Updated: Mar 30, 2021
By Dr. Marika Berni, ND
I think most of us are familiar with estrogen – a hormone which is integral to the menstrual cycle (controls the growth of the uterine lining), is involved in bone and mineral metabolism and influences weight, blood sugar metabolism and insulin sensitivity. Over a woman’s lifetime her estrogen levels may rise and fall, so I will review signs of both high and low estrogen levels to cover all the bases.
Signs your estrogen may be low:
1. Vaginal dryness (and painful intercourse) 2. Hot flashes and night sweats 3. Irregular or missed periods 4. Increase in urinary tract infections 5. Headaches and migraines 6. Depression and fatigue 7. Trouble concentrating and changes in memory 8. Infertility 9. Increased risk of osteoporosis 10. Reduced libido Possible reasons why your estrogen may be low include: perimenopause (typically in your 40’s when estrogen can start to drop), menopause (you no longer produce adequate estrogen), excessive exercise, anorexia, pituitary gland dysfunction, premature ovarian failure, and polycystic ovarian syndrome. Estrogen dominance is a term used to describe when estrogen is not in balance with other sex hormones such as progesterone. ie – if you have too much estrogen circulating in your body relative to progesterone. We discussed that this can happen if progesterone levels are too low in my last newsletter, but this can also happen if estrogen levels are too high.
Signs that your estrogen may be high:
1. Bloating and water retention 2. Breast tenderness 3. Fibrocystic breasts 4. Irregular periods 5. Heavy periods 6. PMS symptoms 7. Anxiety, panic attacks, mood swings, irritability 8. Headaches 9. Weight gain 10. Hair loss 11. Fatigue
Possible reasons for high estrogen include drugs such as hormone replacement therapy, a reduced ability to detoxify and eliminate estrogen, and exposure to xenoestrogens (hormone disruptors) in our environment (plastics – phthalates, pesticides, contaminated water, parabens in cosmetics, dryer sheets). How can you confirm that you have an imbalance? There are various ways to test hormone levels – serum or blood work, salivary tests and a DUTCH test (dried urine). Depending on the cause balancing estrogen levels can be as simple as incorporating phyoestrogenic foods such as:
• Flaxseed powder • Soy products such as edamame, tofu, tempeh and soy milk • Dried fruits • Cruciferous vegetables – broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage • Organic Berries – especially cranberries, strawberries and raspberries • Oats • Chickpeas and sesame seeds
Phytoestrogens act similar to natural estrogen and are balancing. They will bind where estrogen would have bound and exert a lesser effect. So if you have low estrogen, they will give you a bit of estrogen support. If you have high estrogen, the phytoestrogens will bind and block the stronger estrogen molecule from binding and therefore exert as lesser estrogenic effect.
Many studies have associated phytoestrogen intake with potential health benefits, including lower cholesterol levels, improved menopause symptoms, and a decreased risk of osteoporosis and breast cancer.
Other ways to help support estrogen balance include botanicals such as angelica sinensis, red clover, and schisandra fruit. Supplements containing DIM (diindolylmethane), indole 3 carbinole, and calcium D glucarate help with detoxification and healthy estrogen metabolism.
In cases where low estrogen symptoms are extreme (excessive night sweats, hot flashes, interrupted sleep), bioidentical hormone replacement may be a good option.
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