Oestrogen dominance is a term originally coined to describe the symptoms associated with inadequate levels of progesterone in the body and may arise from several factors including excess production by the body, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), use of birth control pills, a reduction in progesterone production, or absorption from environmental sources. It can occur at any point in a woman’s life - at the reproductive stage, perimenopause or during menopause.
As a consequence, oestrogen dominance results in a number of symptoms among them fat gain, “especially around the abdomen, hips and thighs”.
Taken at face value it all sounds reasonable enough; the only problem is there is absolutely no information or data presented in any peer-reviewed research publication that clearly defines or describes the pathology of the condition. In fact the term “oestrogen dominance” isn’t mentioned in any reputable scientific, (read endocrinological) journal, which begs the question does it really exist?
Does Oestrogen cause Weight Gain?
Research can be confusing and sometimes relationships can be misinterpreted to suit. For example, in endometrial cancer research & obese women, we know that circulating estrogen levels can correlate with increasing body weight (BMI).
Additionally, postmenopausal obese women might experience an increase in oestrogen levels (in the form of oestrone and oestradiol) higher than 40% compared to postmenopausal women with normal body weight. However, this data is not causative. That is, there is absolutely no evidence that suggests oestrogen might cause weight gain or inhibit weight loss.
The one major take away from the research is that obesity is usually a pre-existing condition for women in menopause who experience high oestrogen levels. Also, endometrial cancer is a potentially preventable disease in obese women. Weight loss will likely reverse the risk.
What Happens When Obesity Isn’t A Pre-Existing Condition?
Alyse M. Springer and her colleagues analysed the results of 20 studies where HRT had been used in postmenopausal women. The role of a second hormone, leptin, was also considered. Leptin is secreted by fat cells and helps regulate energy balance.
Does Progesterone Affect Body Weight?
According to the research, the administration of progesterone does not change the HDL/LDL cholesterol ratio… progesterone does not have an impact on carbohydrate metabolism, hemostasis, blood pressure, thrombogenicity or body weight.
If you are frustrated with your weight loss results, take heart, all the evidence suggests hormones are definitely not holding you back. Despite a lot of support for the idea of oestrogen dominance, there’s no pathology, or clinical evidence suggesting such a condition actually exists, let alone an association between excess oestrogen (or inadequate progesterone, for that matter) and weight gain. What is clear, is that overweight women going through menopause are at a greater risk of getting cancer, and reducing unwanted weight will lower that risk.
If you do have concerns about your estrogen or progesterone levels, talk to an endocrinologist, your physician will almost certainly be able to give you a referral.
It’s always a good reminder to remove the pressure of expectation and comparison to others. The results we so desperately want, often don't arrive on our designated time frame.
Strive for personal improvement with the acceptance of complete accountability. Each of us are in complete control of our choices – the environment we place ourselves in and what we put into our mouths each and every day. These are the liberating steps to a holistic transformation and experiencing a high-performance lifestyle.
References/representation of the research
Catch it before it kills: progesterone, obesity, and the prevention of endometrial cancer. Carlson MJ, Thiel KW, Yang S, Leslie KK. Discov Med. 2012 Sep;14(76):215-22.
Is there evidence that estrogen therapy promotes weight maintenance via effects on leptin? Springer AM, Foster-Schubert K, Morton GJ, Schur EA. Menopause. 2014 Apr;21(4):424-32.
The epidemiology of serum sex hormones in postmenopausal women. Cauley JA, Gutai JP, Kuller LH, LeDonne D, Powell JG. Am J Epidemiol. 1989 Jun;129(6):1120-31.
Progesterone in Peri- and Postmenopause: A Review Regidor PA. Geburtshilfe Frauenheilkd. 2014 Nov;74(11):995-1002.