Estrogen is an important hormone to keep balanced. An estrogen imbalance can create symptoms that drain our energy. Too much estrogen can lead to PMS symptoms, while too little estrogen mimics menopause. What can we do to keep our energy high and our estrogen balanced?
What Does Estrogen Do?
Estrogen thickens the uterine lining to allow for pregnancy. The uterine lining sheds during your period, so the amount of estrogen you have directly relates to the heaviness of your flow.
Our ovaries produce most estrogen in our bodies. However, the adrenal glands and fat tissue can also produce estrogen. It can become a never-ending cycle. Estrogen helps our body store fat in the hips, butt, and thigh areas, and more fat cells will produce more estrogen. If we want to lose some fat, it’s critical to get our hormones balanced.
Estrogen can get a pretty bad rep. We know it helps our body deposit fat, and it leads to PMS. But there are great things estrogen does for us too.
- Improves the immune response – We’re less likely to get sick in the first half of our cycle while estrogen levels are higher. Once estrogen levels decrease, our immune system doesn’t work as well. Our bodies do this to protect an unborn baby. With a robust immune system, we could attack a fertilized egg.
- Enhances our mood – Too little will make us feel irritable. Higher estrogen levels in the first half of our cycle are why we tend to feel better and more energized during that time.
- Maintains healthy cholesterol – Low cholesterol levels can lead to heart disease, and coronary disease is almost unheard of before menopause because of our estrogen levels.
- Protects bone health – Low levels of estrogen can lead to osteoporosis.
- Keeps skin smooth and supple.
Estrogen Through the Menstrual Cycle
Estrogen levels rise and fall twice during the menstrual cycle. Estrogen levels are highest at ovulation, which is why we’re usually happiest and have glowing skin at ovulation.
Estrogen also rises again during the middle of the luteal phase. At this point, we look at the estrogen to progesterone ratio to determine if we have too much estrogen to the amount of progesterone – commonly called estrogen dominance.
We feel great when we have the right amount of estrogen. But too much or too little can give us symptoms and drain our energy.
Symptoms of Too Much Estrogen
When we have too much estrogen, we often show symptoms of estrogen dominance. The most common symptoms are:
- Anxious or foggy, especially around ovulation. Estrogen peaks at ovulation, so anxiousness caused by high estrogen will occur now. Many women with high estrogen don’t metabolize estrogen well, so the hormone level builds up.
- Heavy period – Since estrogen develops our uterine lining, higher levels will create more lining. The lining sheds during our period.
- PMS, the moodiness and unwell feeling during the week before our period, occurs due to high estrogen levels. If you get these symptoms, decreasing estrogen can eliminate them.
- Weight gain, especially in the hips, butt, and thighs – Those womanly curves? Thank estrogen! If your levels are higher than they should be, your body may be busy adding extra curves.
- Breast cysts – If you’ve seen the doctor about a lump in your breast and it’s a harmless cyst, you may want to start thinking about your estrogen levels. Higher levels can cause these cysts.
None of these symptoms are terrible. We often think of them as what it means to be a woman. But high estrogen levels over an extended time can lead to more severe conditions, including:
- Thyroid disease
- Blood clots
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
Symptoms of Low Estrogen
When we have low estrogen, we often show the same symptoms as menopause. Some of the common symptoms are:
- Irritable – Estrogen improves our mood. When it drops, we can get angry more easily.
- Always getting sick – Estrogen increases immunity, and lower levels can cause us to get sick more easily.
- Vaginal dryness and wrinkled, dry skin – Since estrogen keeps skin smooth and supple, lower levels will dry out the skin, causing wrinkles. Dry skin can lead to vaginal dryness and painful intercourse.
- Less frequent periods – Ovulation occurs after estrogen peaks. If our levels are too low, it may take longer to stimulate LH and FSH hormones which signal our body to ovulate. Lower estrogen levels can delay ovulation and lengthen our cycle.
- Hot flashes are one of the most common symptoms of low estrogen.
- Trouble sleeping, often because of night sweats (hot flashes at night). But it can also be a symptom on its own.
- Menstrual migraine – If you get a migraine right before your period, it may be because of low estrogen. Around this time, all hormone levels drop, but if you start with lower than optimal levels, levels may drop so much they cause a migraine.
What can we do about low estrogen?
Foods like soybeans, flax seeds, and sesame seeds improve our body’s ability to create estrogen. These are the foods cycle syncing and seed cycling recommend during the first half of our cycle to increase estrogen.
Some supplements can help improve our estrogen levels. Maca and vitex are two great hormone balancers that I talk more about here.
Estrogen improves our health, and it’s important to have balanced levels through our cycle. When we eat, exercise, and work according to our cycle we can keep estrogen in balance and improve our energy.