Our estrogen levels decline with age. There are natural food sources to boost estrogen levels. You should explore them as well as synthetic treatments with the advice of your doctor.
What Is Estrogen?
Estrogens are a group of hormones produced naturally by ovaries and to a lesser extent by adrenal glands and fat cells. They are found in the bodies of both women and men, but women create more. There are three types of estrogen: estrone, estradiol and estriol.
Estradiol is the most common type of estrogen in females. It can be overproduced with bad consequences, including acne, depression, loss of sex drive and osteoporosis. Uterine and breast cancer risks have also been linked to high levels of estradiol.
Estriol levels increase during pregnancy and peak shortly before delivery. This hormone helps the uterus expand and get ready for birth.
Estrone is found in the body after menopause and can be converted to other types.
What Are the Functions of Estrogens?
Estrogens serve several purposes for women. Along with progesterone, they are important for sexual and reproductive functions. They stimulate the growth of egg follicles in the ovaries. They sustain the thickness of the vaginal wall and lubrication. Finally, they also maintain the mucous membrane and secretions in the uterus.
Estrogens also affect the cardiovascular system, skin, bone health and cognitive function. Secondary sexual characteristics grow as estrogen production increases.
What Affects Estrogen Levels?
Estrogen levels are sensitive to many different influences including the following:
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Old age
- High blood pressure
- Certain medications including steroids
- Ovarian, pituitary or adrenal gland disorders or tumors
What Are the Effects of Low Estrogen Levels?
Estrogen levels decline with age, especially after menopause. Levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle. Sometimes, even before menopause, the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat cells do not produce sufficient estrogens as they should.
Because estrogens have many functions, low levels have many adverse effects:
- Irregular menstruation
- Unusually severe pain with menstruation
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Benign breast lumps
- Mood changes and sleep issues
- Weight gain
- Low sex drive
- Dry vagina
Women often experience osteoporosis with the onset of menopause partly as a result of estrogen imbalance.
Remedies to Boost Estrogen Levels
Synthetic or bioidentical estrogens are sometimes used to boost estrogen levels. Artificial hormone therapy must be approached with caution. It can have serious uncomfortable side effects. Additionally, some hormone therapies increase the risk of blood clots, stroke and breast cancer. You should never use synthetic hormone therapy without consultation with your regular gynecologist.
Some studies suggest that some foods boost estrogen levels. Some foods contain phytoestrogens, which resemble the estrogens produced in your body. These imitation estrogens may affect levels of estrogens. However, more studies are needed for confirmation.
In the meantime, there is no harm in turning to food for a possible source to boost estrogen levels. Here are some of those foods that contain phytoestrogens:
- Soy and foods with soy protein
- Seeds and grains
- Cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, bok choy, Brussels sprouts, cabbage and collard greens
You should consult your gynecologist about any dietary solution to low estrogen levels. For example, there is some thought that cruciferous vegetables are not advised for women with thyroid disorder because they interfere with the necessary iodine use by the thyroid.
Estrogen imbalance is a condition that all women experience at some time in their lives, particularly during and after menopause. You and your gynecologist should address those issues together. Be wary of any remedies that your doctor does not approve of. For some women, particularly those with other health issues, hormone treatments without supervision can have serious consequences. But natural sources, like certain foods, offer a safe way to boost estrogen.