No amount of squats, cardio, keto, or fasting will help reduce lower body fat if you have excess estrogen surging throughout your body
An excess of Estrogen is directly related to LOWER BODY FAT. Our legs, and in particular our thighs and butts have a high number of estrogen receptor sites which bind to estrogen.
Estrogen dominance can be an insidious, frustrating and a real issue, for most women who are trying to lose body fat and have better energy and mood.
When we want to lose weight we all to often just focus on eating less, or doing more exercise, when In fact we would get waaay better results if we focused on balancing our hormones first or reducing an excess estrogen load
Because when estrogen is too high, weight goes up without explanation, metabolism slows down, you feel tired, you bloat, cellulite get worse, and you feel plain ol blah and miserable.
WHAT DOES ESTROGEN DO
Estrogen and progesterone are the two major sex (steroid) hormones in a woman’s body – and they play an absolutely pivotal role in our lives. How they interact can make us happy or sad, store fat or burn fat, have energy or be fatigued, feel cheerful or grumpy, want sex or avoid sex, be calm or anxious.
Men also produce estrogen (but not as much as women) and consequently can also suffer the effects of estrogen dominance.
There is a happy medium between too much and too little estrogen – but unfortunately we live in a society where we are overworked, undernourished, often stressed, and surrounded by processed food, toxic environments and chemical laden products.
Estrogen dominance is actually a lack of progesterone – or when the actions of estrogen are greater than that of progesterone . Check out the list of estrogen dominant symptoms:
- Fat storage ( especially hips, butts and thighs in womenn and belly fat in men)
- Lack of patience
- Anger outbursts
- Teary and feeling down
- Sweet or savoury cravings,
- Water retention
- Weight gain
- Heavy Periods
- Water retention / bloating
- Excess fat around hips, butts and thighs,
- Mood swings
- Poor sleep or insomnia
- Infertility / Miscarriage
- Heavy menstrual bleeding
- Irregular menstruation
- Breast tenderness
- Hot flushes/flashes]
- Hair Loss
- Varicose veins
- Dry skin
- Joint pains / stiffness
- Lack of flexibility
- Carpel Tunnel Syndrome
- Muscle cramps
- Candida / fungal infection
- Histamine intolerance
- Enlarged Prostate
- Autoimmune disease
- Breast Cancer
Just a few of the beautiful things about Progesterone l
- Reduces anxiety
- Increases fat burning
- Reduces bloating and water retention
- Reduces varicose veins
- Increase pelvic floor strength
- Improves sleep
- Makes us feel blissful and peaceful
A critical factor to understanding estrogen dominance is to understand what happens to progesterone when we are stressed (stress of any kind – tired, relationships, overworked, sick, finances).
Both progesterone AND cortisol are released from our adrenal glands. But when stress creeps in, the adrenals produce more cortisol/adrenalin and therefore less progesterone, leading to an estrogen dominant state. So stress directly reduces the production of progesterone. Less progesterone = more estrogen. And this is not a good thing
ESTROGEN AND BODY FAT
Estrogen has an intricate relationship with adipose tissue (body fat).
Fat tissue is actually a part of our hormonal system – and our fat cells produce estrogen (along with our ovaries). Fat tissue contains aromatase, which converts testosterone to estrogen.
So the more fat you have the more estrogen you will have. This starts a host of negative responses – as the more estrogen you have, the less active thyroid hormone you have – which slows metabolism and causes weight gain. This very quickly becomes a viscous cycle.
Estrogen unfortunately prevents the oxidation (burning) of fat (by preventing your cells using fats for energy). Therefore when you have excess estogen more calories will stored as fat instead of being used for energy.
Estrogen is considered an anti-thyroid hormone because whenever you have excess estrogen, you are lily to have reduced thyroid hormone conversion. So now we have estrogen and low thyroid. Estrogen causes fat gain and a low thyroid causes reduced metabolism.
SO WHERE DOES EXCESS ESTROGEN COME FROM
- Our own fat cells produce estrogen
- A Progesterone deficiency creates estrogen dominance
- Birth control pills or HRT
- Xenoestrogens – (foreign estrogens) which are found in pesticides, plastics, and medications – s they are difficult to break down they amply the effects of natural estrogens
- Some meat and dairy products (as a result of chemicals, the PUFAs they eat or the hormones given to the animals
- Phytoestrogens – naturally occurring estrogenic compounds found in a variety of foods (such as soy and grapefruit). Note: phytoestorgens can also inhibit the conversion of T4 to T3 and slow metabolism.
- STRESS – which inhibits progesterone production allowing estrogen dominance to occur
- Too much cardio – which reduces thyroid hormone and increase estrogen
- Not enough sunlight – (or Vit D) which is necessary for the conversion of hormones
- Excess alcohol
SOME INTERESTING FACTS ABOUT ESTROGEN AND FAT
- If a woman has her ovaries removed (the main producers of estrogen) she will lose weight and if she is put on estrogen therapy she is likely to gain weight
- Most women put on weight in their first trimester of pregnancy when estrogen levels are high, even if they are not eating more.
- Estradiol levels are correlated with Aldosterone levels. So when estradiol is high , aldosterone secretion is higher which increases fluid retention. So yes excess estrogen is directly lined to bloating ,
- The effects of sex hormones on fat are so powerful that when men are given estrogen they gain body-fat even if their calorie range stays the same. Not only do they gain fat but also they gain it disproportionally in the thighs and buttocks. The same is true in reverse. When women are given androgens like testosterone, they lose fat in their hips and thighs and gain fat in their bellies.
- Women store fat more readily than men, due to the effects of estrogen
- Estrogen makes women store more fat in the subcutaneous areas (fat just under the skin and in the arms and legs), versus deep belly fat around organs.
- Women have 9 times more estrogen receptive sites in the lower body compared to men
- Excess estrogen directly lowers body temperature, therefore lowering metabolic rate, energy, health and fat burning.
- Estrogen has an effect on Leptin production (Leptin is associated with appetite suppression). So women generally have more estrogen therefore more circulating Leptin, therefore are more likely to feel hunger compared to men.
- A woman needs minimum 17% body fat for menstruation to begin and 22% body fat to maintain healthy fertile menstrual cycles.
SOLUTIONS for greater hormonal balance
Our diet is the most powerful controller of our physiology and hormones.
Food is one of the most powerful remedies and influences our entire hormonal system.
A Pro-Metabolic diet is the number one strategy to balance estrogen and progesterone levels. Food choices can either increase estrogen dominance or help balance it.
Hypothyroidism leads to Hypoestrogenism. People who have a thyroid deficiency typically have elevated estrogen levels. So this is an integral part of hormonal balancing. Thyroid hormone supports progesterone and progesterone opposes estrogen. So by eating a Pro-Metabolic diet (especially fruits, juices) it will improve thyroid hormone conversion which inturn reduces excess estrogen.
- REDUCE STRESS – This is the biggie, whatever they are, however possible. Ensuring you have down time will allow your adrenal glands to settle so they can produce more progesterone and less cortisol
- GET ADEQUATE SUNLIGHT – Vit D on our skin helps the synthesis of sex hormones and reduces excess estrogen https://www.fredhutch.org/en/news/center-news/2016/02/vitamin-d-linked-to-reduced-estrogen-and-breast-cancer-risk.html
- REDUCE CHEMICALS. Avoid xenostrogens wherever possible – check out the ingredient in your skincare products and household cleaning products – focus on more organic, or natural foods in our diet
- REDUCE ALCOHOL and improve liver health. Without a healthy liver your body’s ability to eliminate excess estrogen will be greatly limited. Even moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to increae estrogen levels and reduce progesterone. https://academic.oup.com/alcalc/article/35/5/417/206575
- CUT OUT EXCESSIVE OR EXHAUSTING CARDIO REGIMES – It immediately increases estrogen production “Endotoxin (like intense physical activity) causes the estrogen concentration of the blood to rise.” – Dr Ray Peat
- INCREASE CALCIUM either from dairy products or calcium eggshell powder to reduce parathyroid stress hormone
- DAILY CARROT SALAD Dr. Ray Peat’s carrot salad is a daily favourite for reducing excessive endotoxins. Daily carrot salad (grated carrot with coconut oil, sea salt and vinegar) or bamboo shoots help bind to unused estrogens and flush them out. The carrot fiber has both a bowel protective and an antiestrogenic effect. In studies, several women who suffered from PMS, had their serum estrogen measured before and after eating carrot salad and they found that the carrot lowered their estrogen within a few days, and it relieved their symptoms
- EAT QUALITY PROTEIN to nourish the liver so the liver can do its job and detoxify excess estrogens. Studies have shown that when at least 30% of your daily diet is from quality you have greater hormonal balance, improved insulin sensitivity and reduced markers of inflammation. I eat seafood (prawns) and free range eggs every day, and make sure my beef is from grass fed sources. As always be aware of added hormones to meat, grain fed beef, cage chickens and eggs. The additional hormones these animals eat or have had injected into them we consume, contributing to our hormonal balance.
- ADD GELATIN – the glycine in gelatin has an inhibitory effect on estrogen’s action and can help offset excess estrogen. Gelatin (hydrolyzed collagen powder) is used as it supports progesterone production, which opposes excess estrogen. I add a tablespoon to my morning coffee and in my OJ.
- BE AWARE OF SOY, LEGUEMS AND GOITROGENIC FOOD. They are considered estrogenic food
- EAT ENOUGH SATURATED FAT. Quality Fat is essential for hormonal balance Saturated fat is the backbone of sex hormone production. Testosterone levels in men actually drop after a low fat meal. Adequate saturated fat helps men to produce more testosterone and women more progesterone https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/6538617/ Coconut oil is a tremendous source of healthy, pro-metabolic fat – it does not raise blood sugar levels, it does not circulate in the blood stream (which can lead to fat storage) rather is used up as an energy source. Coconut oil heals metabolic disorders and is considered a thermogenic. Butter and ghee from organic sources support metabolism, digestion, immunity, thyroid function and gut health.
- AVOID PUFA’S – Polyunsaturated fatty acids (vegetable and seed oils, oily fish, nuts, seed) disrupt hormonal balance, depress thyroid function and lowers metabolic rate. These oils are usually derived from genetically modified seeds and are highly processed and refine “the estrogen promoting actions of soy oil apply to all the commonly used polyunsaturated fatty acids. The same fatty acids that suppress thyroid function, have estrogenic effects” – Dr Ray Peat. Natural Estrogens
If you need help putting all these strategies together, check out my Pro-Metabolic meal plan programs. I have done the work for you and set out meal plans with all the fundamentals food choices and food combinations to reduce estrogen and increase thyroid hormone conversion – the critical hormonal environment necessary for fat loss.
If you want to lose body fat – without destroying metabolism or hormones – as a professional coach and an international athlete you can believe me when I say it’s not about calories in vs out – it’s about hormonal balance.
Great articles by Dr Peat