Estrogen is an important female hormone that contributes to our monthly cycle and pregnancy – but what happens if you have too much or too little? Let’s talk about estrogen levels.
Estrogen levels in our bodies fluctuate throughout the month due to our menstrual cycle, diet, exercise levels, and stress. If your estrogen levels are chronically high or low, health issues and infertility can occur. Here’s what you need to know about your estrogen levels:
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Estrogen is a hormone created in the ovaries during the process of egg maturation. Estrogen is the driving force behind puberty and the body changes it brings – breast growth, public hair, beginning of your period – the works. On top of transcending our bodies from girl to woman, estrogen also impacts on your cholesterol levels, bone health, and mood control. It is almost important to note that our estrogen levels change over time – as we age, it is normal for your estrogen levels to reduce (especially if you are nearing menopause).
Estrogen and Your Cycle
Estrogen is closely linked to your menstrual cycle. Here is a brief overview of your menstrual cycle and estrogen levels:
During this phase, your estrogen levels increase as it is created by the maturing follicles. Estrogen helps trigger the thickening of your endometrium (inside layer of your uterus) as your body prepares to possibly become pregnant. This is when your estrogen levels are the highest.
Your estrogen levels peak before the release of your egg (ovulation). Once the egg has fully matured, the follicles stop producing estrogen, and your estrogen levels have a sharp drop off as ovulation occurs (talk about a hormonal rollercoaster!)
If the egg is not fertilized during this phase, estrogen levels continue to decrease. With lower estrogen levels, the endometrium begins to shed, and your period begins (oh boy!) Then the cycle starts over again, and again and again – until menopause.
High Estrogen Levels
While it is natural to have fluctuations in your estrogen levels, having too much estrogen can lead to health problems (and some serious mood swings). Estrogen levels can become elevated naturally – but estrogen levels can also become too high if you take hormone replacement therapies.
Symptoms of High Estrogen Levels
How do I know if my estrogen has taken over? Common symptoms of high estrogen levels include:
- Abdominal bloating
- Irregular menstrual cycle and decreased sex drive
- Headaches, fatigue, and memory problems
- Mood swings and increased anxiety
- Breast tenderness and the development of lumps (non-cancerous) in the breasts
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
If you have been experiencing these symptoms, please contact your doctor to have bloodwork done to investigate further into your estrogen levels – you might be high!
Low Estrogen Levels
On the flip side, low estrogen levels can also become an issue. Low estrogen levels can be caused by over-exercising, eating disorders, ovarian failure (by toxins or genetics), and low function of the pituitary gland.
It is common for estrogen levels to drop as you age – if you’re over the age of 40 and nearing menopause your estrogen levels are going to be low (and that’s ok!) But if you have low estrogen levels during your 20’s-30’s, it’s time to get checked out.
Symptoms of Low Estrogen Levels
If you are experiencing the following symptoms, you may have low estrogen levels:
- Mood swings and depression
- Breast tenderness
- Painful sex with a lack of lubrication
- Irregular menstrual cycle and absent periods
- Fatigue and trouble concentrating
- An increase in urinary tract infections (UTIs)
If you are experiencing any of these syptoms, contact your doctor to have your bloodwork taken to check for low estrogen levels.
How to Manage Your Estrogen
If you are looking for some natural ways to keep your estrogen levels in check – we got you! Our hormones are influenced by your diet, exercise level, and lifestyle in general, so there are many little tweaks you can make to improve your estrogen levels.
Improving your diet to include more whole foods, fruits, and vegetables is a great way to reduce fluctuations in your estrogen (surprise, surprise, vegetables are good for your hormones too!) Becoming more active is also a great way to regulate your hormones – but don’t overdo it! Think regular daily exercise, not half marathons every day. Additionally, reducing external stressors and improving your sleep patterns can also improve your estrogen levels. Explore some of these options to see if you notice a reduction in your symptoms, and always consult your doctor if you are having severe symptoms.