Estrogen is responsible for a lot of processes inside the female body and without it, we just wouldn’t be very female at all. Not only does this clever little hormone affect mood, it also controls your reproductive organs and their capabilities, and also development processes.
In short, estrogen is pretty important.
Also referred to as the ‘female sex hormones’, estrogen does affect men too, just not in the same way as it affects men. This is especially the case during puberty when the hormone helps to create breasts, encouraging underarm and public hair to grow, and even starts and regulates your monthly menstrual cycle.
Your body will make three kinds of estrogen – estriol, estradiol, and estrone. Estriol is the more prominent during pregnancy, estradiol is found the most in women of child-bearing age, and estrone is the only estrogen-based hormone found in the female body once the menopause has completed.
Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, the adrenal glands found at the top of each of your kidneys, and also in the fat tissue within the body and there are a lot of things which can cause the balance of this hormones, and other hormones, to become disrupted.
In some cases, the body can make too little estrogen. In others, the body might have too much estrogen, boosted with things such as the contraceptive pill. The levels of this hormone will regularly change throughout the month as your cycle changes, and right in the middle of the cycle is when the estrogen levels are said to be at their highest, with the lowest being recorded during your period.
How to find out what my estrogen levels are?
The only way you can find out what your estrogen levels are is by having a blood test with your doctor. The normal level will depend on things such as age and time of life.
If you are between the ages of 20 and 29, it is expected that a woman will have an estrogen level of 149 pg/ml. If you are a little older, 30-39 years of age, this level will rise to 210 pg/ml. If you are over 40 and haven’t gone through the menopause yet, you can expect your levels to be around 140-160 pg/ml. After the menopause, the estrogen level drops considerably.
pg/ml stands for picograms per milliliter of blood and helps the doctor or medical professional work out how much of the hormone is concentrated in a particular drop of your blood.
Low estrogen levels
If your estrogen hormone count was low, it could be that you are going through the menopause. If have recently had a hysterectomy, you can also expect your estrogen levels to be low.
The symptoms of low estrogen levels will include:
- Dry skin
- No / low sex drive
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Less frequent periods
- No periods at all.
High estrogen levels
You are likely to encounter a number of problems if your estrogen levels are too high, and it can be caused by a number of problems too such as weight gain, heart or cardiovascular disease, increased stress levels, booze-fueled nights out, and more.
The symptoms you will find include:
- Gaining weight around the midriff – thighs, waist and hips
- Irregular cycles
- Spotting in between periods
- Lighter or heavier periods than before
- Benign breast lumps (fibrocystic breasts)
- No / low sex drive
- Increased stress and anxiety
- Exhaustion / fatigue
Increased estrogen levels are also closely linked to an increased risk or both uterine and breast cancer.
How to regulate estrogen levels
If your estrogen level isn’t considered to be normal, there are a number of things you can do to try and resolve the problem.
If your estrogen levels are too low, you can make small lifestyle choices to begin with. Exercising is important, especially if you think weight gain has caused your hormonal imbalance, and if you smoke, you should quit too. As well as that, try to cut down on the amount of alcohol you consume.
There are a number of ‘herbal remedies’ which are said to help increase estrogen production in the body and these include oregano, licorice, sage, black cohosh, and Dong Quai.
If your estrogen levels are too high, you will need to take a slightly different approach to try and bring it down. Again, alcohol should be avoided as much as possible and the more organic foods you eat, the better. Pesticides are said to have an effect on the hormonal levels within the body although testing and studies are still going on. Fiber-rich foods have also been shown to help increase the amount of estrogen the body produces, and to be more specific, you should look at foods such as fresh fruit and vegetables as well as healthy grains.
If you can, try to cut down on the dairy products you’re consuming as this can have a detrimental effect on the hormone levels within your body. According to studies, up to eighty percent of your estrogen consumption on a day to day basis could be caused by milk and other dairy produce. A quick and easy substitute would be to swap your dairy milk for almond or rice milk, and do the same with cheese and other products – look for non-dairy versions instead.