Understanding Your Hormones: Estrogen

Understanding Your Hormones: Estrogen

The menopause transition brings a lot of change and a range of experiences and symptoms specific to you. As you begin your journey, the best place to start understanding what your body is going through is by understanding your hormones.

This article explores the female sex hormone estrogen, also known as oestrogen, which is responsible for most of the changes you’ll experience on your menopause journey.

What is estrogen?

Estrogen hormones are made in the ovaries, but your brain, adrenal glands and fat cells also produce small amounts.

Depending on the season of your life, your body will produce different types and amounts of estrogen to ensure balance. There are three types:

  • Estrone (E1): The estrogen hormone your body makes post-menopause.
  • Estradiol (E2): The most potent hormone, present in women between puberty and the onset of menopause. The amount your ovaries produce varies depending on where you are in your menstrual cycle
  • Estriol (E3): Produced in higher amounts during pregnancy to support the development of the placenta and fetus.

What does estrogen do?

Estrogen is responsible for and contributes to a woman’s overall health during her lifetime. Here are some of the key roles estrogen plays:

Sexual development:  Estrogen is responsible for your reproductive system. The anatomy of your vagina and uterus, pubic and body hair, and the development of your breasts are all thanks to estrogen.

Menstrual cycle: A regular monthly period is a sign that you are in good health and can conceive a child. Estrogen builds the lining of the uterus ready for pregnancy while enabling you to shed the lining of your uterus during your period.

Healthy bones:  Estrogen plays a crucial role in bone development and maintenance. As you age, estrogen begins to protect your bone density. Once you enter menopause and estrogen production decreases, your bone mass decreases, leaving you at risk of osteoporosis.

Healthy heart:  Once menopause occurs and your estrogen levels drop, you are at greater risk of heart disease. Estrogen helps protect your heart by keeping blood vessels healthy, controlling cholesterol, and preventing inflammation.

Your mood:  Estrogen boosts the production of serotonin, the brain chemical which balances your mood. When estrogen levels drop postpartum or during perimenopause and menopause, you are more likely to experience anxiety and low mood.

What role does estrogen play in perimenopause?

The physical and emotional changes you’ll experience during perimenopause result from shifts in hormone levels, especially estrogen. Estrogen, controlled by follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) and luteinizing hormone (LH), regulates the menstrual cycle. FSH prompts egg-containing ovarian follicles to produce estrogen, while LH triggers ovulation. If pregnancy doesn't occur, progesterone falls, leading to menstruation and restarting the cycle.

With the reduced production of estrogen beginning in perimenopause, this is the time you may start to notice symptoms creeping in; brain fog, sleep disturbances, and mood changes are all common first signs of fluctuating hormones. But lower estrogen levels can affect any part of your body, as well as your sexual function, through vaginal dryness or in the form of hot flushes and night sweats, which can affect your energy and reduce your sexual desire.

What role does estrogen play in menopause?

During the time before menopause, a woman's mature egg supply within her ovaries diminishes, causing irregular ovulation. This is when the production of estrogen and progesterone decreases. It is the drop in estrogen levels that causes most menopause symptoms.

Estrogen fluctuations during the menopausal transition can increase the risk of mood disorders. It’s lower ovarian estrogen hormone levels that are closely linked to your well-being. 

During menopause, you may also find low estrogen levels impacting your skin, causing it to look crepey, thin and dry. Fortunately, you can improve some of the skin-related effects of aging and estrogen changes by using skin-specific creams and serums.

What role does estrogen play in post-menopause?

After menopause (post-menopause), your monthly menstrual periods stop. The body still makes small amounts of estrogen by converting hormones called androgens into estrogen. The adrenal glands produce androgens, and it’s the enzyme aromatase that changes them into estrogen.

What are the signs and symptoms of low estrogen?

Your estrogen levels will begin to dip during perimenopause, the period leading up to menopause. But any condition that affects the ovaries will decrease estrogen levels, including going through radiation therapy, chemotherapy, or a hysterectomy.

Symptoms of low estrogen might include:

 

If you’re experiencing these symptoms, speak to your GP. They can order a blood test which can help to detect whether your estrogen levels are low, although be aware that this test may not always be accurate when your hormones are fluctuating.

What are the symptoms of estrogen dominance?

When hormones are out of balance, estrogen dominance can occur when you have too much estrogen in relation to progesterone, the other female sex hormone, in addition to the menopause transition it can also be caused by medications, endometriosis, PCOS, or fibroids. Estrogen dominance can cause a range of symptoms that vary in severity and duration, depending on the individual.

You may experience any of these if your estrogen levels are high:

What can I do to help my estrogen levels?

Thankfully, there are some easy ways to boost your estrogen levels be it naturally with a varied diet, or with perscribed medications. Here are some ways to boost your estrogen with a few lifestyle tweaks:

1. Eat foods rich in phytoestrogens

All plants contain phytochemicals, a form of antioxidants that offer protection from DNA damage. One group of phytochemicals, called phytoestrogens, can mimic estrogen 

Foods rich in phytoestrogens include:

  • Fruits: Like apples, peaches, pears and plums.
  • Grains: Found in barley, oats, and wheat germ.
  • Plant-based Liquids: Such as beer, coffee, olive oil, red wine, tea
  • Nuts and Seeds: Specifically, almonds, peanuts and seeds (flaxseeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds).
  • Soy and Soy-based Foods: Including tofu, miso soup, and miso paste. 
  • Leafy and Cruciferous Vegetables: Like broccoli, sprouts, kale, and spinach.

 

2. Add more food packed with estrogen-boosting vitamins and minerals

There are some key vitamins and minerals that help your body produce and effectively use estrogen. Try to eat more foods containing:

  • Boron: Helps your body absorb testosterone and estrogen and is found in milk, coffee, apples, and potatoes.
  • Vitamin B: Allows your body to create and use estrogen and is prevalent in dairy, meat, fish and fortified cereals
  • Vitamin D: Found in oily fish and egg yolks, this vitamin helps with estrogen production and functions as a hormone itself.
  • Vitamin E: Oils, nuts and seeds are rich in Vitamin E, which may help reduce hot flashes and insomnia.

 

3. Supplement to support hormone balance

Certain herbs have been studied for their potential to influence hormone levels in the body. These herbs are often referred to as adaptogens or phytoestrogens, and they may interact with the endocrine system to help regulate hormone balance.

Before taking any new supplements, it’s a good idea to chat with your health provider first. 

Natural supplements believed to affect estrogen levels might include these ingredients:

  • Black cohosh: This Native American herbal remedy found in our Foudation blend is used to support healthy female hormonal balance during menopause
    and to help ease menopause symptoms associated with low estrogen, mainly hot flushes and night sweats 
  • Licorice Root: Rich in phytoestrogens, this ancient herb is known for its mild estrogenic effects and is used in traditional Chinese medicine for hormonal balance. A key ingredient in our Foundation blend.
  • Shatavari: Used in our Libido blend this Ayurvedic herb is known to be an adaptogen, tonic and aphrodisiac and also used to support female reproductive health, including hormonal balance.
  • Ashwagandha: This all-round tonic and adaptogen is found in our both our Energy and Libido blends to help ease fatigue, exhaustion and poor libido, but also to help modulate hormonal balance, including estrogen.

4. Persribed medications

Explore the range of perscribed treatments options available with your doctor or menopause specialist, all of which are designed to help you bring back balance and feel yourself again.

 

Knowledge really is power, and now you’re equipped with an understanding of the role estrogen plays in your body, you’ll be better prepared to approach the menopause transition with confidence.

 

 

Discover our range of clean and evidance-based supplements developed to  support your body and your needs before, during and after this transitionary life stage.

 

This article has been reviewed by our expert advisory team. 

 

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