Hormonal imbalance and its link with anxiety & depression


This is the second post in a series on some of the physiological (non-psychological) causes of depression and/or anxiety.

The hormonal imbalance I want to talk about is oestrogen dominance. This applies to both women and men (yes, men have oestrogen too). Symptoms of oestrogen dominance or oestrogen imbalance include irritability, insomnia, headaches, mood swings, anxiety and low mood to name a few.

Oestrogen dominance is thought to contribute to a number of conditions including pre-menstrual syndrome (PMS), some cases of post-partum depression, low testosterone in males, and some cases of anxiety and depression.

Oestrogen dominance can either be due to excess levels of oestrogen in the body or because the hormone progesterone is too low (this is known as relative oestrogen dominance). Progesterone helps to balance out the effects of oestrogen and promotes the calming neurotransmitter GABA.

The reason why oestrogen dominance is linked to the conditions mentioned above is because this hormone affects parts of the brain that regulate mood. Oestrogen is involved in the regulation of a number of neurotransmitter receptors including serotonin, dopamine and noradrenaline. Too much oestrogen can lead to an increase in the release of serotonin, noradrenaline and adrenaline. Increased amounts of these neurotransmitters can cause anxiety in some individuals. On the other hand, too little serotonin, due to decrease levels of oestrogen, may lead to symptoms of depression.

Testosterone has a similar effect on neurotransmitters, and oestrogen dominance in men leads to decreased levels of testosterone. As with everything in nature, balance is the key!

Causes of oestrogen dominance include:

1) Chronic stress. This leads to decreased levels of the hormone progesterone

2) Xenoestrogens (oestrogens that come from outside the body). Examples include the oral contraceptive pill, pesticides, plastics and personal beauty products

3) The wrong kind of gut flora. This leads to poor oestrogen detoxification

4) Poor liver function. This leads to poor oestrogen metabolism and detoxification

5) Histamine intolerance

6) Getting older. As women age, they ovulate less which. leads to decreased levels of progesterone

Ways to address oestrogen dominance include decreasing stress (10-20 minutes of deep breathing, yoga, exercise, guided meditation, mindfulness, dancing, or anything that resonates with you), eating a whole-food based diet free from processed food and refined carbohydrates and rich in cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, kale, Brussels sprouts). Cruciferous vegetables help with the detoxification of excess oestrogen, In addition eating fermented foods such as yoghurt (the no added sugar variety) and fermented vegetables can make a positive impact on your gut flora balance. Good gut bacteria play a critical role in the detoxification and metabolism of oestrogen in the body. Avoiding xenoestrogens as much as possible is also a positive step.

There are specific nutrients and herbal medicines that can also be used to address hormonal issues, however, these should be individualised and prescribed by a qualified naturopath or herbal medicine practitioner.

If you have any hormonal issues or imbalances, suffer from depression and/or anxiety, and you would like these addressed via an individualised naturopathic consultation, please contact me to book your appointment.

Stay tuned for my next post in this series on the link between thyroid disease and anxiety & depression

Yours in Health,



Maintz, L. and Novak, N., 2007. Histamine and histamine intolerance. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, 85(5), pp. 1185-1196.

Halbreich, U. and Kahn, L.S., 2001. Role of estrogen in the aetiology and treatment of mood disorders. CNS drugs, 15(10), pp. 797-817.

Trickey, R 2011, Women, Hormones & the Menstrual Cycle, 3rd edn., Melbourne Holistic Health Group, Melbourne, Australia.

Watson, C.S., Alyea, R.A., Cunningham, K.A. and Jeng, Y.J., 2010. Estrogens of multiple classes and their role in mental health disease mechanisms. Int. J. Womens Health, 2, pp.153-166.

Wójtowicz, T. and Mozrzymas, J.W., 2010. Estradiol and GABAergic transmission in the hippocampus. Vitamins & Hormones, 82, pp. 279-300.