Estrogen Dominance: Causes, Symptoms, and How to Overcome It 

by JJ Virgin on March 7, 2024

Estrogen is the compass that guides so many processes throughout your body. This hormone helps regulate your menstrual cycle, maintains bone health, supports heart and brain health, and more. Like all hormones, maintaining a balance of estrogen is crucial for optimal health—it should not be too high or low.1 

When estrogen levels fall out of balance, estrogen dominance can occur. Estrogen dominance occurs when there's an excess of estrogen relative to progesterone. This means the effects of estrogen outweigh and potentially disrupt the balance between progesterone and other hormones.2  

What Causes Estrogen Dominance? 

Estrogen dominance usually results from multiple factors rather than a single underlying cause.3 

Genetic factors may predispose some women to hormonal imbalances, including estrogen dominance, though this is part of a complex interplay of factors. These five factors drive most cases of estrogen dominance. 

1. Hormonal Imbalances 

The primary cause of estrogen dominance is an imbalance between estrogen and progesterone levels.  

Hormones naturally fluctuate during your menstrual cycle. In the first half of your cycle, estrogen is higher because it helps build up the uterine lining. After ovulation, progesterone takes over as the dominant hormone. This naturally restores your hormone balance. However, overproduction of estrogen or underproduction of progesterone during the menstrual cycle can lead to estrogen dominance.4 

As women approach menopause, hormonal shifts become more pronounced. During perimenopause, estrogen can fluctuate significantly, sometimes exceeding progesterone and contributing to estrogen dominance.5 

Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) can contribute to estrogen dominance as well. This is a hormonal disorder that often involves elevated estrogen, prolonging the pre-ovulatory phase of your cycle and leading to irregular menstrual cycles and hormonal imbalances.6 

Various medical conditions affecting your ovaries, thyroid, adrenal glands, or pituitary gland can also lead to estrogen dominance. These conditions may result in your body being unable to make or regulate these hormones.7 

2. Environmental Factors 

Exposure to environmental toxins called xenoestrogens, which act like estrogen in the body, can play a role in causing estrogen dominance.8 Xenoestrogens are found in certain plastics (like BPA), pesticides, and industrial chemicals. They disrupt estrogen levels by mimicking the effects of natural estrogen in the body.  

When exposed to xenoestrogens, your cells may respond to them as genuine estrogen molecules. This can disrupt your hormone balance, potentially leading to symptoms associated with estrogen dominance. 

3. Chronic Stress 

High stress levels can impact pathways involved in estrogen production and metabolism, and indirectly affect other hormones that interact with estrogen.9 

Your adrenal glands make a variety of hormones, including cortisol and DHEA. These hormones are precursors to reproductive hormones like estrogen and progesterone. When you're constantly stressed, your adrenal glands can have trouble making these hormones because your body’s fight-or-flight response places priority on dealing with that stress. This is a survival mechanism.  

4. Excess Weight or Obesity 

Being overweight or obese can significantly contribute to estrogen dominance.10 Fat cells make and release estrogen, especially a type of estrogen called estrone. Fat cells also convert androgens (like testosterone) into estrogens. Both instances can elevate estrogen levels. 

Obesity is also associated with chronic low-grade inflammation. Inflammation can disrupt hormone regulation and affect the balance of various hormones, including estrogen.11 

5. Insulin Resistance 

Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, plays a vital role in regulating blood sugar. Insulin resistance happens when your body's cells become less responsive to insulin's effects. Consequently, the pancreas produces more insulin to compensate, resulting in elevated insulin in the bloodstream. 

Insulin and estrogen are closely linked. Elevated insulin can stimulate your ovaries to produce more estrogen.12 This sets up a cycle: High estrogen can increase insulin resistance, which, in turn, can promote estrogen dominance. 

This mechanism is particularly relevant in conditions like PCOS, where insulin resistance is often present and can contribute to an imbalance of sex hormones, including elevated estrogen levels. 

Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance 

Everyone experiences estrogen dominance differently, but it can present with symptoms that may vary in intensity. Common symptoms include13

  • Irregular menstrual cycles 
  • Breast tenderness 
  • Mood swings 
  • Weight gain, particularly in the hips and thighs. 
  • Fatigue 
  • Headaches 
  • Fibroids and endometriosis 
  • Vaginal dryness or recurrent yeast infections 
  • Decreased sex drive 
  • Changes in skin, such as acne or worsening of other skin conditions 
  • Difficulty sleeping 
  • Brain fog or difficulty concentrating 
  • Digestive issues, such as bloating and changes in bowel habits 

Note: While these symptoms can indicate estrogen dominance, they can also be associated with other health conditions. It's important to consult a healthcare professional for an accurate diagnosis. 

Overcoming Estrogen Dominance 

Addressing estrogen dominance involves a comprehensive approach that focuses on restoring hormonal balance and overall health. These strategies can help tackle estrogen dominance effectively. 

Take an Eat-Protein-First Meal Approach 

Eating protein-rich foods helps manage estrogen dominance. Protein provides amino acids, which are essential for the synthesis of glutathione, a powerful antioxidant produced by your liver. Glutathione plays a crucial role in detoxifying harmful substances, including excess estrogen. The liver metabolizes estrogen, and healthy liver function, supported by adequate protein intake, is essential for proper estrogen metabolism and balance.14 

Protein helps stabilize blood-sugar levels as well by preventing rapid spikes and crashes, which are detrimental to hormone regulation.15 Protein can influence the production and release of various hormones, including insulin and sex hormones like estrogen and progesterone.16 By supporting these hormone systems, protein can improve overall hormone balance. 

Eat by the Plate 

Combine that eat-protein-first approach with healthy fats, colorful non-starchy veggies, and slow low carbs high in fiber—or what I call eating by the plate.    

  • Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and cauliflower, are non-starchy options containing compounds that promote the elimination of excess estrogen. One is diindolylmethane (DIM), which can support estrogen metabolism and help eliminate excess estrogen from your body.17 The fiber in these vegetables helps bind and remove excess estrogen as well.18 
  • Slow low carbs like sweet potatoes help stabilize blood-sugar levels, preventing the insulin spikes that can impact estrogen. Antioxidants like beta-carotene help reduce the chronic inflammation that can contribute to hormone imbalances.19 
  • Healthy fats, such as those in avocado, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish like salmon, ensure your body has the necessary building blocks to produce hormones correctly. Fats are integral components of cell membranes, which support effective communication between hormones and their target cells.20 

Manage Stress Levels 

Reducing stress is a key factor in addressing estrogen dominance and promoting hormonal balance. Chronic stress can disrupt your hormones, elevating estrogen levels.21  

Reducing stress through practices like mindfulness, yoga, and meditation can help balance hormones. 

Cultivating the right mindset helps you manage stress, sleep better, have more energy, and create a happier life. In Mindset Mastery: 20 Practices for Power and Purpose, you'll learn simple ways to incorporate mindset-shifting moments into your daily life. Get your FREE guide here.

Do Resistance Training 

Resistance training offers numerous benefits for managing estrogen dominance and promoting overall hormonal balance.22 Resistance training (or lifting heavy things, as I call it) can help: 

  • Build lean muscle mass, reducing excess body fat where estrogen is produced and stored. 
  • Boost the secretion of hormones like testosterone and growth hormone. Testosterone plays a vital role in maintaining muscle mass and hormonal equilibrium. By improving the testosterone-to-estrogen ratio, resistance training helps counteract estrogen dominance.  
  • Enhance insulin sensitivity, stabilizing blood-sugar levels and reducing the risk of insulin-related hormonal disruptions.  
  • Reduce chronic stress, which can disrupt hormone balance and exacerbate estrogen dominance.  
  • Support bone health by stimulating bone remodeling and increasing bone density, countering potential adverse effects of estrogen dominance on bones. 

Get Deep Sleep 

Sleep disturbances can disrupt your body's hormonal balance, potentially causing irregularities in hormone regulation, including estrogen dominance. This creates a cycle where excess estrogen interferes with melatonin production, a hormone essential for healthy sleep. Over time, this worsens hormonal imbalances and associated symptoms of estrogen dominance.23 

Aim for eight hours of quality, uninterrupted sleep every night. Keep a regular sleep schedule, implement a calming bedtime routine (I like a hot bath and chamomile tea), and optimize your environment to support deep sleep. 

Sleep Candy™ combines 3 mg of melatonin with 5-hydroxytryptophan (5-HTP), a precursor to serotonin and melatonin. Inositol and L-theanine provide additional calming support, while vitamin B6 helps convert 5-HTP to melatonin. The end result? Your best night's sleep, every single night.* 

Work With a Functional-Medicine Doctor 

If you suspect you have estrogen dominance or are experiencing symptoms, consider working with a functional-medicine doctor. They can perform hormone tests to determine the extent of the imbalance and recommend appropriate treatment options. You can find a functional-medicine doctor here.  

Minimize Toxic Exposure 

Minimize exposure to xenoestrogens by choosing bisphenol-free (BPA-free) plastics, eating organic foods, and using natural cleaning and personal care products.24 The Environmental Working Group (EWG) has some helpful guides to make informed decisions: 


  1. John Hopkins Medicine: Estrogen's Effects on the Female Body 
  1. Marquardt RM, Kim TH, Shin JH, Jeong JW. Progesterone and Estrogen Signaling in the Endometrium: What Goes Wrong in Endometriosis? Int J Mol Sci. 2019 Aug 5;20(15):3822. doi: 10.3390/ijms20153822. PMID: 31387263; PMCID: PMC6695957. 
  1. Cleveland Clinic: High Estrogen: Causes, Symptoms, Dominance & Treatment 
  1. Cleveland Clinic: Estrogen: Hormone, Function, Levels & Imbalances 
  1. Anna Garrett: Understanding Estrogen Dominance in Perimenopause 
  1. Verywell Health: Estrogen Dominance in Women With PCOS  
  1. John Hopkins Medicine: Hormones and the Endocrine System 
  1. Dr. Jolene Brighten: Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals & Hormone Imbalance 
  1. Cleveland Clinic: High Estrogen: Causes, Symptoms, Dominance & Treatment 
  1. All Things Health: Is Estrogen Dominance Causing Your Weight Gain? 
  1. Maharjan CK, Mo J, Wang L, Kim MC, Wang S, Borcherding N, Vikas P, Zhang W. Natural and Synthetic Estrogens in Chronic Inflammation and Breast Cancer. Cancers (Basel). 2021 Dec 31;14(1):206. doi: 10.3390/cancers14010206. PMID: 35008370; PMCID: PMC8744660. 
  1. ScienceDirect: Review The Role of Estrogen in Insulin Resistance 
  1. Women’s Health Network: The mysteries of estrogen dominance 
  1. Vašková J, Kočan L, Vaško L, Perjési P. Glutathione-Related Enzymes and Proteins: A Review. Molecules. 2023 Feb 2;28(3):1447. doi: 10.3390/molecules28031447. PMID: 36771108; PMCID: PMC9919958. 
  1. Medical News Today: Foods for stabilizing insulin and blood sugar levels 
  1. Healthline: 10 Natural Ways to Balance Your Hormones 
  1. Rajoria S, Suriano R, Parmar PS, Wilson YL, Megwalu U, Moscatello A, Bradlow HL, Sepkovic DW, Geliebter J, Schantz SP, Tiwari RK. 3,3′-diindolylmethane modulates estrogen metabolism in patients with thyroid proliferative disease: a pilot study. Thyroid. 2011 Mar;21(3):299-304. doi: 10.1089/thy.2010.0245. Epub 2011 Jan 22. PMID: 21254914; PMCID: PMC3048776. 
  1. Women’s Health Network: Estrogen dominance diet: What to eat for hormonal balance 
  1. Kawata A, Murakami Y, Suzuki S, Fujisawa S. Anti-inflammatory Activity of β-Carotene, Lycopene and Tri-n-butylborane, a Scavenger of Reactive Oxygen Species. In Vivo. 2018 Mar-Apr;32(2):255-264. doi: 10.21873/invivo.11232. PMID: 29475907; PMCID: PMC5905192. 
  1. ScienceDirect: Membrane Lipid – an overview 
  1. Cleveland Clinic: High Estrogen: Causes, Symptoms, Dominance & Treatment 
  1. Oxygen Mag: Estrogen and Weight Training 
  1. Kim TW, Jeong JH, Hong SC. The impact of sleep and circadian disturbance on hormones and metabolism. Int J Endocrinol. 2015;2015:591729. doi: 10.1155/2015/591729. Epub 2015 Mar 11. PMID: 25861266; PMCID: PMC4377487. 
  1. Natural Resources Defense Council: 9 Ways to Avoid Hormone-Disrupting Chemicals 

The views in this blog by JJ Virgin should never be used as a substitute for professional medical advice. Please work with a healthcare practitioner concerning any medical problem or concern. The information here is not intended to diagnose, treat, or prevent any disease or condition. Statements contained here have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.    

*These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.