The Function Of Estrogen
Estrogen is the hormone that is primarily responsible for the sexual development in girls as they reach puberty age. Other functions of estrogen include:
- initiates changes in breast tissue during adolescence and pregnancy
- helps to regulate menstrual cycles
- regulates bodyweight by helping to control metabolism involved in the development and growth of healthy bone tissue
- may play a role in promoting healthy cardiovascular activity, according to the American Heart Association
Hot Flashes During Perimenopause
Most women don’t expect to have hot flashes until , so it can be a big surprise when they show up earlier, during perimenopause. Hot flashes sometimes called hot flushes and given the scientific name of vasomotor symptoms are the most commonly reported symptom of perimenopause. They’re also a regular feature of sudden menopause due to surgery or treatment with certain medications, such as chemotherapy drugs.
Hot flashes tend to come on rapidly and can last from one to five minutes. They range in severity from a fleeting sense of warmth to a feeling of being consumed by fire “from the inside out.” A major hot flash can induce facial and upper-body flushing, sweating, chills, and sometimes confusion. Having one of these at an inconvenient time can be quite disconcerting. Hot flash frequency varies widely. Some women have a few over the course of a week others may experience 10 or more in the daytime, plus some at night.
Most American women have hot flashes around the time of menopause, but studies of other cultures suggest this experience is not universal. Far fewer Japanese, Korean, and Southeast Asian women report having hot flashes. In Mexico’s Yucatan peninsula, women appear not to have any at all. These differences may reflect cultural variations in perceptions, semantics, and lifestyle factors, such as diet.
Hot Flashes And Night Sweats
One of the most common symptoms of perimenopause is hot flashes, which often coexists with night sweats. Almost 80 percent of people who are in perimenopause or transitioning into menopause have hot flashes. Also, most women who receive chemotherapy or undergo surgery to remove their ovaries will experience hot flashes.
Scientists know that hot flashes occur as a result of low estrogen levels. Each hot flash involves a sensation of heat that starts in the chest area and travels to the neck and the head. It can last for a few minutes and may cause sweating. Some women also develop a faster heart rate during hot flashes.
If a hot flash happens during sleep, they are called night sweats. Women who have night sweats often wake up in the morning feeling tired.
Some people experience redness along their neck and face during a hot flash. This is called a hot flush.
On average, each hot flash lasts for about three to four minutes. Hot flashes can occur for a few months to several years. In a few rare cases, some people had hot flashes for 10 years.
Other signs of hormonal imbalance include:
- Heavy or irregular periods, missed periods, frequent periods, or stopped periods
- Vaginal dryness and itching
- Weakened muscles
- Pain in the muscles, tenderness, and stiffness
- Pain and swelling in the joints
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Estrogen Levels Vary On A Daily Monthly And Yearly Basis
It is well known that estrogen levels vary based on the month and based on your age .
This variation NEEDS to be taken into account when testing estrogen.
If you go into your Doctors office and your Doctor orders an estrogen on just some random day, it’s almost impossible to make any sort of claim based on that single lab test about your estrogen level.
The only exception is probably menopause because at this time in your life your estrogen is no longer fluctuating on a monthly basis and will stay relatively stable.
Because it is known that estrogen varies based on the day of the month lab tests come equipped with “ranges” which are designed to help with interpretation.
The problem with these lab tests is that the reference range is very wide :
You can see from this example that mid-follicular phase estrogen may vary from 27 to 123.
Mid-luteal phase estrogen can vary from 49 to 294.
So why is this a problem?
Let’s say that you are suffering from some symptoms, such as menstrual irregularities, which leads you to the Doctor for testing.
If your Doctor tests your estrogen and you come back in the normal range for the mid-luteal phase estrogen with a value at 58 you may be considered “normal”.
But what if the true “normal” for you is closer to 200? There would be no way to know what is actually your normal unless you have a baseline testing of estrogen .
This is just one way in which testing for estrogen is not as straightforward as it might seem.
Menstrual Cycle Is Key Indicator Of Hormonal Health
Observation is your best tool when taking an empowered role in your journey of fertility. Your body is constantly communicating important signals, and as we develop our awareness, we can read these messages and adjust our choices appropriately. Studies show that your menstrual cycle is an indicator of your overall hormonal health. As a first step, work towards establishing regular cycles. Start tracking your cycle and note your ovulation time, for optimal conception. Quality of blood, length of cycle, regularity, and associated symptoms may also be noted. Believe it or not, periods do not have to come with painful cramps, overflowing tampons, bloating, and migraines, and these symptoms actually indicate an imbalance in the ratio of estrogen to progesterone. The color and texture of your blood can provide more information on your specific balance or imbalance. In addition, the length of your cycle indicates your progesterone level, and whether you will be able to sustain pregnancy after the initial conception. Contact your healthcare provider for questions and support in alleviating symptoms and correcting underlying hormonal imbalances.
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When To Get Tested
Women: when you show symptoms of a hormone imbalance, such as abnormal vaginal bleeding, lack of menstrual periods, unusual and/or early or late sex organ development when you are undergoing infertility treatment or therapy for menopause symptoms when you are pregnant and your healthcare practitioner wants to monitor the health of your placenta and developing baby, if it is a high-risk pregnancy
Men: when you have signs of feminization, such as enlarged breasts
How Is It Used
Estrogen tests are used to detect a deficiency or excess in a woman and to help diagnose a variety of conditions associated with this imbalance. They may also be used to help determine the timing of a womans ovulation and may be ordered to monitor the health status of the developing baby and placenta during pregnancy. In a man, estrogen testing may be performed to detect a hormone excess and its cause.
Estrogen tests measure one of three components: estrone , estradiol , or estriol . These tests each have different uses.
In Girls and Women
Estradiol and/or estrone testing may be ordered to:
- Help diagnose early-onset puberty, when a young girl develops secondary sex characteristics sooner than expected or delayed puberty, when a girl shows delayed development of secondary sex characteristics or start of menstruation
- Investigate menstrual abnormalities, such as lack of menstrual periods , infertility, and abnormal vaginal bleeding
- Evaluate the function of the ovaries and detect ovarian failure
- Monitor follicle development in the ovary in the days prior to in vitro fertilization by making serial measurements of estradiol
- Monitor hormone replacement therapy that is given to assist fertility
- Monitor menopausal hormone replacement therapy that is given to alleviate symptoms associated with estrogen deficiency
- Detect estrogen-producing tumors
- Polycystic ovary syndrome
- Extreme endurance exercise
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When Your Estrogen Levels Are Too Low
If your body isn’t producing enough estrogen, a low sex drive, unstable emotions, weight gain, depression and anxiety, and thinning hair are some frequently reported signs. This is a short list of symptoms, and hormone disruptions may cause others, so if you have any questions about your estrogen balance, talk with your doctor.
With that in mind, here are 5 helpful ways to keep your estrogen levels in line:
Reducing Aromatase Enzyme Activity
We have already discussed a couple of ways to reduce aromatase enzyme activity like decreasing body fat, reducing insulin resistance, and increasing the intake of phytoestrogens.
Another way to reduce the aromatase enzyme is by supplementing with the following nutrients:
Zinc is the number one inhibitor and commonly a nutrient that is deficient in men and women. It is recommended to take 20 – 50 mg of zinc a day, depending on the person.
In order to prevent any possible side effects, it is better to consult a functional medicine doctor or naturopath regarding the dosage of selenium, magnesium, and zinc per day.
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Here Are Some Questions You Can Ask Yourself And Discuss With Your Physician:
- Am I experiencing difficult menopause symptoms?
- Do I have any medical conditions or a family history of certain conditions that might make HRT beneficial for me?
- Do I have any medical conditions or a family history of certain conditions that might make HRT riskier for me?
- Have I considered alternatives to HRT?
What Are The Treatment Options
Hormone replacement therapy is one of the most common treatments of low hormone levels.
For people experiencing menopause, premature menopause, or primary ovarian insufficiency as well as after oophorectomy or chemotherapy estrogen therapy can offer some relief. Estrogen therapy alone is recommended for those who have had a hysterectomy. You can take estrogen in different forms, generally estrogen pills and estrogen patches.
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Reduce Or Remove Alcohol
Removing alcohol is an easy way to lower estrogen naturally. Alcohol can change the way our body eliminates estrogen, which can be what causes high estrogen when we over-consume alcohol. Studies have shown that this relationship is due to the fact that alcohol can decrease or slow the oxidation process of estrogen which inhibits the ability for it to turn into its preferred form to be eliminated. Additionally, estrogen and progesterone work on a balance system, when one is very elevated, the other one tends to drop low, so alcohol has been shown to decrease the levels of progesterone which causes high estrogen. By removing the alcohol, the progesterone levels can increase again, and which will lower estrogen naturally.
What Foods Are Best For Balancing Hormones
Health coach Alisa Vitti recommends specific foods that balance hormones and support elimination. Buckwheat contains d-chiro-inositol, which eliminates excess testosterone and stabilizes blood sugar levels. Leafy greens contain folic acid, vitamin E, magnesium, and calcium nutrients that support not only your menstrual cycle, but also the development of the fetal brain and spinal cord. Chickpeas provide a dose of vitamin B6 for optimal progesterone levels. Bee pollen, royal jelly, and honey can support ovarian function. Vitamin D is required for ovulation, and free-range organic eggs provide a nice dose. Sunflower seeds contain zinc, which promotes estrogen and progesterone balance. Omega-3 fatty acids are important in decreasing inflammation, regulating hormones, and increasing blood flow to the uterus, ovaries, and vagina. Salmon, oysters, chia seeds, flaxseeds, and walnuts are good sources of omega-3s. Found in avocados, almonds, and cashews, monounsaturated fat has also been associated with increased fertility. Cinnamon helps to balance blood sugar and improves ovulation. Lastly, add turmeric to any meal for an anti-inflammatory benefit. Make sure to couple the spice with black pepper for maximal bioavailability.
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Is Hrt The Same As Birth Control
No. Although women who take birth control pills are also taking estrogen and progestin, the effect is not the same. Women who take birth control pills have not been through menopause and need higher levels of hormones to prevent ovulation. HRT is not a high enough strength to stop ovulation.
After menopause, estrogen levels are low and HRT is used at a low dose to restore hormone levels to a more normal level.
Preventing High Estrogen Levels
While improving detoxification, reducing the activity of the aromatase enzyme to optimize your estrogen levels, you have to look at some lifestyle factors to reduce estrogen levels.
Reducing alcohol consumption can help reduce estrogen levels in men and women. For some people, this means reducing alcohol consumption. For other people, it may be necessary to fully eliminate alcohol for a period of time in order to improve liver function.
Estrogen in the environment is also a major problem. They can be found in plastics , cleaning products, personal care products, factory-farmed meats.
Estrogens are so widely used by many industries, that it is extremely hard to avoid them. Nevertheless, we can reduce our exposure and improve our detoxification.
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What Is The Endocrine System
The endocrine system is in charge of coordinating the relationship between different organs and hormones, which are chemicals that are released into your bloodstream from cells within your endocrine glands.
Hormones are secreted by various glands and organs, including your thyroid, adrenals, pituitary, ovaries, testicles and pancreas. The entire endocrine system works together to control the level of hormones circulating throughout your body, and if one or more is even slightly imbalanced, it can cause widespread health problems affecting growth, sexual development and function, sleep, metabolism and hunger.
Once your hormones are in circulation, they target specific tissues or cells by binding to receptors that are located inside the cell or on its surface. These hormones work as chemical messengers and play a key role in your bodys daily functions.
The endocrine system is made up of many glands, including the pituitary gland or master gland thats responsible for sending information from your brain to other glands in your body. The pituitary gland also produces many hormones that travel throughout the body and have different important functions.
The pituitary gland is made up of two different tissue types: the anterior pituitary that synthesizes and releases classic hormones, and the posterior pituitary gland that secretes neurohormones that are made in the hypothalamus.
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The Pill And Your Thyroid
Its important to note that the pill’s role in elevating TBG, Sex Hormone Binding Globulin & Cortisol Binding Globulin is well recognized. In fact, it is how researchers can verify who is & isn’t actually taking the pill in clinical trials.
It’s also listed in prescriber handbooks as a change we expect to see in labs. When TBG goes up, total thyroid hormone levels go up and free thyroid levels can go down.
Now, if you thought that total thyroid hormone was what the body utilized & that is all you measured then you might think, thyroid function is improved on birth control. However, FREE thyroid hormone is what you use, and not bound thyroid hormone .
This is why I test thyroid hormones in my patients before they start the pill and we continue to monitor symptoms & labs to ensure it is working best for them. Yes, some of my patients decide to use the pill for birth control or other reasons and I support them in doing that.
From the research, it appears progesterone, progestin, & topical estrogen do NOT elevate TBG. It is oral estrogen that influences the increase in binding proteins.
If you want a deep dive into the Birth Control-Thyroid Connection, then you can read all about it in this article.
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Causes Symptoms And Treatment
Estrogen is a hormone produced in the ovaries and commonly associated with the female reproductive system. However, it is also present in small amounts in mens bodies. Hormones are substances that regulate the activity of specific cells and organs. There are many hormones, many of which work together to release other regulatory hormones in the body.
Estrogen is considered a sex hormone because it regulates sexual development in females. There are also synthetic hormones used in supplementation for women with low hormone levelssuch as low estrogen.
When To Test Insulin
If youre trying to get to the bottom of a PCOS diagnosis, you will need to evaluate insulin. If you have a family history of diabetes or your clinician suspects insulin dysregulation, this is a test they will likely order.
Typically, insulin is tested while fasting along with blood glucose. Because of this, the test is commonly done first thing in the morning.
It is recommended that biotin be stopped at least 72 hours before testing.
Fasting insulin is a good place to start, but you may need to do a glucose challenge as well. Finding out what your insulin looks like after you eat can also be helpful. Your doctor will help determine the right tests for you.
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Symptoms Of High Estrogen In Men
High estrogen in men usually corresponds with lower testosterone levels which will make symptoms worse. This is another reason why testing is important, it helps check if you have both high estrogen and/or low testosterone levels.
- Increased body fat – especially around the breasts and waist, and it is usually harder to lose weight, this excess body weight can be from increased fat and fluid retention
- Low libido – this can be low sexual desire as well as erectile dysfunction and not being able to maintain an erection
- Infertility – this can be connected to many different factors but estrogen will affect erectile function and your fertility
- Low mood – this can range from depression to just feeling flat
- Low energy levels – this includes fatigue and a lack of motivation, this will be worse with low testosterone as well as high estrogen levels
- Insomnia – poor sleep can be because of frequent urination and night sweats
- Prostate problems – high estrogen will lead to an enlarged prostate which will cause urination issues and also an increased risk of prostate cancer. There may also be issues with high 5a-DHT
- Cardiovascular disease – both strokes and an increased risk of heart disease occurs with high estrogen in men in particular
Of course, there can be other reasons for these symptoms but if you tick several of these boxes then this could indicate you have a hormonal balance issue.