Any good story stars both a hero and a villain. In the story of our hormones, estrogen is typically that villain. From estrogen-sensitive breast cancers, to estrogen dominance that can cause debilitating periods, it definitely deserves some flack. However, estrogen plays a huge role in your health.
There are many, many things that estrogen does to benefit you, including:
- Contributes to thickening of the uterus lining
- Gives the lubrication to your vaginal tissue
- Necessary for bone health and maintaining bone density
- Maintains proper body temperature (plays along well with your thyroid)
- Nourishes brain tissue helping protect against memory loss, and increasing certain neurotransmitters.
- Important for collagen production, and softening the skin
- Protective in heart disease
- Supports your immune system
So what does it look like to be estrogen deficient? For a woman hitting menopausal age, her estrogen levels drop and symptoms such as hot flashes, night sweats, vaginal dryness, memory loss, and low mood start to appear. For a younger woman who is still cycling, her volume of menstruation is less, and sometimes periods disappear overall.
What causes your estrogen to decrease? Many things, including:
- Caloric restriction
- Low cholesterol (cholesterol is the mother of your hormones!)
- Exercise & overtraining
- Ovarian failure
- Hypothryoidism (underactive thyroid)
- Opioid pain medications
- Hormonal birth control – for example the pill, patch, ring, implant, or injection
The more common plot in our estrogen story is when your estrogen levels become too high and start causing a lot of uncomfortable symptoms.
Let’s begin with how does estrogen can become too high in the first place:
- Excess adipose tissue
- Over-conversion of your testosterone to estrogen
- PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome)
- Alcohol (2 or more glasses per day)
- Estrogen supplementation – bioidentical hormones, estrogen based birth control pills
- Steroid medications (overuse of Nasonex, Flonase, Cortisone injections, oral Prednisone)
- Poor liver detoxification –
- Estrogens are turned into metabolites through phase 1 detoxification, and packaged up for elimination in phase 2 detox!
- Poor bowel clearance –
- After phase 2 detox, estrogens are packaged up into bile and are eliminated through the gut. If you’re not ‘going’ regularly or have a lot of bad bacteria it can cause your estrogens to be reabsorbed into your body!
- Environmental exposures from makeup, skin care, home cleaning supplies, and pesticides on foods.
- Amongst others 🙂
When any of these things cause your estrogen levels to rise, you can start to get symptoms such as irritability, heavy bleeding, clotting, cramping, acne, weight gain, hard, painful breasts premenstrually, and physical manifestations such as uterine fibroids and ovarian cysts.
Here’s the story climax: It’s imperative that you get proper blood or urine testing to determine your hormone status before just starting treatment! Symptoms of estrogen dominance can be from estrogens that are actually to high, or an imbalance with progesterone (which is the cooling yin to estrogen’s fiery yang!).
In order to treat unbalanced estrogens, we need to identify first what your hormone levels are, and also what is causing them to go haywire. To find this out, you’ll need a proper integrative medicine workup. During each hormonal workup, we take an in-depth medical history and identify some areas where your body may be imbalanced. This means we ask questions about and run tests that can identify the cause of your hormonal imbalance—whether that be genetic mutations, poor detoxification pathways, bad gut bacteria, environmental exposures, and much more.
Schedule your free-15 minute consultation to find out more about how you can find the root cause of your hormonal imbalance!
Next time on the hormone story… Progesterone! Stay tuned!