The Brain and Estrogen Dominance

June 5, 2020

The Brain and Estrogen Dominance

The Brain and Estrogen Dominance

Louise, the first woman to whom I prescribed bioidentical hormones, suffered from depressed and irritable moods from the time of her hysterectomy at the age of thirty until she began using progesterone more than twenty years later.

Another patient, Gail, made it into her forties with her uterus intact before she began experiencing depression, mood swings, and emotional fragility. Both Louise and Gail attempted to pinpoint the source of their emotional problems in their stressful lives, but they also had the feeling that something was not right in their bodies, and that this something had to do with their hormones.

They were correct.

How Hormones Affect Neurotransmitters in Your Brain
On the biochemical level, mood is largely the result of the balance of neurotransmitters—especially serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine—in the brain. Low levels of one or more of these chemical messengers are common in patients with depression. But levels of these and other neurotransmitters can be affected by hormonal variations. For example, the mood-elevating neurotransmitter norepinephrine is inactivated by an enzyme called monoamine oxidase (MAO), and when levels of MAO are high, the resulting decline in bioavailable norepinephrine can induce depression. This process can be reversed by estrogen, which inhibits MAO and frees up more norepinephrine.

Estrogen Dominance Causes Hypothyroidism
On the other hand, chronically elevated levels of estrogen can actually induce depression and anxiety by causing functional hypothyroidism. When thyroid hormone cannot be adequately assimilated into the cells, cellular oxygen declines. This is bad news for the brain, which uses a full 25 percent of the oxygen you breathe. Hypothyroidism also results in a slowdown of cellular metabolism, which causes a drop in levels of the neurotransmitter gamma-aminobutric acid (GABA). GABA is a calming neurotransmitter, which prevents the brain from being overwhelmed by stimulation. Extremely low levels of GABA can cause epileptic seizures, but even moderately low levels are linked to mood swings, anxiety, and panic attacks.

Progesterone and The Brain
The brain is highly sensitive to progesterone. In fact, progesterone is found in brain cells at levels twenty times higher than in the blood serum. Here, as elsewhere in the body, progesterone counterbalances the effects of estrogen. Whereas estrogen has an excitatory effect on the brain, progesterone’s effect is a calming one. Women with estrogen dominance sleep restlessly, whereas progesterone replenishment enhances sleep.

Dr. Hotze discusses the connection between progesterone deficiency and anxiety:

Postpartum Depression
The phenomenon of postpartum depression provides further evidence of the important role that progesterone plays in the brain. Keep in mind that during pregnancy, the placenta produces massive quantities of progesterone—ten to twenty times the normal amount produced in a woman’s body—while the ovaries’ production drops to virtually zero. After the baby is delivered, the woman’s progesterone levels fall precipitously, leading to a state of estrogen dominance and functional hypothyroidism. Postpartum depression can be easily treated by taking supplemental doses of Armour Thyroid and natural, bioidentical progesterone.

Premenstrual Headaches and Migraines
Estrogen dominance is also a culprit in premenstrual headaches and migraines. One reason for this is that estrogen promotes water retention. Because the brain is confined to the fixed space of the skull, when it swells the pressure that develops causes a headache. Estrogen also causes dilation of the blood vessels. The constriction of blood vessels followed by rebound dilation is a key factor in migraines. Finally, estrogen dominance leads to depletion of the mineral magnesium, which is crucial to normal blood vessel tone. Magnesium deficiency can cause a spasm of arteries in the brain.

Estrogen Dominance and Low Libido
“Not tonight, dear . . . I have a headache,” is not a tired cliché. For many women in their midthirties and beyond, frequent headaches are the inevitable result of estrogen dominance. So is low libido. Sexual desire does not occur in the sexual organs—it occurs in the brain. Estrogen dominance can dampen sexual desire by increasing levels of sex hormone–binding globulins. These proteins attach to progesterone and testosterone in the bloodstream and inactivate them, just as thyroid-binding globulins do to thyroid hormones. Keep in mind that both progesterone and testosterone peak at ovulation, enhancing libido at the time when a woman is fertile. If a woman is estrogen dominant, with correspondingly high levels of sex hormone–binding globulins, she may be disinterested in sex even at the most fertile time in her cycle.

Do you have estrogen dominance?
Take our symptom checker quiz today to find out.

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Written By: Steven F. Hotze, M.D.

Steven F. Hotze, M.D., is the founder and CEO of the Hotze Health & Wellness Center, Hotze Vitamins and Physicians Preference Pharmacy International, LLC.


3 responses to “The Brain and Estrogen Dominance”

  1. Lupe says:

    So how do you treat or cure this
    What’s best more natural treatment for someone overly sensitive to chemicals and drugs?
    Thank you

    • Tristan says:

      I just found a product on called “Organic Excellence Femine Balance Therapy” which is a bio-identical progesterone topical cream. What its supposed to do is naturally raise your progesterone to help balance high estrogen. There aren’t very many helpful reviews on the website but you may be able to find some online. I haven’t tried this product but I am considering trying something like this. I hope you ended up finding something that helps and if not maybe this product may be a good one to consider.

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