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Oestrogen dominance – why you can blame unbalanced hormones for weight gain

Oestrogen dominance is currently stealing centre stage when it comes to hormone imbalance that may exist within your body. It’s pretty simple. When there is excess oestrogen in comparison to progesterone, the result is imbalanced hormones. Symptoms including weight gain and terrible periods, are common.

It’s thought that there are several factors linked to oestrogen dominance. These specifically are:

  • considerable consumption of non organic meat, especially poultry – the high levels of hormones present in these animals skyrockets oestrogen
  • there is a direct link between excess copper and high levels of oestrogen
  • increased phyto-estrogens (oestrogen mimicking chemicals found in things like plastics, chemicals in beauty products, soy products and chemicals in our environment)

Now the majority of us have probably indulged in hormone pumped chicken at some point in the past 20 years and drank water out of a cooler with copper pipes. So if you’re scratching your ovaries wondering “could this be me,” don’t sweat it. There are some stand out signs to look out for – and again, just because you have one of these doesn’t necessarily mean you need be running to your local pathology lab. Some simple diet and lifestyle changes may be just what this little TCM Dr ordered.

Oestrogen Dominant signs might look like:

  • Painful, heavy, clotty and/or long periods (one or all of these dreaded symptoms)
  • Mittleschmerz (ovulation pain)
  • Facial hair – especially above the lip
  • Pre menstrual tension including emotional upset, frustration, anger, headaches, breast distention, nose bleeds, sinus issues, bowel irregularities that occur from ovulation (up to 2 weeks prior to the period arriving).

Female hormone balance also guides social, sexual and nurturing behaviours. Symptoms of depression, mood swings and anxiety due to the overbearing influence of oestrogen over progesterone, may become apparent and the most bubbliest of women no longer the life of the party. These are all because progesterone has a specific role in heightening our moods and making us feel happy. You see, it’s all about the balance!

But here’s the thing you most likely tuned in for.

Because oestrogen is an anabolic hormone, excess oestrogen may lead to weight gain, specifically around the abdomen.

Research scientists have found that having either too much or too little oestrogen signals the body to hold onto the extra kilos especially around the waist, thighs, under the bottom and at the tops of the arms. As oestrogen levels rise, controlling your weight becomes a really tricky task, because fat cells are also responsible for producing oestrogen. So the more fat cells, the more oestrogen released into the body, the more fat cells grow. And to add to the issue, increased oestrogen contributes to bloating and fluid retention.

Now those suffering from Poly Cystic Ovarian Syndrome, Endometriosis, ovarian cysts, breast irregularities, weight gain – these are all possibly related to oestrogen dominance. And let’s not leave our menopausal friends out. Since menopause is a shift in hormones, this also comes onto the radar. This is why many women gain weight at the time of menopause, they feel like they’re going a little ‘crazy’ or their life is way out of control. It’s also a time we see increased facial hair, especially of the moustache variety. We’re forgiven for ‘dreading’ those transition years but as we discussed last week – menopause isn’t supposed to be difficult.

Typically your hormones are tested with a blood, saliva or urine test and should your levels of oestrogen come back high, your doctor will most likely suggest the pill, simply because there isn’t much else he has on offer. Now, we’ve visited the pill a gadzillion times, and we all now know that:

the pill doesn’t offer any kind of a long term solution but rather one humungous bandaid.

Rip off the bandaid and it not only hurts, but the condition is still there and the symptoms often come back ten fold. What’s more, say you’re using the pill to control symptoms, come the time of making babies there’s a whole lot of hormone regulation that needs to happen before your body is baby ready. We really must consider our hormone health way before we’re ready to make tiny humans. Let’s not forget how the pill affects your bodies ability to absorb vitamins and minerals as well as messes around with your gut flora. Unfortunately no amount of supplementation will get around this, and deficient mothers make for deficient babes – with higher incidence of post natal depression and difficulty breast feeding, irritable often colic-ky babies that are unsettled and hungry. This combination is worrying not to mention torturous for both parties.

In the majority of cases there are some simple additions I can suggest to your diet that will assist in treatment of not only the symptoms but in healing the imbalance. Now of course, nothing is a one size fits all and my job is decoding the specific signs that your body is speaking. However, one of the key minerals in balancing hormones is magnesium. Magnesium is a key element in the process of producing progesterone and is necessary for more than 350 different biochemical process that occur within your body.

When it comes to fertility, a healthy weight range is essential. The difference of just 4 kilograms can stand between you and your baby. What’s more, if weight is an issue it may pose risk on your un-born so it is advised that weight be within a specific ‘fertile’ range. I talk about this in my book, but it is roughly your height in centimetres, minus 100 to give you a ball park figure. So for me, I’m 156cm (giant I know), so my fertile range is around 56kg. Remember, it is just a rough guide.

As a herbalist, there are many different herbal formulas that I can prescribe as an individual and specific treatment regime. This may be a more favourable option as it takes into account all other factors, obvious signs and symptoms and most likely sees the quickest results. That said, high doses of magnesium (350mg elemental Mg twice daily) in combination with the herb Vitex agnes casts (1g per day) will assist most in rebalancing oestrogen – although it may just take a little longer. You’d most likely stick to this regime for 3 – 6 months.

The other key factor is diet and lifestyle. Your body is in a constant state of work – we must make decisions that support wellness for our bodies to be supported. Eating adequate fats and protein are key to fuel hormone function. Well & Good carefully goes through all the things you need to do from a diet and lifestyle perspective to support hormone health. It’s the guide to fertility in the sense that it’s about what you can do in your own life to ensure your body is in full fertility swing – regardless of if you’re making a baby or not. It’s all about making happy, healthy hormones!

Implementing these supplements, gentle diet and lifestyle changes and decreasing stress is certainly key to balancing hormones. You’ll be looking fabulous (and comfortable) in your skinny jeans in no time and that bulge be gone with your hormone imbalance and moustache!

Leave a Comment

44 Responses to “Oestrogen dominance – why you can blame unbalanced hormones for weight gain”

  1. Kate

    Thanks so much for this post Nat. Are there particular brands of magnesium and vitex you recommend?

    Reply
  2. Tegan @ Happy Healthy Whole

    Hi Nat, I feel a little bit blindsided by the fact that I went on the pill at 16 thinking it was the ‘right’ thing to do and have now only began to realise the effects it was potentially having on my body. Your site has been an absolute eye opener and amazing resource as I educate myself on all of the side effects so thank you so much.

    I have a quick question – can being on the pill for extended periods cause oestrogen dominance? I have experienced a lot of the symptoms you described above so was wondering if it may be linked.

    Reply
    • mnfadmin

      Thank you Tegan for your kind words – I really appreciate them! Being on the pill will absolutely upset hormone balance – oestrogen dominance being one of these.

      Reply
  3. renee

    thank you nat! when you refer to soy products, do you mean all? i drink soy milk & oat milk and with a failed pregnancy, should look to change this?

    i miscarried about 10mths ago now after falling pregnant v quickly, and expected it all to happen again soon after we re-caliberated emotionally & physically, so to speak. yet a year on, we’re still waiting…

    having read the symptoms they’re mostly relevant to me and something that i noticed in the last 2yrs. markedly, the longer and heavier periods and ovulation pain (and extra ab fat), which i thought was my body’s way of telling to crack on with babies (?).

    i introduced Vitex a month ago & can look to add magnesium.

    thanks!

    Reply
    • mnfadmin

      Yes I mean all soy products. I’d suggest you have oat milk where possible (sometimes tricky when you are out). Soy is in EVERYTHING. So eliminating where possible is a great idea.

      I’d also suggest you get a semen analysis for your partner just to double check x

      Reply
  4. Carley

    Hi, great post. Just wanted to note that phytoestrogen is from plant sources only (say included).

    Chemicals in beauty products and chemicals in our environment carry xenoestrogens.

    Reply
  5. Liz

    Hi Nat,

    I’m 174cms tall so my fertile weight should be around the 74kg mark right? I’m currently about 56kgs (which I know puts me in the underweight category but I’m working on gaining some muscle to get me back up a few kilos). I’ve got a 1 year old who I’m still breastfeeding and Im actually a couple kgs lighter now than I was before I got pregnant with her which is to do with breastfeeding i think. I have an amazing diet (if I do say so myself) I eat a TON of veg, juice daily, green smoothies daily, eat tons of nuts and seeds, fish and eggs and lots and lots of good fats. I’m currently working on getting rid of my eczema with a naturopath so I’m especially conscious of my diet, plus nutrition is my passion so I’m obsessed with all things health.

    SO my question is, do you think being underweight will impact my next pregnancy (I’m planning to start trying for #2 at the end of this year)? I know my hormones are a little wacked ever since using a nuva about 5 years ago (eeek before I discovered you!).

    Sorry for the massively long spiel!

    🙂

    Reply
  6. Emily

    Hi

    Interesting article thanks so much.

    I am not looking to fall pregnant but I went off the pill in February because I no longer wanted to take it and I have noticed since stopping my skin and hair is extremely oily, I have so many pimples (even in my hairline and behind my ears) as well as weight gain. I am just wondering how long would my body take to adjust and go back to normal (whatever that is)? I am getting so upset more so with the pimples and oil than anything.

    Thanks

    E

    Reply
  7. Robyn (GirlonRaw)

    Hi Nat! Interesting article, especially given that I only just posted something in on my facebook page yesterday about not being able to shed the least few kilos post baby (4 months) – possibly being linked to still breastfeeding. I got a load of comments on it (in no way am I promoting weaning as a weight loss reason! I love BF). I just wanted to gauge experience from other mama’s.

    Anyway I wonder if my stubborn weight could be what you suggest as I feel the excess weigh tI cannot shift are in the areas you mention. Would a normal GP be able to do the test? (I live in Saudi Arabia and the alternative therapies are a little on the lean side here)

    Reply
    • Sarah

      This happened to me too. Whilst I’d heard so many stories of the weight just dropping off and it seemed to at different times for my friends, it really didn’t for me at all, the last 4-5kg stuck around, despite walking a lot, eating really well. It wasn’t until my bub was about 10 months old that I suddenly lost it over several weeks by doing nothing different. In hindsight, I realise my body was reducing my milk supply (in response to my son eating more solids and needing less) plus my son was sleeping better at night so I was finally getting enough sleep (your body is so in sync with your bub’s it’s amazing). I reduced the feeds til I weaned him completely at 15 months (later than I’d wanted to) and now am back to what seems like a natural balance. In hindsight, I wish I hadn’t have stressed about it at all, knowing it would all be fine, my son is really healthy (only been to the dr twice and he’s 20 months old), and it made sure my healthy habits have now stuck. Do what feels right for you, but I say 4 months is still so early, if it’s only a few kgs, don’t stress about it, it will happen.

      Reply
  8. Bree

    Hey there Nat, I’m just wondering if you can point me in the direction of any research/info about hormones in chicken? I was under the impression that it is a practice that has been illegal in Australia for quite some time, so I’m really interested to learn some more.

    Look forward to hearing from you.

    Reply
    • mnfadmin

      Hi Bree – You’d need to do some research but what I do know is organic chicken and the benefits of organic meats far outweigh any of the others. It’s not just the chemicals in meats either – it’s the whole kit and caboodle!

      I could sift through some articles no worries but it may not be possible for me to do so for a few weeks or so as my time is limited.

      Reply
  9. Laura

    I’m a bit dubious about the height minus 100 cm being the ideal fertile weight. I know I’m on the border of underweight/normal for my very tall frame and I’m trying very hard to put on a few kilos, but by those calculations I need to put on 20 kgs. Eeeep!

    Reply
    • mnfadmin

      Just use it as a guide Laura. As little as 4kg can make a huge difference! x

      Reply
      • Laura

        Do you have any tips for weight gain? There’s so much out there on losing weight for fertility but not a lot about gaining it. Thank you Nat 🙂

      • mnfadmin

        I always suggest patients apply the principles I talk about in my book – this will shift you more towards your ‘fertile’ weight so if you are overweight it will help you lose but if you are under weight then it should help you gain 😉

  10. Ursula

    Hi Nat,

    I am currently undergoing (or trying to!) undergo my 2nd round of IVF. My partner is has hyperthyroidism and his he has high FSH so therefore producing almost 0 sperm. We have both gone gluten free, we gave up alcohol 6 months ago, we don’t smoke and we eat very healthy. We have had acupuncture treatments and have taken herbs for our hormones. I have just had my third visit to my FS with the same problem and can’t start IVF (again!) my uterine lining is too thick! This has happened three months in a row despite all the above! My FS wants me to go on the pill ( I refused last time as I was not gone on the idea and wanted to wait for my natural cycle hoping with all our intervention, that it would be okay this month). But my lining was even thicker this month (6.1 on day 3 of cycle) I am 35 with no known problems and I have a 28 day cycle and get ovulation stir/pain on day 14/15, so I don’t think I have any problems there. I am not sure where to go from here, I feel like I have done everything I can and I am not sure what to do now – I am so frustrated and fed up :,( do you have any further suggestions? I have just downloaded your ebook too, looking forward to trying the recipes! Thank you for your help – Ursula.

    Reply
  11. jade

    Hi there,

    interesting post. I have spent the last two years searching for answers as to why my body thinks its pregnant. massive fluid retention and sore swollen breasts. all blodd tests and scans have come back normal.

    I have been taking metagenics and orthoplex progestalift and vitex for just over a month, andf have recently gone back on the pill after 12month break

    I convinced that I have oestrogen dominance, as I run 10 ks a day and very fit however I have gone from 50k to 60k. in a very short space of time

    can you suggset anything else that may help with this problem.

    thanks

    jade

    Reply
  12. Jayne

    Hi Nat

    What is the correct way to take Vitex? I heard that you are supposed to stop taking it when you get your period but start again when your period stops? Is this correct?

    Reply
  13. Elle

    Hi,

    I just wondered where you buy the magnesium (350mg elemental Mg)? I’ve looked online, but can’t seem to find it? In everything else I’ve read, it just seems like 350mg twice daily seems extremely high…is that just part of the nutritional plan?

    I’d so much appreciate any advice as I’ve just made the decision to come off the pill, but have PCOS and want to make sure I’m getting all the nutrients I can in order to get my body ready for making babies! Thank you so much for all the information and articles they have been pivotal in my decision to finally get my health in order.

    Thank you in advance for your response.

    xx

    Reply
  14. Anne-Maree

    Great article Nat 🙂 I listened to your “debunking ovulation” video and read this article but I wanted to learn more about period pain and how it can be treated naturally

    You suggest here that period pain incl heavy, clotted periods can be caused due to oestrogen dominance?

    I suspect I may have oestrogen dominance due to the stress in my life but I don’t have any weight gain at all.. A bit confused about mixed messages!

    Can you suggest anything? I would love to come visit your clinic but unfortunately I am in Sydney!!

    Reply
  15. annie

    Hi I was just wondering where you got the dosages of magnesium and vitex from?

    Reply
  16. Lisa

    Hi Nat, this article has some great tips! I have recently had my hormone levels tested as after years of light periods with little to no pms, all of a sudden I have been experiencing almost all of the symptoms you listed above. It turns out my oestrogen is extremely high, only thing is I am very very thin (165cm at 50kg). I thought oestrogen needs fat? Have you heard of this before? My doctor and naturopath are both stumped, so I’m not sure where to go from here.

    Reply
    • mnfadmin

      YES! This is happening a lot – I often find it is related to stress. Oestrogen doesn’t necessarily need much fat – but it will possibly increase fat as it feeds on oestrogen. Sounds like you have some people helping you which is fantastic x

      Reply
  17. Marie

    I’m a 39 year old woman who tries to eat a healthy balanced diet (most of the time gluten and dairy free). I am not over weight at all and probably am slightly underweight but have been diagnosed with oestrogen dominance (and have most of the common symptoms). I find it frustrating that most people try to link fat and oestrogen because in my case it certainly can’t be the dominating factor. The next calling card is stress but I’m actually a fairly calm person with a high pain threshold (three natural child births) and if anything am/ have been super fertile (with three first try preganancies-if you get my drift). I’m having the mirena fitted after trying to self regulate oestrogen through diet and liver cleanse etc . . . the whole thing is simply exhausting!

    Reply
  18. Kathryn Piggott

    Hi Nat,

    I’m taking estrofactors and progestalift to balance oestrogen dominance. What are your thoughts on this?

    Kathryn

    Reply
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  20. stacey

    Good Morning,
    I just ran across your website and I am very intrigued. I have ALL of the symptoms you listed for Oestrogen! I have in the past, taken bio-identical hormones due to estrogen dominance. I am currently just taking Armour Thyroid. In the past 11 years I have had 3 surgeries to remove ovarian cysts with the last surgery a year ago, that one included removal of by right ovary and tube. I had a mass on my ovary as well as one inside my tube. Felt great up until a couple months ago. I am now experiencing heavy painful cycles every couple months. I always have pain on my right side a couple days before my cycle starts and then extreme pain the whole cycle. I have also has a lot of bloating and bowel/gut issues the last couple of months.
    Do you have any recommendations that I could try. I had my levels tested the beginning of the year and they all looked good except my testosterone was low.
    I eat very clean, majority of my macros are protein (40%) and carb(35%)with lower fat(25%)(most of that from natural peanut butter).
    I welcome any advice you can give me.

    Reply
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  23. hanna

    I bought magnesium, is this the same as elemental magnesium? I hope so!

    Reply
  24. Annie

    Hi Nat, I’ve been trying to address oestrogen dominance and have been taking Vitex. I’ve also been applying Wild Yam cream topically twice a day. What are your thoughts on Wild Yam cream?

    Reply
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  28. Kate

    Hi Nat,

    I love this post.

    Do you have any recomendations regarding exercise for us etrogen dominant girls? I mean type of exercise and duration?

    Thanks xx

    Reply
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