What happens when estrogen levels are high?

January 21, 2020

What happens when estrogen levels are high?

What happens when estrogen levels are high?

Your body's hormones fluctuate daily. When your hormones are at optimal levels, your body works optimally. But when hormones become imbalanced, serious health concerns may appear. One crucial hormone is estrogen. In this article, we'll explore what estrogen is and what happens when estrogen levels are high.

What is estrogen?

Estrogen is known as the primary female sex hormone. It's produced in the ovaries and provides a counterbalance to another female hormone— progesterone. Men have estrogen, too, only in smaller amounts. 

 

Estrogen has many vital roles in the body, including:

 

  • Helping balance a woman’s menstrual cycle
  • Maintaining reproductive health
  • Protecting bone health
  • Balancing mood regulation
  • Affects brain function

 

In premenopausal women, estrogen levels change during the menstruation cycle. As a woman moves toward having her period, levels of estrogen decrease, and progesterone increases. When a woman becomes estrogen dominant, or estrogen levels are high, she may experience painful symptoms.

Types of estrogen

While you may think there's only one type of estrogen, there's three.

 

  • Estrone (E1): After menopause, a woman only has one type of estrogen. It’s known as the weak form of estrogen, found mostly in the tissues of fat and muscle.
  • Estradiol (E2): Produced in the ovaries, E2 is a steroid and considered the strongest type of estrogen. In excess, researchers believe that it increases the chances of gynecological problems. Some of these problems are endometrial cancer, endometriosis, and fibroids.
  • Estriol (E3): A woman produces large amounts of E3 during pregnancy. Considered to be the weakest form of estrogen, and the body converts it to estradiol or estrone.

Symptoms of high estrogen

When you have too much estrogen, it affects men and women differently and may result in various manifestations.

Women

Excess estrogen in a woman's body may result in weight gain around the waist and hips. Also, it may lead to menstrual problems, including irregular periods, light spotting, and heavy bleeding. In some cases, too much estrogen may lead to premenstrual syndrome or PMS.

PMS is experiencing intense symptoms, such as bloating, headaches, and mood changes in the weeks leading up to their period. While all women experience mental and physical changes as their period approaches, women experience these symptoms stronger with excess estrogen.   Besides an irregular menstrual cycle and extreme PMS, estrogen dominant females may report other symptoms, including:

  • extreme tiredness
  • icy hands and feet
  • trouble sleeping
  • unexplained hair loss
  • lack of sexual desire
  • difficulty with memory
  • headaches
  • feeling depressed
  • experiencing anxiety
  • swollen or tender breasts
  • bloating

Men

Since estrogen is responsible for producing female characteristics, men typically have low levels of the vital hormone. If levels become too high, the estrogen excess results in painful symptoms, such as gynecomastia (enlarged breasts), infertility issues, and erectile dysfunction.

Other symptoms

High estrogen levels also increase your chances of dealing with specific health problems, such as blood clots, thyroid diseases, heart attack, and strokes. You're also more at risk for certain cancers. For example, ovarian cancer and breast cancer. In some cases, low levels of estrogen may cause depression in men and women, too.

Causes of high estrogen

Excess estrogen may occur naturally, but there may be another underlying cause for the condition.

Low testosterone or progesterone

If you have low levels of testosterone or progesterone, this may cause high levels of estrogen. Hormone levels need to be in balance; otherwise, painful symptoms may develop.

Medications

Drugs can increase levels of estrogen in the body. Some medicines that may do this are steroid medications and estrogen-containing drugs.

 

Steroids are a type of medication that is used to help ease inflammation, redness, and soreness. They can create weakened bones, high blood pressure, abnormal periods. Estrogen-containing drugs include oral contraceptives.

Hormone replacement therapy

 

Bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT) is when you replace the missing hormones with natural ones. If you have low progesterone, perhaps you use a progesterone cream or table to increase levels. BHRT may cause an imbalance of estrogen if your prescription isn't right for you.

Poor diet

While most men and women know that a poor diet may lead to weight gain and diabetes, it can also lead to a hormonal imbalance. Food high in fat, processed, and full of sugar may lead to insulin resistance. Insulin resistance has been linked to high levels of estrogen.

Treatment for high estrogen

Healthy diet and exercise

Since a poor diet may be the cause of high estrogen levels, improving your diet may be a solution. Certain foods may help manage your body’s excess estrogen naturally. Add a few of these healthy bites into your daily menu.

 

  •     Vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, kale, and cauliflower)
  •     Red grapes
  •     Flaxseeds
  •     Whole grains
  •     Mushroom

Lose weight


Since fat cells generate extra estrogen, losing excess fat lowers estrogen levels. If you're overweight or obese than chances are you experiencing a hormonal imbalance.

Lower dosage


If a particular medication or treatment is causing the hormonal imbalance, ask your doctor about a different dose or changing the drug altogether. This may help reduce your high estrogen. Or, if you're undergoing hormone replacement therapy (HRT), perhaps changing your health plan may optimize hormone levels.

Surgery

Some cancers may make you susceptible to high estrogen. If this happens, speak to your healthcare professional about an oophorectomy (removing the ovaries). The ovaries generate most of the estrogen in your body, so removing them will lower your levels.

Diagnosing high estrogen

 

If you're experiencing symptoms of high estrogen, the first step is to make an appointment with your doctor. Most likely, your healthcare practitioner will have you take a blood test to determine the exact amount of estrogen in your body.

The amount of estrogen your body needs depends on your age and sex. Also, since there are three different types of estrogen, your blood work will need to look at all three. Furthermore, levels of estrogen fluctuate during different times of a woman's menstrual cycle. All of these factors are important when diagnosing estrogen dominance.

 

Estrogen is an important sex hormone, responsible for critical bodily functions like reproductive health, menstrual cycle, and mood regulation. If you’re experiencing high levels of estrogen, speak to your doctor about possible solutions. 



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