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The Secret Of Oestrogen Dominance (And What’s In It For Men?)

by Alan Hopking(more info)

listed in women's health, originally published in issue 211 - January 2014


What is it about the middle age spread, with the emphasis on middle? The spreading of our middle begins around the age of 35, research shows. It’s as if a fat switch flicks on and suddenly everything you eat seems to bulge out of your belly. This goes for the slimmer ones amongst us as well. And despite the diets we religiously keep to and the rigorous exercise routine we keep, we all know how tough belly fat is to shift. The problem is that tummy fat isn’t just unattractive; it’s also unhealthy, as it’s a major risk factor for cardiovascular disease and late-onset diabetes. 


Estrogen dominance
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Oestrogen dominance is the root cause of a myriad of illnesses. Conditions associated with this include
fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, uterine fibroids, breast cancer, endometriosis, infertility problem, endometrial polyps, PCOS, auto-immune disorders, low blood sugar problems, and menstrual pain, among many others.

Fat Magnet

But it’s not necessarily your diet - or lack of self-discipline - that’s to blame, says American gynaecologist and pharmacist, Dr CW Randolph. He claims midlife spread in both men and women is the result of hormonal imbalance, specifically too little progesterone and too much oestrogen. And the problem with too much oestrogen is that the hormone acts like a fat magnet, locking it in and particularly around your middle.

In a healthy person, both men and women, there is a finely-tuned balance between the three sex hormones: oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Obviously this balance is tuned differently for women and men. But as we get into our 30s and 40s, that balance begins to lose its former shape for both sexes.

Fertility and Pregnancy

All women know that there comes a time when their menstruation begins to falter. For some this happens in their mid to late 30s, others keep ovulating and are still fertile into their late 40s. This is the approaching menopause, when their oestrogen levels slowly drop, causing the familiar sweats called flushes (or flashes). But it is not well known that progesterone production declines even more rapidly - an incredible 120 times faster than oestrogen, Dr Randolph and his team have found - and from an earlier age. A woman in her mid-30s gradually sees her level of progesterone - which is produced in the ovaries and is essential for fertility and pregnancy - start to decline. Hence it is clear that to improve your chances of getting pregnant, progesterone needs to be increased. There are some significant progesteronal herbs available to help with this purpose. So, even though the oestrogen level holds good, progesterone has already begun to drop. This results in what is known as oestrogen dominance.

Symptoms of Oestrogen Dominance

The range of symptoms apart from increased weight and pronounced abdominal fat include the following: PMS with cramps, irregular cycle, low libido, tender breast, flushes, headaches, weepiness, blood sugar highs and lows, leg cramps, fatigue, fluid retention, inability to lose weight, bloating, acne, facial hair, dry skin, insomnia, vaginal dryness, irritability, fibroids, age (or liver) spots on the skin, bone loss, depression, poor memory, panic attacks.

Progesterone in Men 

Just like in women, there is a similar drop in progesterone in men between 35 to 45. This hormone is produced in the adrenal and testicular tissue and is used to produce testosterone and cortisone. By the time men reach their 40s, their levels of progesterone decline, leading to a fall in testosterone levels as well. Again, the result is that their oestrogen becomes more dominant. Oestrogen is important in a man’s body as it is essential for healthy bones, brain and libido.

This oestrogen dominance - a higher oestrogen level compared to their progesterone and testosterone - is now known as the male menopause. Thus men can feel less masculine and want to go and prove themselves by trying it on with younger women. This attitude can endanger a marriage and the integrity of a young family unless they receive counselling so that they know what is happening to them physiologically and psychologically, and avoid the problems associated with extramarital affairs. They can also benefit from herbal treatment to help adjust and improve their hormonal balance.

Oestrogens in Food

The problem of oestrogen dominance is compounded by the raised levels of oestrogen in our food, water and environment. The so-called xeno-oestrogens - chemicals found in pesticides, plastics, fuels, sprays, cosmetics and other materials - mimic the effect of oestrogen and are fat-soluble, so store themselves in the body. It has reached almost epidemic proportions in western society, says Dr Randolph. “People living in the United States and in western Europe have been found to have much higher oestrogen levels at much younger ages than people living in less industrialized countries; that too much oestrogen leads to increased body fat.”

It seems that oestrogen reduces the body’s ability to process and metabolize fatty acids after a meal, making it more likely to remain in your system and be deposited in fat stores. Further, fatty tissue itself produces oestrogen which in turn makes the body ‘better’ at storing fat. What is worse, the action of oestrogen also inhibits your body’s ability to effectively use fat stores for energy. The result is extra weight that won’t go away even with more exercise or less eating. It is a vicious circle.

Omentum Fat and Fat Burning

In women and men, higher oestrogen levels predispose to higher adipose. The body efficiently stores fat around the abdomen - in the apron or omentum area of the belly. Researchers have found that changing patterns of hormone production (the dominance of oestrogen) causes the average man and woman to be able to add 1-2lb around their middle every year from the ages of 35 to 55, unless a careful programme of eating and exercise is undertaken long term.

Another side-effect of oestrogen dominance is that it has been found to adversely slow down thyroxin production in the thyroid gland (which controls your metabolism and fat burning), causing sluggishness and compounding the weight gain, particularly around the belly.

Other symptoms of Oestrogen Dominance (OD)

As long as your body’s metabolism is compromised by a hormone imbalance - most particularly oestrogen dominance (OD) - the extra pounds around your middle become almost impossible to lose. What you lose on a strict diet is soon put on again on holiday or at a family celebration.

Apart from gaining belly fat, women can suffer from headaches, lack of energy and incontinence (as the hormone affects the muscles) and diabetes; in men, symptoms include depression, reduced libido and type 2 diabetes.

Achieving Hormonal Rebalance

With the new understanding of the use of hormonal herbs and small shifts in their eating habits, it is possible to rebalance your hormones so enabling the body to shift fat from the waistline - particularly around the middle - permanently, with benefits for your health.

Two Natural Ways to Burn Fat due to Oestrogen Dominance

1.  Eat ‘oestrogen-clearing’ foods

The first way is dietary, and involves avoiding ‘oestrogen-stimulating’ foods and boosting your intake of foods that shift excess oestrogen out of your system. Eat the following oestrogen clearing foods:

Citrus fruits contain d-Limonene, another substance shown to help with oestrogen ‘detoxification’. Lemons, limes, grapefruit are the best. Eat one serving a day or substitute 175ml/10fl oz of fruit juice once every other day. Juice them fresh and add water and Herbactive Stevia for a power-drink lemonade.

Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and spring greens contain a nutrient called indole-3-carbinol which has been shown to help reduce the body’s load of excess oestrogens. Try to eat 2-3 servings (21/2 oz or 75g when cooked) a day. Other cruciferous vegetables include asparagus, cauliflower, spinach, Brussels sprouts, celery, beetroot, kale, cabbage, radish and turnip. 

Boost your intake of insoluble fibre (roughage). Although soluble fibre is good for you (it regulates the flow of waste material through your digestive tract), in this context insoluble fibre is better still because it binds itself to extra oestrogen in the digestive tract and carries it out. Good sources include wholemeal bread, barley, couscous, brown rice, whole-grain cereal and wheat bran, seeds, carrots, cucumbers, courgettes, celery and tomatoes.

Sprinkle ground linseed, psyllium seed, pumpkin seed (also good for men) and sesame seed on salads and vegetables, and switch to flaxseed oil. The friendly bacteria in our intestines convert these foods into substances with weak oestrogen-like activity. When the body is oestrogen dominant, these ‘new’ plant oestrogens bind to your body’s oestrogen receptors, reducing oestrogen activity, and reducing fat storing. Add 2-3 tablespoons a day of ground flaxseed, sesame seeds or oil to smoothies, yoghurt or salads, or stir into cottage cheese or sprinkle over steamed vegetables.

Add protein to every meal (a high-protein diet can help increase the amount of a hunger-fighting hormone known as peptide YY, so aiding weight loss). And keep up your consumption of calcium-rich foods (such as yogurt, cottage cheese, cheese, baked beans, skimmed milk, almonds) to preserve bone health; eat at least one other portion of fruit a day (to boost fibre and nutrient intake); drink eight glasses of water; and use heart-protecting olive or rapeseed oil rather than vegetable oil for dressings and cooking.

Eat plenty of leafy green vegetables. These contain calcium d-glucarate and diindolylmethane (DIM), and foods rich in B complex and vitamin E (which support oestrogen detoxification).

As well as dietary changes, Dr Randolph advocates a comprehensive intake of vitamin and mineral nutrients - rather than popping all manner of vitamin tablets I recommend you take ½ to 1tsp daily of the ABC Daily Herbal NutriPowder Plus.

Foods to Avoid or Cut Down

  • Those high in saturated fats (such as bacon, sausages, ham, chips, crisps, butter, biscuits, pastries) have been linked to higher levels of oestrogen circulating in the blood;
  • Refined or processed foods (anything containing white sugar, flour and rice) raise blood sugar levels and stimulate the release of the hormone insulin to mop up the excess sugar. This in turn negatively impacts hormone balance. This includes sweets, cakes, biscuits, jam, pastries, chocolate, and too much sweet fruits like bananas, pears, apples, etc. and no tinned fruits;
  • Caffeine - studies show that two cups of coffee a day can increase oestrogen levels;
  • Alcohol - oestrogen is not efficiently broken down by an overtaxed liver. The liver is affected when you have two or more drinks a day;
  • Soya products - according to Dr Randolph these natural plant oestrogens can compound an underlying hormone imbalance.

2. Using Natural Herbal Hormones to Reduce Belly Fat

Natural progesterone (wild yam) creams applied to soft tissue (e.g. the inside arm or thigh). These natural hormones, also known as bio-identical hormones (or phytohormones), are derived from plant sources (unlike synthetically produced drugs such as hormone replacement therapy, or HRT). This means the body is better able to make use of them and side effects are minimized. A growing number of doctors in the UK as well as in the US are now recommending these bio-identical hormones. The trouble is that these so-called progesterone creams are not natural at all and studies are showing that they should not be used as they have many unpleasant side-effects. So don’t use synthetic progesterone creams; it’s not worth it.

Natural progesterone treatments derived from whole herbs act as precursors for testosterone, DHEA, cortisone, oestrogen and salt-regulating aldosterone (reducing fluid retention) having a balancing effect on the entire body. As a precursor, it gives the metabolism the flexibility it needs to create harmony in the dynamic, fluctuating system of the body.

The great benefit of using natural hormones which include wild yam, kelp, fenugreek, and other important herbs, along with the small and healthy dietary changes you bring into your regular mealtime menu can make a huge difference if you want to shift that tummy fat and feel a whole lot better (and that includes you guys as well).

Herbal Treatment for Oestrogen Dominant Women

Follow the dietary changes and avoid oestrogen stimulating foods (see list above).

  • Take a progesteronal multi-herbal tonic daily on a low dose over the long term, called Progesterone Tonic;
  • Apply whole wild yam cream twice daily;
  • Take ½ to 1tsp daily of the ABC Daily Herbal NutriPowder Plus;

Herbal Treatment for Oestrogen Dominant Men

  • Follow the dietary changes and avoid oestrogen stimulating foods (see list above);
  • Take progesterone and testosterone multi-herbal tonic daily on a low dose over the long term, called ProTest Tonic, see also Herbal V8;
  • Take ½ to 1tsp daily of the ABC Daily Herbal NutriPowder Plus;
  • Progesterone Herbal Tonic or ProTest Tonic (men).

Further Information

Please contact Alan at Herbactive on Tel: 0500 909697;


  1. Harry Howell, DSc, PhD said..

    A useful and informative article and one which is, perhaps, long overdue. There is another form of oestrogen, not mentioned in the article, namely oestradiol, which is potentially harmful and sinister. It is produced from xenoestrogens. One of the effects of xenoestrogens is that they are able to stimulate the manufacture of extra oestrogen receptors – even in males. Additionally, these receptors form in parts of the body where fat content is high, e.g. breasts, abdomen, groin. A known xenoestrogen, bisphenol A (BPA) activates a tumour-derived androgen receptor (AR) mutant, which in turn leads to androgen-independent prostate cancer cell proliferation1.

    So what are these xenoestrogens, and where do they come from? Basically, they began during World War II, when chemists were asked to find answers to a whole lot of problems that are common in times of deprivation and warfare. They came up with a vast range that included DDT (banned worldwide but mainly still manufactured in the USA but used by some multinational manufacturers in developing countries because of their cheapness). They include herbicides, chemical defoliants, insecticides, detergents, plastics, etc. Although synthetic, and because they are derived from oil, they behave in the body like steroid hormones. “... have demonstrated in principle that every xenoestrogen, however weak, may add incrementally to the total estrogenic effect, even at very low concentrations and even in the presence of potent endogenous steroidal estrogens2.” Rise in the infertility levels in males has been a cause of concern in recent years.

    Infertility was for long considered only a female problem but modern research has deservedly thrown that concept into the dustbin. Dr Aravindakshan et al conducted large scale double blind tests to try and determine if xenoestrogens were a factor. They found that adult sperm concentrations and sperm motility parameters were all significantly decreased in the xenoestrogen group, as compared to the reference and control groups, indicating that xenoestrogens passed through the food chain can exert adverse effects on male reproductive functions3. These xenoesterogens were particularly high in fish foods and it has been established that certain water areas are especially contaminated, e.g. St Lawrence River.

    There is another way in which testosterone can be used. This is a process called aromatisation – in which testosterone is converted to oestradiol4 (through the action of aromatase, an enzyme) one of the main female sex hormones. This process has two very important functions in the male: oestradiol accelerates the maturation of cartilage into bone, which seals the ends of the large bones preventing further growth; oestradiol acts as an important feedback signal to the hypothalamus, which sends signals to the anterior pituitary causing it to reduce production of LH (Luteinising hormone). This slows down the production of testosterone in the testes. While a normal amount of the female hormone is good (e.g. helps protect bones against Osteoporosis5,6), too much of a good thing is what does the damage. After a while, estradiol starts to compete with testosterone for all those receptor sites.

    The more estradiol a male produces, the more sites become occupied. Doctors have revealed cases of 50-year-old men having a higher level of estradiol than women of the same age. Some of the physiological symptoms created by abnormally high rates of estradiol include: impotence – poor, unsatisfactory erections; loss of body hair, especially legs, arms, chest; increase of hair in nose and ears; loss of muscle tone and mass; thinning of skin, often leading to easier abrasions; loss of calcium in bone, leading to osteoporosis; weight gain, especially around middle and upper body; infertility: reduced sperm count; weakened blood circulation, especially affecting legs; increased water retention around ankles, lower legs; breathing becomes shorter, more difficult; fatigue, reduced energy; increased blood pressure; cholesterol levels rise in arteries; blood clotting capacity increases, leading to risk of stroke; blood sugar problems develop, leading to risk of diabetes; increased inability to handle fats

    Then there are the emotional/psychological symptoms, which can include any of the following: loss of libido; declining interest in sex; depression; poor memory and concentration A lot has been written about soy products. Vegetarians hailed it as nature’s perfect answer to killing animals for protein, since it was high in vegetable protein. It was also very versatile in that it could be extruded through different gauge holes, thus enabling it to be adapted to different forms – e.g. soy-burgers, soya steaks, mincemeat, etc. It seemed, to some, like God’s gift to humanity that would, ultimately, bring about the liberation of farm animals being bred for meat.

    There’s an irony here. Soy bean contains a couple of substances called isoflavones – genistein and daidzein, both of which mimic estradiol – which are genotoxic to animal (and human) sperm7 and ultimately cause sterility. Animals, being much more sensible than humans in many respects, know this and thus avoid eating soya plants, since they know this would bring about the end of their specie.

    Humans, as always, consider themselves above the Laws of Nature and disregard dangers to their ability to reproduce. They are aided and abetted, of course, by the soya industry that has become vast and worldwide, and the Medical Profession. The latter has, for years, been advising people to eat margarine instead of butter because butter, they say, can lead to heart disease. It has now done a complete U-turn with the publicity given to margarine and trans fatty acids and is advising people to have soya margarine and soya milk because they contain no trans fatty acids. If that’s not bad enough, soya also contain phytates – chemicals that bind with some minerals and cause them to be excreted instead of being utilised within the organism.

    One of the really important trace minerals that binds with phytate is zinc, particularly important in the production of sperm cells, and which also inhibits the dreaded aromatase enzyme8. Yet another tiny piece in the reproductive jigsaw. Another ‘chicken and egg’ conundrum is whether obesity causes excessive estradiol production or vice versa. Certainly, fat cells are known to produce the aromatase enzyme8. Low testosterone levels also contribute to increased fatty deposits, especially around the abdomen. So regardless of which causes what, fat and estradiol do seem inextricably linked.


    1. Wetherill YB, Fisher NL, Staubach A, Danielsen M, White RW de Vere, Knudsen KE. Xenoestrogen action in prostate cancer: pleiotropic effects dependent on androgen receptor status. Cancer Res 2005 Jan; 65: 54-65
    2. N, Silva E, Kartenkamp A. Combining xenoestrogens at levels below individual no-observed-effect concentrations dramatically enhances steroidal hormone action. Environ Health Persp 2002; 110 Rajapakse: 917-921
    3. Aravindakshan J, Gregory M, Marcogliese DJ, Fournier M, Cyr DG. Consumption of xenoestrogen-contaminated fish during lactation alters adult male reproductive function. Toxicol Sci 2004 May; 81 (1): 179-189
    4. Kley HK, Nieschlag E, Wiegelmann W, Kruskemper HL. Sexual hormones in aging males. Aktuel Gerontol 1976 Feb; 6 (2): 61-7
    5. Jackson JA, Riggs MW, Spikerman AM. Testosterone deficiency as a risk factor for hip fractures in men: a case-control study. Am J Med Sci 1992; 304(1): 4-8
    6. Seeman E. Osteoporosis in men. Beaillieres Clin Rheumatol 1997; 11 (3): 613-629
    7. Anderson D, Dobrzyska MM, Basaran N. Effects of various genotoxins and reproductive toxins in human lymphocytes and sperm in the Comet assay. Teratog Carcinog Mutagen 1997; 17(1): 29-43
    8. Killinger DW, Perel E, Daniilescu D, Kharlip L, Lindsay WR. The relationship between aromatase activity and body fat distribution. Steroids 1987 Jul-Sep; 50 (1-3): 61-72

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About Alan Hopking

Alan Hopking MA MNIMH MRCHM graduated from the School of Herbal Medicine (England, UK) in 1981 and has been a herbal practitioner for over 30 years.  He is a Member of the National Institute of Medical Herbalists (Great Britain) (founded 1846) - vis medicatrix naturae. He may be contacted via Herbactive on Tel: 01425 839280; Freephone (UK only) 0500 909697;

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