood, fruits, vegetables, olive oil, coconut, starchy vegetables, and to some extent seeds and nuts.  However, in an estrogen dominant system, seeds and nuts can act as phytoestrogens and tip the hormonal balance in favor of estrogen, so they should be carefully stepped around.   Foods that support thyroid health such as seafood and seaweed should also be quite helpful for boosting metabolic health and hormone clearance.  Foods to be avoided are of course all processed sugars, grains, omega 6 seed oils, phytoestrogens which include soy, flax, legumes, seeds, and some herbs, which I list in great detail here, and alcohol.

Foods to emphasize for estrogen clearing are the ones that are the most nutrient dense, particularly those that boost B vitamin levels, omega 3 levels (fermented cod liver oil!), choline (for the liver!), zinc, magnesium, calcium, and vitamin D.  For that reason, eggs (choline), fish (omega 3 fats, iodine, selenium, and vitamin D), liver (vitamin A, B vitamins, and iron, zinc, manganese, etc), other organ meats, and high quality animal protein may be your best companions in this journey.

Some supplements have also been rumored to be helpful, and I thought Dr Hoffman (one of the estrogen dominance heroes) summarizes them well:

Lecithin (a phospholipid) and the sulfur-containing L-taurine and L-methionine amino acids are compounds that will promote bile circulation, which enhances estrogen’s excretion out of the body. These lipotropic formulas support the liver metabolism of estrogen. A typical formula might provide the following, sometimes in a base of liver-stimulating herbs like milk thistle, black radish, beet, or dandelion, for twice-daily consumption: choline (a concentrated form of lecithin), 500 milligrams; inositol, 250 milligrams; taurine, 250 milligrams; methionine, 250 milligrams.

Exercise should also be high on your list, since exercise can sharpen insulin sensitivity, boost weight loss, help mitigate mood swing problems associated with estrogen dominance, and reduce levels of stress hormones in the body.

Stress reduction is huge.  I cannot emphasize enough how important this is.  Without progesterone in our bodies, it is nearly impossible to rectify estrogen dominance.  Every other aspect of estrogen mitigation can be in place.  But without sufficient progesterone, symptoms of estrogen dominance may persist.

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Estrogen dominance plagues a wide variety of women, and at all stages throughout the reproductive lifestyle.  Supporting organ health, reducing stress, and generally focusing on healthful foods should get us most of the way there towards greater hormone balance.   There are, of course, many other things you can to do help mitigate problems associated with estrogen dominance– for example, experimenting with neurotransmitter supplementation or boosting neurotransmitter health with diet and supplements in order to mitigate mood swing problems– but those are wide and varied and left for their own places in this blog at an upcoming time.

In the meantime: what is your experience?  Does paleo help with these symptoms?  What parts of your diet and lifestyle are best for keeping you hormonally balanced and healthy?  What’s worked, and what hasn’t?

———–

For more information on hormones and hormone balance, see my book, Sexy by Natureat its site or read reviews and buy it directly from Amazon.

To read more about the book and get your hands on some excerpts, discussions, and tips, check out the Facebook page.

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Managing director of Paleo for Women and author of Sexy by Nature.

100 Comments

  1. I just did a salivary hormone panel with my ND because of my irregular cycles. To my surprise, that particular cycle looked like one of the most “normal” that I’ve had (31 days long, ovulation on day 16), but the panel still showed high estrogen in relation to progesterone (high androgens too). She prescribed lots of fiber, lots of brassicas, DIM and calcium-d glucarate. I guess we’ll see how things go. I have only a few symptoms of estrogen dominance and none of PCOS (besides a history of somewhat irregular cycles, but I don’t go months without a period or anything).

    • Watch out for the brassicas- they are goitrogens- depress the thyroid-need to supplement with iodine when taking brassicas.

  2. Fascinating post, thank you.

    I have always assumed that I had low estrogen levels – I had a 31-32 day cycle and did not have periods for two years after giving birth twice and during breastfeeding. I had no difficulty conceiving. I am significantly overweight, but the only other symptom I had from the list was sluggish metabolism.

    For the past few years I have been eating mostly paleo. I am 48 and perimenopausal, but interestingly the only two periods I have had in the last year have come about a week into a Whole-30 style period of eating. I don’t know what that says about my hormones. My mother died of ovarian cancer 20 years ago at age 47, so I would like to know if I am at increased risk for that disease.

    I have not lost much weight in the past two years, but am beginning to see the scales move as I have become much fitter and can do more exercise, including free weights.

    • Think about cutting out all grains, starches and lowering your carb intake to 50gs a day. Have salads, fibrous vegetables, grass fed meats, good fats and plenty of purified water. This way of eating has allowed me to shed 15kgs in the last 2.5 months.

    • Have you had your thyroid checked? If not make sure you have a full thyroid panel done, not just one test. When I was pregnant, I asked to have my thyroid checked. She ran only one test. I can’t remember if it was just T4 or T3. Results showed normal range. After having my daughter, I asked again and same thing happened again, despite my symptoms. My sister in law printed out a symptom list for hypothyroidism from stopthethyroidmadness.com and I checked off all the ones I had been feeling and still I was told I was normal. The doctor didn’t even help me in anyway. I went to another doctor and the same thing happened then. When I asked about all the tests needed to check thoroughly which can also be found on that site, I was told “it’s too expensive and not necessary.” Again, I was feeling like I wasn’t being listened to. I was overweight and by Dec. 2012, I had ballooned to 231 lbs suffering from edema, had plantar fascitis in my right heel and high blood pressure. I ended up in the hospital because an ekg came up with some issues with my heart which turned out to be pumping at below 30%. I thought when i went to see the dr I had a lung infection. Boy was I wrong. After a week, I had the BP in control, down to 214 lbs and after my hubby bullied the drs there to giving me a referral to an endocrinologist I finally got diagnosed with Hashimoto’s disease. I also saw a sleep doctor and got treated for sleep apnea. The endo wanted me to be on a grain based diet, well, sorry I’m going on what has worked for me so far, primal/paleo. I’m down to 159 lbs. No more plantar fascitis. edema is practically gone. Still need work on the BP but its controlled. And I’ve gotten rid of the endo and the primary care physician and seeing a new dr who specializes in integrative medicine who tries to see the whole picture and not just throw a prescription at me. So definitely make sure you have your thyroid check. Once I was diagnosed and went primal, the weight started coming off a little easier. I’m now doing the saliva test to check my hormones.

      • Kim, my story exactly. So happy you found the site. stop the thyroid madness. All the doctors go by the TSH which is so wrong. My nurse prac. goes by T3 and how I feel. I just started Paleo, but find it hard to stop eating cheese.

        • Why would cheese not be paleo? Have you read Nutrition and Physical Degeneration by Weston Price? It’s free through the gutenburg project. Also look at the archives at westonaprice dot org.Price was the original Paleo researcher.

          • Cheese is not paleo because dairy is a food of agriculture.

  3. I think these are great starting points in addressing estrogen dominance. But, I have to say, when I ate a strict paleo diet, my symptoms of estrogen dominance were at their worst (debilitating cramps that no OTC pain-killers could touch; I would often vomit and feel like passing out/fainting). As I added more carbohydrates back into my diet (including gluten-free grains) and sugar(!), my menstrual cramps have been pretty non-existent, but I still suffer from a little bloating around that time of the month. I attribute this to fueling my cells (including my liver) with glucose/fructose so that they could process things better and eliminate excess estrogen from my body. Just thought I’d chime in, in case those who follow a low-carbohydrate/low-sugar diet are wondering why it isn’t working for them. I do very much agree about stress though. De-stressing your life and incorporating exercise are essential for better cycles/reproductive health!

    • Oh, absolutely. I don’t consider a paleo diet a low carbohydrate diet at all, which I guess I should have been more explicit about in the post. I forget, often, that others consider paleo a low carbohydrate diet more often than not. I’m so glad you have found some relief!

    • Christina,

      Besides your Estrogen dom do you have any other diagnosis for you pain and symptoms such as Endometriosis? I am going through the same thing as you, alot of pain the OTC drugs wont touch. Frequent hospital visits and am waiting for a Laporoscopy. I am so afraid that they will say I have nothing wrong with me. How can this be normal? Does anything else help you other than whats listed here?

  4. hi, thanks for this. i’ve done a fair amount of research for myself on this over the years and i’m a little confused about lecithin… soy and sunflower seem to be the main sources but i thought that they were also estrogenic… so what to do? what’s your take on this?

    • They are estrogenic! For that reason I think it best in the majority of cases to steer clear of them.

      • any suggestions for a soy & sunflower free source of lecithin then?

        • Egg yolks are a good source. I’ve heard liver has some, too.

        • Egg yolk from happy hens?

      • If someone were to supplement with Lecithin, it is wise to get egg yolk lecithin. You can do a search online for it. I have only seen soy lecithin sold in the stores and this is not what you want.

  5. I had that entire first list of symptoms before starting the Gaps Diet, which is similar to Paleo. I had been managing the hormone imbalance for the prior 3 years through supplements (chasteberry). When I started Gaps, my hormones balanced within the first couple of months, and I no longer need the supplements.

  6. Would you suggest a progesterone cream to help with progesterone issues? Such as this one: http://www.beeyoutiful.com/beeyoutiful-balance.html

    Or femmenessence a form of maca. Or vitex to lower estrogen and help with progesterone production. This is one of my biggest issues. Trying to correct it with Paleo diet… Three months in and still working on regulating my periods. Any suggestions on giving my progesterone a jump start?

    • I have been using the progesterone cream and it has helped regulating my menstruation cycle. I am also eating the paleo diet with very little carb. I found that when I tried to increase fat consumption, I would get tender breasts. So, I reduced my fat consumption down. But maybe it was because I used both coconut oil and olive oil, and it seems that olive oil is not a good choice.

  7. Thank you so much – this is a great refreshed on estrogen. Having PCOS, I knew I was high in testosterone, but my lab results also showed high estrogen, and I couldn’t remember how they both could be high.

    Anyway I am still struggling to balance hormones, but a paleo diet has definitely helped. I stay away from all forms of sugar besides some occasional fruit, otherwise cravings & hormones & skin just go all wonky on me.

  8. I am having right now an “induced” estrogen dominance.

    Not having my period for almost two years now, one of my Endocrinologists prescribed me Estrogen as gel, combined with 15 days high dosis Progesterone… Still no results.

    My Estrogen was 1008 ng/L and my pretty low.

    Total Testo: 0,22 (ref 0,20 – 0,7)
    Free Testo: 0,05 (ref 0,02 – 0,27)
    FT3: 2,3 pg/ml (ref 2,4 – 5,1)
    FT4: 1,1 ng/dl and TSH 0,75 I/Ul seem to be OK thou.

    What kinda pisses me off is to hear like “your Tyroid and your Testosterone are OK”…

    But it seems the problem lies on my LH (less than 0,1 IU/l), which is just not enough for menstruating.

    The thing is, I dont wanna get medicated to just menstruate, I wanna solve the “root” of the problem, whatever it is hypodiroidism or whatever else…

    Perhaps I will have to look for a 3rd Opinion on that… Geez…
    What do you think?

    BTW, I am 32 years old, 171cm, 56 kg, 3x/week weights, 1x HIIT and not on a carb restricted diet. ~120g/day with some “high” carb days with ca. 300g.

    Thanks for the great articles and cheers!

  9. Do you have any links/more info about estrogen and thyroid hormone being antagonistic? I am beginning to unravel my hormonal puzzle after a decade of veganism, then being diagnosed with both celiac and hashimoto’s, switching my diet to paleo and then the autoimmune protocol and then getting on medication. I am a normal weight/on the thin side and have always had a regular cycle but horribly painful cramps. When I started eating meat again and tried the autoimmune protocol, my cramps have lessened drastically, but I saw an increase in cystic acne. I got on thyroid hormone and every time I increase my dose my cycle is off by about a week, then in a month it is normal again. I increased about a month ago, and I am 10 days overdue for my period. I have always assumed that I have lower estrogen as opposed to high (I never have symptoms of PMS and instead feel horrible while menstruating, and get cystic acne only right before ovulation). I also started menstruating late, at 16. Anyways, if you have any nuggets for me or anywhere I could go to research, I would gladly appreciate it!

    Also – I have been loving your podcasts to death lately! They are just what I need in my life right now. :)

    Mickey

    • Mikey, there is a website and a book called Stop The Thyroid Madness. If you have thyroid issues, they have tons of useful info. But from my understanding Progesterone is antagonistic to estrogen. I would like to recommend a book called What your doctor may not tell you about menopause. You will learn a lot about estrogen dominance and the positive effects of progesterone.

  10. Hi Stephini, Long time follower and absolutely think your’re spot on everything! I have some very dry, flaky skin and poor digestion. I was a raw vegan for a couple of years and boy did that screw me up-leading ultimately to an eating disorder of epic proportions. I have regained the weight/grew a couple inches taller even. And have been paleo for almost 2 years. However do you think resulting seb derm or roasea could be a result of a hormonal imbalance/hypothyroidism or nutritional imbalance? Any feedback would be greatly appreciated because its pretty embarrassing and socially isolating. Being paleo has pretty much cured by acne though.

    • I’d look first to nutritional deficiencies, gut health, and hypothyroidism to hack the rosacea. Perhaps the use of different cleansers and lotions, too. I highly recommend Liz Wolfe’s Skinterventions in that regard — http://purelyprimalskincare.com.

      • And congratulations on your journey!! Really, Chelsea, that’s so inspiring to me.

    • Hi Chelsea,

      You may also want to try adding EFAs and Fish oils into your diet to help with your dry skin and digestion. I was vegan and gf, and then switched to eating meat, and began to have very dry skin on the backs of my hands. Taking fish oils has really helped me.

    • I found that what caused a sudden outbreak of rosacea was potato flour!! Turns out that’s it’s in practically EVERYTHING that is gluten free. Potatoes and all nightshade vegetables are full of alkaloids, which some people, like myself, have a high intolerance to. I stopped the potato flour and my skin went back to normal. :-)

      • Awesome! High fives for quality sleuthing, Laura :)

  11. My skin (Rosacea, cystic acne) gets better the week or few days before my period. Is this estrogen dominance related?

  12. Pingback: Paleo for Women | Low on Progesterone? Stress Reduction Might Be the Only One Way to Hack It

  13. What do you think about the Autoimmune Protocol for Paleo diets for hormone imbalance?
    Or do you think the Gaps diet would be better, as someone mentioned above? Thanks!

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  15. I may have missed the details– a lot of information to sort through. Estrogen seems to both promote and inhibit health…and affect many systems in the body.

    So, I was pregnant about a year ago and my thyroid was great, my skin was great, I felt physically and mentally amazing.

    I attribute this to the rise in hormones.

    Just came across info that estrogen increases thyroid activity. http://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s13105-010-0056-0

    I am currently taking glandular thyroid and it has stopped hair loss and warmed me up a bit.

    I think it’s possible that if I get my reproductive hormones happy again, (almost) everything else would snap into place. While estrogen dominance can clearly be an issue, it seems it down-regulates our own production of estrogen. I eat raw liver regularly (it contains nutrients that help my liver clear estrogen, right?)

    I really just want my pregnancy hormones back, without getting pregnant.

    Any insight appreciated!

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  18. I am doing ALOT of research on estrogen dominance. I have been struggling with fatigue, tummy, hip, thighs weight gain, struggle with constipation. I also have vitamin D deficiency that I am currently on 5000IU per day. I have had a supra cervical hysterectomy in February. I still have one ovary and cervic. I suffer with moods wings, low back and pelvic pain. I had a hysterectomy do to endometriosis and adenosis (?spelling) I have requested to have my hormones checked and my obgyn doesn’t feel it is necessary! :( a few years ago I suffered with chronic hives and it lasted about 4 years! I always linked it to hormones and PMS. I have had 2children since then and it has gone away. Thank goodness! Does anyone experience my symptoms or have any suggestions for me? Thank you!

    • Nat,
      Get those hormones tested !!!. That way it will give you an idea of where to head and what to do.
      IE is it E dominance or P deffeinecy

      Bypass the OBGYN, you can get hormone saliva test kits via the internet. They are still process via a lab and offer accurate results.

  19. Stefani,
    I was so glad to come across this posting! I am suffering horribly & am only going downhill. I’m 33, always had terrible menstration & fibrosytic breasts as early as my mid 20’s. As I’ve gotten older, the problems have only persisted. I’m now at the point of having practically every possible symptom. I’ve always been very slender & have started gaining weight with no change in diet, I have multiple large fibroids (one the size of my uterus & I’m only 5 foot 2. I have NO sex drive at all, my lower back & abdomen hurt continuously, I’ve recently started getting UTI’s, again with no change in diet & constant sharp pain around my ovaries & most recently insomnia, increasing allergy issues that make it almost impossible to function somedays and rampant endometriosis ( had a laparoscopy a year and a half ago). I know I need to have a saliva test done, just haven’t had the money. Do you have any suggestions in the meantime?

  20. I have had problems with these symptoms for a long time (I’m 21 and it’s been going on for a few years) and noticed they improved when my doctor had me on a multivitamin for unrelated issues. I generally have a healthy diet anyway – do you think going back on the multivitamin might give me the extra push needed?

    • Worth a shot, in my opinion

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  22. Hi, I have just seen your web page and fund it really informative. I’m 66 and have always been slim but since the start of menopause at 53 I have put on weight. i think I have a good diet. But am now thinking it could be estrogen dominance as I have had a lot of stress over the years and also Endometriosis, Diverticulosis.

    kind regards

    Sandra

    • Hi Sandra, at what age were you diagnosed with Endometriosis? How did you treat it?

  23. I have high estrogen. My liver and kidneys are great. I have cyst on my overies and in my throat. I cannot control bleeding of menstruation. I have an IUD that is suppose to stop my period but i have it like anywhere fron 1-2 weeks! At a time. Then back in two weeks!! I am frustrrated!!! And i am not over weight!! Btwn bleedind and night sweats that i have had for 18 years i don’t no what to do!! Do i just have a hormonal imbalance!! Dr. Doesn’t make any suggestions!!!! Plus yeast infections every couple weeks for 19 yrs!! Life sucks!!! What yo do!

    • Also i am 44 yrs old!!

  24. This is all very interesting, and maybe I can add something to the mix that I just discovered with my recent health problems. I gained a lot of weight this year (20lbs) without any change diet/exercise, I was not absorbing vitamins (D, B6, B12, iron) and my periods were horrendous and 22 days apart. I had NO energy and all the symptoms of hypothyroidism despite my TSH levels being normal. I had such severe lower abdomen pain that I was sure I had ovarian cysts, but scans proved otherwise. It was very frustrating! I switched to a integrative medical doctor who believes in treating the patient, not the lab results and getting to the route of your problems. He put me on natural progesterone cream for estrogen dominance and now 3 months later I’m seeing a big difference in my symptoms. We just got my blood allergy test and stool test results back and it blows my mind! We’ve discovered that I have a bacterial infection in my stomach called H. pylori (leading cause of GERD, acid reflux, IBS symptoms and stomach ulcers) that has led to chronic inflammation in my bowels and leaky gut. Due to this leaky gut issue, I’m now allergic to wheat, all dairy, all eggs, almonds and bakers/brewers yeast. Also, the chronic inflammation in my gut has but stress on my adrenals and has raised my cortisol level, stress on my ovaries (it takes your progesterone) and in turn causing secondary hypothyroidism. (My body makes thyroid hormones, but due to it being under stress my free T3 is very low.) Plus the bacteria steals your iron, B vitamins, etc. It’s daunting, but at least I don’t feel like I am crazy anymore and I can fix this. I’ve cut back all allergy related foods, sugar and alcohol and I’m being treated with antibiotics for the infection. Hopefully after 6 months-1 year I’ll be back to my old self. I can’t stress this enough– get a stool and allergy test!!!

    • Every time I get a stool test done I am bloated and throwing up, I have bright red blood in MY stools- turns out I have an Allergy ( Lung and Face allergy ) to milk! And I can’t do flour or wheat or Vitamin B- this period thing is interesting maybe if I increased my shot I would have a period- I exercise Every day by jogging then the rest of the day belongs to everybody else. Thanks for the articles- they’re interesting!

    • Robin,
      I was excited to read about someone who had all the same mysterious symptoms that I have(10/18/13). I’ve been struggling with these issues for a couple years. Making very slow progress and I’d like to hear from you about your progress. I’m surprised at how long it takes to heal leaky gut!

      Thanks,
      Janet

    • Hi Robin! Can I ask where you live? I need a doctor who will look into all of those things!!!

  25. I am going through severe peri-menopause; I am 47 and my progesterone is 0.5 while my Estrogen is 80. I have anxiety and insomnia and haven’t been able to sleep for 2 months. I am on bioidentical hormones and have been taking them for 2 weeks, 200mg progesterone, oral micronized. I am also taking CDG and Probiotics to bring down the Estrogen. Have you heard good results from someone in my situation?

    • That seems a promising regimen. Magnesium might help you, as well as anything else you can do to heal your gut. Omega 3 fats and vitamin d could be a great help, too.

    • What is CDG?

      • Calcium d glucarate

  26. This is putting together lots of puzzle pieces for me. I don’t really have many of the symptoms listed, but I have enough to convince mei have low progesterone/estrogen dominance – low libido, short luteal phases, and two consecutive miscarriages. I thought I just had low protester one due to still breastfeeding my toddler, but I also have some symptoms of impaired liver function despite a really clean diet and lifestyle, and I bet that I’m hanging onto/resorbing old estrogen as well.

    What are your thoughts on dairy? I mean, this is obviously a paleo site, but I drink a little grass fed raw milk daily (to chase my FCLO) and some raw cheese as well. I’m wondering if I should cut it out for the time being.

    • It wouldn’t hurt to try, Susan, though I honestly think raw milk would probably not hurt your progesterone levels (in fact, there is some progesterone in milk.) But, again, I think it could be worth the shot.

  27. This suggestion of estrogen dominance is new to me from my primary care practioner to explore before taking on the last resort of a hysterectomy and oorphorectomy to solve the problem of numerous large fibroids that are causing heavy menstrual bleeding, cramps and general miserable periods. One is sitting on the outside of my uterus and pressing against my bladder. A gynecologist called in for a 2nd opinion who wants to do the surgery yesterday says my Ortho Evvra patches which I depend upon to help ease menstrual headaches have fed the fibroids for years, which I’m sure he’s right about. So I’m damned if I do and damned if I don’t with the patches, although my PCP wants me to try an experiment and go without the patches and see what happens to my periods and my headaches. She also wants me to try the progesterone cream to see if I am in estrogen dominance. I am perimenopausal, but my periods have continued like clockwork although my hormone levels indicate that I am in full blown menopause. We wonder if the Ortho Evra patches are masking manopause.

  28. Pingback: Paleo for Women | Top thirteen posts of 2013

  29. As a mother who is still nursing a 16 month old I find that there is not much out there on estrogen dominance for extended nursing mothers. it makes sense because i have not ovulated or had a period for 15 months, Suddenly my period has come back and progesterone has been suppressed all this time. now that my estrogen levels have spiked and progesterone levels are still low, hello estrogen dominance!
    my question is do I just wait and allow my hormones to settle? Or should I do something about it?

  30. I found Paleo many years ago and in less than a year, I’d reversed diabetes, cured PCOS (polycystic ovary syndrome), dropped my triglycerides, TC and A1C to low normal and lost 100 lbs (though I’m still overweight with a BMI of 28.7).

    Recently I’ve been having pelvic pain and have found intercourse painful so I went in to see my doc, something I rarely do anymore. After a full pelvic exam and trans-vaginal ultra-sound, the diagnosis is adenomyosis- which is (for anyone who doesn’t know), a kind of endometriosis where the endometrial glandular tissue infiltrates the muscle wall of the uterus, potentially causing heavy/painful menstruation, painful intercourse, an enlarged uterus that may develop from the normally sloughing endometrium being trapped instead in the muscle wall, and a host of other issues.

    I’m told that it is a very common ‘condition’ among older women (I’m 45) who have had at least 2 full-term pregnancies (I’ve had 3), and that it often goes unnoticed and undiagnosed. I’m also told that ‘estrogen dominance’ can be a primary factor. After years of dealing with extra testosterone, I never imagined I’d be dealing with “extra” estrogen, though as I understand it, it isn’t so much that there is extra estrogen, but that there isn’t enough progesterone being made to balance it. What was especially gratifying though was seeing my ovaries on the ultrasound screen– they used to look like a pouches of marbles and now, the only follicles that could be seen were the current one and the one coming up next round. (Woo hoo for Paleo!) The ultrasound tech couldn’t believe I’d ever had PCOS.

    In the last few days I’ve read all kinds of information on food-sourced estrogen ‘agonists’ and lots of advice to eat these foods, but what I’m distilling down from the data is that it isn’t a matter of reducing estrogen, but that I need to boost progesterone.

    The treatment options offered are limited to hormone therapies (specifically the Mirena IUD), anti-inflammatory drugs and partial or total hysterectomy (I’m told that laser ablation isn’t an option because the tissue hides inside the muscle rather than on the surface). None of these is an acceptable approach for me.

    The specialist really wasn’t interested in exploring anything natural, she was ready to put the IUD in right then at our first meeting! I lost more weight initially, but looked SO MUCH OLDER after losing so much, so I put some back on- maybe this is the cost of my vanity?

    I asked specifically about estrogen dominance, saying I have concerns about treating what could be just a symptom of a larger problem- that I was aware that estrogen dominance can lead to osteoporosis and reproductive cancers. But she said that the dominance wasn’t “systemic”, that is was about the uterus being hyper-sensitive to the estrogen, and that this was why the Mirena (with progesterone only) would make more sense because its action was local. Either way, I’m not a fan of the IUD idea or the hormone idea and I’d really like to know what others think. I can’t seem to find any more information on the subject.

    • Hi Anonymous Paleo,

      I also have adenomyosis, although I am 41 and no kids. I was diagnosed last year and only now getting acute pelvic pain but only with my periods. I’m seeing a pelvic health specialist to relax those muscles. My period pain is getting worse with every period and it’s quite disruptive to my life. I’m basically confined to my bed/couch for three days each month.

      I’m getting a uterine artery embolization done in June which cuts off the blood supply to the adenomyosis affected areas of the uterus. It’s normally done for fibroids but there is a hospital here doing it for certain adenomyosis patients. It would diminish but not eliminate fertility.

      Something you may wish to consider instead of a hysterectomy or Mirena.

      I thought about going the naturopathic route and spent too much money on going to see a naturopath twice but it was just too many pills and tinctures, sometimes three times a day. Not practical for anyone with a full time job. So, I decided to go ahead with the surgery.

      Have you found any relief or other tips to minimize the pain. I am at the end of day 2 of this month’s period and just sick of all of it now. Want this surgery tomorrow. :(

      Ruby

      • I came back to report some major success! After poking around looking for natural solutions, I found the one thing that came up over and over was DIM and Calcium-D-Glucarate. I read an article from the Bulletproof Executive on the latter, some time last year, but it wasn’t relevant to me, so I didn’t do anything with that information then. But shortly after posting here I purchased both and began supplementing. It’s my understanding that it can take up to three months to see any positive changes, so I didn’t expect anything major. However, my next menstruation snuck up on me because it was symptom-free until the day it started!

        And then, I had only 1.5-2 days of really heavy bleeding, instead of 3-4 and it was 2 days shorter overall. Most importantly though, it was so “average” with regard to cramping and pain. I was able to use the soft-cups I’d had to stop using because they were too painful to wear, and sex hasn’t hurt since!

        Another interesting thing worth mentioning- my hips used to ache. When I had my first screening done with my primary for the adenomyosis, they were routinely aching so much that she ordered x-rays (which found nothing). They’d been aching for 3-4 years on and off, sometimes so much so that the pain would prevent me from sleeping or wake me in the night. I have a job that exacerbated the pain quite a bit and I’d become so used to it that I would hold my breath and cringe a little as I got out of my car after a 12 hour shift and a 40 minute drive, knowing it was going to be painful just taking the first couple of steps. However, a few weeks ago, as I got out of the car I realized, there was no pain! I stood there wondering how long it had been since I’d last felt it… I was so used to feeling it all the time that I didn’t notice it fading. But, I now have ZERO pain in my hips! I wish I’d known what the supplements would do for that pain years ago!

        I’ve never been much for supplements, preferring to get my nutrients from whole food (I take D3 in the Winter months only) and I really didn’t expect such remarkable results. I’m in the middle of my second menstruation since beginning the regimen and other than some mild cramping on the first day, I’d not even know I was menstruating if not for the discharge. I’ve been finding it easier to stick to my Paleo template since starting them too. I’ve been sticking to it right along, but I found myself craving starches and just “more food” in general. Given the ways my clothes are fitting, I feel like I’ve lost a couple of pounds, though I can’t say for sure since I don’t depend on the scale.

        So bottom line-

        -I’ve been taking these supplements for almost two months, though not long enough to comprehensively evaluate the long term results.

        -In this short time though, I feel remarkably better!

        -I can’t say for sure that there is no placebo effect taking place, though with my skeptical nature, if so, I believe it would be minor.

        -If I did lose a few pounds, I can’t say for sure that that didn’t have an impact on how I’m feeling, since fatty tissue promotes estrogen production/dominance… but even if that is the case, that could be a simple matter of the supplements altering fat storage a bit with the result of that being fat loss, and the result of THAT being the lessening of estrogen and therefore the elimination of symptoms. Point being, I don’t know if the result is direct or indirect, but frankly, I don’t care.

        -I’m going to keep it up and see what happens. I will continue to report back here in case anyone is interested. :)

        One last thing worth mentioning (I think), the DIM is an extract from cruciforms- I’ve found that if I take it with a meal that also contains lots of cruciforms (like the wonderful roasted brussels sprouts we had with dinner last night), I get a headache. This makes sense to me since the primary side-effect listed with larger doses was headache.

      • Epsom salt baths saved me. I have severe dysmenorrhea and the one thing that has helped (in conjunction with pain relievers) is half a bag of epsom salts in a hot bath. It can make the difference between writhing on the floor, or melting into the couch.

    • Hi,

      Yes, the specialist is separating the uterus from the rest of the body which is ridiculous! Of course it’s all connected! But that is the philosophy of Western Medicine and why we are in the medical crisis we are, here in America.

      Five years ago I had the Mirena IUD for birth control and it was awful! Severe headaches and mood swings. My practitioner blew me off and said that it was local so wouldn’t cause those symptoms. One day I lost vision in my one eye briefly and so I immediately had the IUD removed. It was a huge relief! It should be withdrawn from the market. I desperately sought answers online and found women complaining of some mental and physical side-effects which they’d never had before. Scary!

      Gradually though as I became peri menopausal, I developed symptoms of estrogen dominance. Since I would never again consider a synthetic hormone, I went back to Nutrition school to learn how to heal myself. I found the correct diet for my body type and started natural Progesterone cream. I have lost the 15 pounds I gained, my mood is stable, my brain is less foggy and I have more energy. I just feel happy again! Why not try the natural route first?

      Wishing you the best on your journey of healing!

  31. Pingback: Balancing Estrogen With A Healthy Diet | Ancestralize Me!

  32. Pingback: Estrogen Dominance | Vitality Medical Wellness Institute

  33. I haven’t had any blood tests done, but here are my symptoms.
    I enjoy the paleo life and am very stable on it for two weeks, then leading up to ovulation and for more than a week after I go crazy. I eat like a lunatic, my emotions go haywire, I get pimples, I feel crap. Then a few days before my period,everything settles back down and I feel great again. Then it all starts again as ovulation comes around again. Does this sound like estrogen dominance?
    Ps love the blog, and have heard a few podcasts! I felt empowered to be a paleo woman, and not need to look as lean as a man.

  34. Pingback: Balancing Estrogen With A Healthy Diet

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  38. Hi there,

    Very grateful to have found your blog…
    Could you point me in the direction of any of your posts that deal with the opposite of estrogen dominance. In other words, I’m looking to BOOST my estrogen.

    Thanks!
    -Monika

  39. Does anyone know what kind of doctor to see about this??

    • I would suggest an endocrinologist or a functional medicine doc.

  40. Hi! Thank you for a very good and important article! I would like to add one important fact about reducing excess esrogen. If you are eating grape fruit or drinking the juice regularly (even only 2-3 times a week), you are preventing the CYP3A4 enzyme from metabolizing (I hope this is a real word) estrogen, which may lead to estrogen dominance. The effect may last up to 72h. Please include this fact in future posts about the subject. It may save someone from enourmous frustration and pain, like it did with me. Thank you again for an awsome post! A link: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Grapefruit

  41. Hi,
    My question is about low libido. This has been an issue for me for the past several years (5+). It’s not that I don’t enjoy sex… I do. But I never really seem to feel “in the mood,” and my husband is pretty much always the initiator.
    We have a 10 month old baby (I got pregnant virtually immediately when we starting “trying”), and since his birth, we’ve only had sex a handful of times. This is, of course, also due to factors other than my low libido (lack of time and sleep primarily), but I’d really like to get some resolution on this matter.
    I am still breast-feeding and plan to continue until my son wants to quit.. so this could be 2+ more years. I’d also like to think about having another kid in about 2 years. My period has not returned.
    Some other background: I’m 38, primal (paleo + dairy), and I exercise as regularly as I can (baby makes it tricky to fit in more than two workouts a week sometimes). I lift heavy weights 2 times a week, and if I have time for a 3rd workout, I either do rowing intervals or some type of short metcon (less than 10-12 minutes).
    I do my best to get adequate sleep, but it’s a bit more disrupted than I’d like (baby), and I try hard to manage my stress. I work full-time, and I commute over 100 miles a day. I also work part time as a coach, nutrition consultant, and event coordinator for my gym.
    So I’m really busy. But I’m not a high-anxiety person, and I never really feel “stressed.” That being said, I’m sure my cortisol levels are somewhat elevated due to my hectic life.
    So, are there any dietary or other interventions I could try to help boost my libido?
    Thanks!

    • Do you eat carbs? I think you should be eating carbs, at least 100 g / day. Women with any kind of adrenal stress need them.

      I also really think that it’s not just STRESS, per se, but also preoccupation with other things, that can hinder a woman’s libido. If you do not make the time to think about sex during the day- you know, like fantasizing about your… husband :) – or if you are not confronted with sexual imagery or themes- then you probably won’t want to later in the evening. This isn’t the case for all women, definitely, but I’ve seen it in enough in practice and in my own life that I think it holds water. When you have a super busy life, your female body might just want you to cool it.

      • Thanks so much for your response. I think that’s a really good suggestion. I do eat carbs, but really not that many usually. I don’t count my macros… I’ll make a conscious effort to add in some more and see if that helps. And I will work on making some mental space in the day to think sexy thoughts. ;)
        Thanks again!

  42. I enjoyed reading the blogs, I believe I have catamenial epilepsy hormonal balance so great causes seizures.

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  44. Hi,

    I’m 66 years old on no hRT. My estrogen level 145 pg/ml
    According the quest lab results post menopausal women should be at 130 pg/ml or less.

    Concerning me. Went for pelvic/tri/abodominal, etc. ultra sound waiting for results.
    I am thin. I feel stress has caused this estrogen level. Is there a way I can reduce the estrogen level or am I stuck with high forever?

  45. I just got a call tonight verifying that I indeed am estrogen dominance. So I have hit the information super highway to research it. I am reading here that we should not have flax, legumes, sesame seeds but on this site I am reading that we should have them.

    “Grandma knows best! Apple a day, keeps the doctor away. Insoluble fibre found in apples, oats, berries and beans binds to estrogen in your small intestines and stops it from being absorbed. That way you can reduce your exposure to xeno-estrogens from your diet. Aim for two servings a day.”

    “Sesame seeds and flax seeds contain estrogen binging lignans. Aim for two to three tablespoons a day. You can have flaxseed oil or ground up flaxseeds, sesame seeds sprinkled in salad or ground up in a paste called tahini. Flaxseeds are also rich in omega 3 fatty acids.” (http://beforeitsnews.com/health/2013/06/5-foods-to-reduce-estrogen-dominance-2493966.html)

    I would love some feedback on why one site says to have them and another says no.

    Thank you!

  46. I was told that flaxseed was actually good for lowering estrogen levels because it binds to it to help remove it… you say to avoid flaxseed. thoughts?

    • My personal observation is that flax elevates estrogen levels in women much more often than it decreases… but the medical literature continues to insist that what you have said is the case. All I can conclude therefore is that it varies woman to woman and situation to situation, and you have to do your best to experiment and see what works best for you

      • hi im confused about this. most sites claim that flaxseeds bind excess estrogen?
        tks

  47. This sounds just like me. My doctor put me on progesterone but I stopped taking it as I misplaced it. I stupidly thought it was pointless and didn’t realize how much I needed it. I pretty much have all the symptoms above including hypothyroidism along with PCOS. I’ve been to so many websites now regarding estrogen dominance and realized this is probably the cause of my thyroid problem as well as PCOS. I’m going to find that cream asap and start back on it. I can’t believe I neglected to take it. I also don’t eat too much fiber but I’ve been trying to eat more. The worst symptom for me is extreme fatigue as I am incredibly exhausted every second of every day.

    • Have you had your iron levels checked? The fatigue may be from anemia. (That’s what I’m dealing with, so it stood out at me when I saw your post.) I was incredibly exhausted every second of every day too, and had to have IV infusions of iron for six weeks before I got back up to just low levels. I’m feeling much better, with a long way to go. (Have a lot of hormonal things going on, but that’s for another time.)

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  49. I’m 61 years old. Had my thyroid removed 2 years ago. On Armour and Synthroid. Have gained 37 lbs in 4 months. Am on Paleo right now except for a bowl of oatmeal with almond milk every day. I need the oatmeal because it helps me go to the bathroom. Strict Paleo constipates me sometimes for 2 plus weeks. I exercise 30 minutes on the treadmill every day. My doc has me on estrodial compounded cream and progesterone pills. I’m already post menopause, but she claims I’m extrogen dominant. I’m confused. Don’t know if I should continue Paleo or count calories. Any suggestions? My T3 is 5.0 which makes me feel best except for the weight gain. Any suggestions would be so appreciated. Thanks

    • Karen, are you interpreting Paleo to mean very low carb? That could be the reason why you are constipated. Many people feel better if they eat some starchy carbs, like potatoes or sweet potatoes, every day. Paul Jaminet at perfecthealthdiet.com has talked about this a lot.

      • Yes Tess, my nurse practicioner says no carbs or fats. Needless to say, I stopped Paleo, it was also affecting my kidneys. and now am counting calories and have lost 5 lbs and going to the bathroom normally again. Also tomorrow I go to a new Endo who prescribes Armour which I want to stay on. Hopefully things will continue to get better. Thank you for your response. I realize Paleo isn’t for everyone.

        • No carbs or fats? I don’t mean this to sound disrespectful, but I’m curious, what do you eat? That sounds like a protein-only diet. Certainly, you couldn’t eat oatmeal if you weren’t allowed to eat carbs.

  50. Great article but your information on seeds is old. Flaxseeds and sesame seeds are fabulous at binding estrogen and escorting it from the body. The initial research was flawed. My estrogen levels have dropped to a normal levels with 1/2 tbsp of each ground seed each day over 3 months. The fibre they provide also assists the process. Seeds are extremely healthy in moderation. Please read the new papers.

    • The current theory I believe is that phytoestrogens take up space on estrogen receptors but are not as ‘strong’ as true estrogen.. meaning they boost estrogenic activity for women with low E and decrease estrogen activity for women with high E. I thought that was also what I said in the post?

  51. I am a little confused regarding estrogen dominance and milk thistle. I have recently read that milk thistle can stimulate estrogen properties in your body and is not recommended for women with estrogen dominance. Then I read that milk thistle is okay because of the liver detoxing effect? Do you know anything about this?

  52. I wish I’d found this page last week!
    I’m 58, eight years post-menopausal. I follow a Paleo plan and avoid simple carbs, sugar, rice, grains, dairy, etc., but… I’m fairly inactive and need to shed 20 pounds (BMI is 26).
    Last year my doctor touted bioidentical HRT pellets. I had my first insertion in September, and three weeks later started bleeding. Blood tests showed estrogen dominance. My progesterone was adjusted over the next three months to 300 mg and I had a second insertion in December. Estrogen was still high and my progesterone was increased to 600. The bleeding continued off and on (more on) and once I ended the HRT, I stopped bleeding by March.
    Now, I’d never had any issues in my life, but after having an ultrasound in May and consulting an obgyn, I suddenly have a few small fibroids and dysplasia. Hmmmm. Connection?
    I’m being monitored with follow up in December, but my experience last week with ground flaxseed had me running to the phone.
    I have zero issues with the whole seed sprinkled on salads or in a microwave egg muffin. Looking to increase my Omega-3 intake, I decided to grind up two teaspoons of flaxseed. Within hours, I started bleeding pretty heavily. The next day it stopped and, not thinking of any connection, I ground up two more teaspoons. Within hours it was back (eureka moment) and hasn’t stopped.
    I had blood drawn this morning and fully expect my estrogen levels to be through the roof.
    After the fact I’ve learned that flaxseed, a phytoestrogen, is also a blood thinner and anticoagulant. So I’m at the point now where I’m trying to naturally reduce as much estrogen as I can and I’m wondering if adding chia seeds to all the fish and veggies might move all this along. Any ideas?
    Thanks!

  53. You name it, I have probably been through it. I am 55, and until I got super serious about my body and what was going on, I felt mostly miserable, even though I had a great D.O. I was told I was hypothyroid, and put on Westhroid than later Naturethroid. I was taking more and more, because testing showed I needed it, but feeling worse and worse. I went through menopause (ok, anyone saying it is a “natural” experience should be horsewhipped) nothing NATURAL about it, drenching night sweats, hot flashes, total exhaustion from inability to sleep. Brain fog from lack of quality sleep, dried out skin, aches and pains in every joint, and just feeling like you dried up and died. I tried vitex, helped but not for long, progestrone cream, but not for long, sepia-that had the best effect, but then it did nothing. So I went herbal and found that cooling herbs like burdock helped tremendously as well as Apple Cider Vinegar at 4 Tbs daily-makes you alkaline. I was having extreme issues with certain foods-call it reaction, intolerence, allergy, whatever-couldn’t tolerate stuff since going through menopause, so I basically eat paleo. But found Personal Paleo Code and he made SENSE. And so for those of you who have trouble with Paleo, read what he says and FIND your balance. I think it will give you the info needed. Estrogen Dominance seems to be so linked to the American Diet, and our lifestyle, and environment. I stopped taking thyroid meds because they did not help after menopause-to the HORROR of my D.O., and after a mth w/o them. I felt so much better. But I do supplement with Tyrosine, Dulse, and omega 3-6-9, which seems to be the combo that keeps me stable. I rebound (mini tramp) for at least 30 mins, and that helps my lympathic system tremendously. Funny how my lab test show BETTER than when on thyroid meds, hmmmm??? Bottom line, LISTEN to YOUR body, not the medical discoveries, or Drs interpretation of what SHOULD be happening…only YOU live in your skin, so WHO cares what they advise, only YOU can determine what works in your skin! I love my D.O, he saved my life years ago from Drs who loaded me up on their prescription med cocktail that KILLED my immune system-morons, but even he couldn’t help me once menopause hit. Men can’t truly comprehend what it DOES to you. I have read Suzanne Somers, and I think having periods the rest of your life is CRAZY. But then HRT is also INSANITY. Bottom line is remember you are an individual and find out what works for you, and then be grateful you have an amazing body that can do marvelous things!

  54. Pingback: Paleo for Women | 10 Signs You’re a Healthy Woman

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