Irregular periods? Emotional ups and downs? Perimenopause can be a confusing and challenging phase for women. What’s REALLY going on?
Recently I went to see my gynecologist with some concerns about my breasts.
She ordered a blood test, which revealed that my estrogen levels were higher than the normal range.
So what could have caused my high estrogen levels? Though I felt relieved that my breasts were okay, I was intrigued by this hormonal mystery.
As it turns out, it’s quite normal to experience estrogen dominance during perimenopause – the years leading up to menopause, typically from age 35 to 50.
What Causes Estrogen Dominance During Perimenopause
Like everything in life, estrogen goes through its natural cycle of birth (puberty), growth (teens and 20s), peak (late 20s and early 30s), decline (mid 30s and 40s), and death/rebirth (50s and beyond).
So you would expect decreasing estrogen levels from the mid-30s onward.
However, there’s an abnormality in this universal trend. Have you ever noticed that flames get bigger and higher just before the fire is about to go out? This also happens to estrogen.
Women are born with 1-2 million eggs in their ovaries. As the eggs are released during each menstrual cycle and go through apoptosis (natural cell death), the number of eggs in reserve decreases to 1-3,000 by the time of perimenopause.
When the body’s control system (hypothalamus and pituitary glands) senses that you’re running out of eggs, it releases more follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) to promote the growth of mature eggs so you can become pregnant before it’s too late.
And the faster the maturation of egg follicles, the more estrogen (specifically estradiol) gets produced, leading to higher estrogen levels relative to progesterone.
Another cause of estrogen dominance is a decreasing level of progesterone as we age. And a lower progesterone level will make estrogen level appear to be higher relative to progesterone.
Signs of Estrogen Dominance During Perimenopause
The most important sign of perimenopause is irregular periods.
As the ovarian reserve diminishes over time, the ovaries may not produce a mature egg (ovulation) each month, despite the increasing attempts of FSH.
And when there’s none, you may miss your periods or have light bleeding.
The length of the menstrual cycle also fluctuates. It may take a longer time for the egg to mature, despite the trying attempts of FSH, which results in a longer follicular phase and a longer cycle.
While other times FSH may succeed in producing a mature egg quickly, leading to a shorter follicular phase and a shorter cycle.
Mixed Signs of Estrogen Dominance or Deficiency
In addition to changes in menstrual cycles, you may also experience mixed and sometimes confusing signs of estrogen dominance or deficiency.
When your estrogen levels are high during certain cycles, you’ll have heavy periods and signs of estrogen dominance.
While in some other months, you may have no or light periods with signs of estrogen deficiency.
In short, perimenopause is a period of big changes for women. This is understandable, because it’s an important life transition for women to move from the archetypes of Maiden and Mother to Crone (the Wise Woman).
How to Reduce Estrogen Dominance During Perimenopause
There is little you can do about the natural ebbs and flows of your estrogen life cycle.
Aging is inevitable, but the process can be managed to experience this important life transition with grace and ease, instead of pain and chaos.
The key to balancing estrogen is to support the progesterone level so estrogen and progesterone can dance in harmony, hence reducing the signs and symptoms of estrogen dominance.
Luckily, this can be done relatively easily and effectively.
For specific recommendations, please read my post How to Boost Your Progesterone Level Naturally.
I hope you find this post helpful. If so, please share it in your circle to help educate women on this important topic. Thank you!
Chasteberry (proven to help treat low progesterone and regulate menstrual cycles in more than 60 years of clinical research, including 5 randomized trials)
Vitamin B6 (one of the best vitamins to boost progesterone)
Progesterone Cream (bio-identical hormonal support)
Reduce Estrogen Dominance
Liver Cleanse Detox and Repair Formula (support liver functions)
Dim Plus (improve estrogen metabolism)
Support Adrenal and Thyroid Functions
Adrenal Health Daily Support (promote overall hormone balance)
Thyroid Support Complex (support energy and metabolism)
Once Daily Organic Whole Food Vitamin Supplement (provide essential nutrients for health and hormone balance)
Liquid Iron (support healthy blood)
The Hormone Cure, by Dr. Sara Gottfried
Cooking for Hormone Balance, by Magdalena Wszelaki