Real talk, gang. Estrogen can be a massive pain. It can, though, also be a massively positive influence on your body. Thing is, that can leave you with more questions than answers. Like, what exactly does Estrogen do? And more importantly, how can you find your Estrogen balance, or know if you have an imbalance? Fear not, gang, here’s Hormona’s guide to all things Estrogen…
What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is a sex hormone that plays an important role in the reproductive health of those assigned females at birth, or AFAB. But it also contributes to the function of other systems in the body. A little bit of an overachiever, Estrogen has a role to play in heart, blood, bone, skin, hair, and brain health!
We know Estrogen well from the work it does with Progesterone, Follicle Stimulating Hormone, and Luteinizing Hormone to maintain a healthy menstrual cycle. Estrogen specifically enables Ovulation and the thickening of the uterus lining to prepare our bodies for pregnancy. As Estrogen rises, changes in our cervical mucus, vaginal wall thickness, and vaginal lubrication mean it’s easier — and more enjoyable — for us to have penetrative sex. So, Estrogen works hard when it comes to the fertility department.
Types of Estrogen:
Yes, there are actually different types of Estrogen, each for a specific life stage.
- Estradiol: The primary form of Estrogen made by your body during your reproductive years, from puberty to Menopause.
- Estriol: The most important form of Estrogen produced during pregnancy.
- Estrone: The primary form of Estrogen your body produces Postmenopause.
Phew. Did anyone else think that was going to be wayyy more complicated than it was? That’s really all there is to it, folks!
How does Estrogen balance affect you during your cycle?
Hormone fluctuations have a huge range of physical and emotional throughout your cycle. Although, there’s a very good chance you know that already. But you may not know just how extensive those effects can be.
- Lumpy boobs: Estrogen fluctuations can change the way your breasts feel. They might feel lumpy, tender, or sore. And then suddenly, they don’t.
- Bones, muscles, and recovery times. Higher estrogen contributes to healthy bones, increased muscle function, and injury recovery. Also, it makes you stronger.
- Skin, nails, and hair: Yup, you’re not crazy if you think you’re glowing during Ovulation. Peak Estrogen actually improves the condition of all three.
- Cervical mucus: Changes throughout your cycle thanks to Estrogen, which helps contribute to overall vaginal health
- The Estrogenic phase of our cycle, or around Ovulation as it’s more commonly known, is when you’re Estrogen levels are peaking. It boosts your confidence, motivation, energy, and self-esteem. It’s amazing!
- It enhances Serotonin, Dopamine, and the effects of Endorphins. And that means Estrogen is working with, and inherently related to, those feel-good chemicals already present in our brains.
- Estrogen also contributes to neural elasticity and cognitive function, particularly where memory and learning are concerned. Woohoo!
And now for the less good news… For all of the above, the reverse is also true. Which means if higher Estrogen makes you feel great, then low Estrogen makes you feel, shall we say, not quite as great. If higher Estrogen improves your memory, then… You get it.
Why your Estrogen balance matters:
So, as you can see, Estrogen packs a heavy punch when it comes to maintaining a healthy body and mind. But too much or too little can also have some not-so-desirable side effects. Understanding the different ways Estrogen can make us feel— good or bad — is crucial to getting a clear picture of our hormone health. And it can also help you discover whether there’s an underlying issue at play.
Estrogen dominance, or way too much Estrogen, happens when your body produces too much Estrogen — relative to Progesterone levels. This can have some nasty effects, including:
- Irregular periods and spotting
- Heavy periods and clotting
- Swollen, tender, or lumpy breasts
- Heightened anxiety and depression
- Menstrual headaches or migraines
- Worsened PMS symptoms
- Bloating and weight gain
- Hair loss
If this all sounds a lot like PMS, PCOS, and the like, plus some Thyroid conditions, there’s a reason for that. Yes, Estrogen is literally everywhere.
Why it happens:
Estrogen dominance can happen for lots of reasons. Some are entirely natural, others may be medication-related, or down to eating certain products. Here are some of the more common:
- Stress: If you’re stressing, your Cortisol levels can spike, which depletes Progesterone. And that leaves Estrogen dominant in your system.
- Xenoestrogens: These chemicals are found in plastics and household cleaning products and can be just as scary as their name suggests. Your body treats them as regular Estrogen, increasing your levels.
- Ovarian issues: Fibroids, PCOS, and such also affect the amount of Estrogen produced by your body.
- HRT: Using Estrogen-only, or low-dose Progesterone Hormone Replacement Therapy can lead to Estrogen dominance.
If you think your scales might be tipped a little too much in favor of Estrogen, here’s some good news. There are toms of ways to promote Estrogen balance through simple lifestyle and diet changes. It’s also worth speaking to a healthcare professional to check out any underlying causes!
On the flip side, Estrogen levels that are too low have their own fabulous set of symptoms, including:
- Brittle bones
- Reduced sex drive
- Brain fog
- Vaginal dryness
- Loss of periods
- Worsened PMS symptoms
- Hot flashes and night sweats
- Cardiac issues
If you experienced low Estrogen before puberty, your sexual development may have been delayed for a few years. However, depending on your age and development, Estrogen declines naturally anyway. And as it increases and decreases throughout your cycle, your Estrogen balance is bound to be affected.
If you’re living with Perimenopause or Menopause, you’ll likely recognize all of those low Estrogen symptoms. And you’ll likely have been tearing your hair out when they were really bad. Please remember that Menopause is temporary, and it will, eventually, probably, pass. But that doesn’t mean anyone should ever dismiss Menopause as something you just have to get over. That’s gone on long enough, thank you very much.
Menopause is a bish, and we’ll say that to its face. But you’re not completely alone — there are lots of therapies and such to help make it as easy and comfortable as possible. And that’s everybody’s right, whether you’re choosing holistic, pharmacological, or combination approaches to your symptoms. Don’t let anyone tell you otherwise.
Why low Estrogen occurs:
There are quite a few reasons why you might be less well-endowed in the Estrogen department, other than Menopause.
- Stress: If your body is under stress due to exhaustion, intense exercise, or extreme diets, you may experience irregular periods or periods stopping altogether.
- Low BMI/Underweight: If you drop below a certain weight — which will be different for everyone! — your body may halt Estrogen production, and direct its energy toward keeping other organs healthy. That’s why it’s super important to make sure you’re getting a nutrient-rich diet!
- Genetic causes: Some genetic conditions such as Turner Syndrome can cause low Estrogen.
- Premature Menopause: Some people may experience an unexpected drop in Estrogen caused by premature Menopause.
- Ovarian issues: Fibroids or PCOS can also impact the production of Estrogen.
There are, though, some other issues that can increase your low Estrogen risk:
- Being Postmenopausal
- History of eating disorders
- Past or current history of substance use issues
- Family history of PCOS or Fibroids
Knowing these risk factors can help you look for the signs of hormone imbalance, and take healthy precautions to promote that all-important Estrogen balance! And the Hormona app is a fab way to keep track of your symptoms — and progression.
Estrogen balance and the bigger picture
Clearly, Estrogen balance is an essential part of a healthy Menstrual cycle. But that’s not to say it isn’t also a pain in the ovaries! All jokes aside, if you recognize any of the signs and symptoms we’ve talked about today, please talk to a healthcare type. Hormone balance can be a tricky thing, and you might need some help getting there.
As always gang, we want your hormone health to be in tip-top form, which means not ignoring symptoms and making sure you’re heard if you’re worried. You got this!
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