Advertisement
Women's health

High Estrogen Symptoms and What to Do About Them

We turned to women's health experts and registered dietitians to answer all our questions.

High Estrogen Symptoms and What to Do About Them

iStock

Estrogen is a versatile sex hormone that plays a vital role in many body functions, such as bone development, cardiovascular health, and the reproductive system. However, surges in estrogen levels can lead to hormonal imbalances, causing irregular menstrual cycles, painful symptoms, and an elevated risk of various health issues.

Navigating the discomfort of excess estrogen is not just a physical challenge. It also emphasizes the importance of identifying and understanding what's occurring inside your body. We're turning to women's health experts and registered dietitians Courtney O'Neill, RD, CDE, MPH and Lauren Manaker, MS, RDN, LD, for expert insights on high estrogen symptoms.

What happens when estrogen levels are high?

It's normal for your body to go through hormonal changes during various phases of your menstrual cycle, and there are times when estrogen levels are higher than progesterone levels. When your body produces too much estrogen, you may experience hormonal dysregulation and feel uncomfortable. Hormonal imbalances can manifest in various ways, affecting your reproductive health and overall well-being.

When left unaddressed and untreated, excess estrogen can pose an elevated risk for various health conditions, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), endometriosis, thyroid dysfunction, and several types of cancer, including breast cancer.

woman sitting with her doctor talking iStock

How do I know if I am estrogen-dominant?

The term' estrogen dominant' is often used in the naturopathic and alternative medicine communities to refer to high levels of estrogen compared to progesterone levels. According to O'Neill, estrogen dominance is an ambiguous and misleading term because it fails to describe the complexities of hormonal pathways accurately.

She explains, "It is hard to isolate one and not consider the whole picture. You can measure your estrogen level through blood work, but these results should be evaluated with physical health, mental well-being, and psycho-social factors for best health outcomes." Estrogen naturally ebbs and flows based on physical and emotional factors, and it's important to consider these variables when evaluating your bloodwork.

Since hormones constantly change, it can be difficult to distinguish chronic hormonal imbalances from regular fluctuations. Manaker explains that persistent symptoms of fatigue, hair loss, irregular periods, sleep disturbances, and changes in sex drive warrant a medical evaluation, mainly since these symptoms affect the quality of life. Working with an endocrinologist who can track hormonal shifts over time and help diagnose an imbalance is important.

woman's arm having blood taken by a lab technician iStock

What raises estrogen levels in females?

Advertisement

Increased estrogen levels can be caused by changes in your body's ability to metabolize and excrete estrogen or by increased estrogen production. Lifestyle factors such as being overweight, a low fiber diet, excessive alcohol consumption, and chronic stress can also contribute to higher levels of estrogen in the body.

Manaker points out that weight gain may lead to changes in estrogen levels, as fat tissues make estrogen and convert other hormones into estrogen. Medications such as birth control pills and hormonal replacement therapy and health conditions such as PCOS, fibroids, and certain types of cancer may directly impact estrogen levels, too.

How do you fix high estrogen levels?

In the event of a confirmed diagnosis, the most effective treatment would include lifestyle changes and medications when necessary. Adding more fiber to your diet promotes regular bowel movements, which helps eliminate metabolized estrogen from the body. Whole grains, beans, avocados, fruits, and vegetables are excellent sources of fiber to incorporate. Additionally, physical activity helps move the digestive system, so including it in your routine can be beneficial.

Stress can also influence hormonal balance. O'Neill says, "When we experience stress, our body's endocrine system (hormone system) undergoes complex changes to release hormones so we can react to the stress, the so-called "fight or flight" response." Although cortisol is commonly recognized as the stress hormone, it's not the only player during stressful situations.

Persistent stress can throw multiple hormones off balance, messing with things like insulin resistance and causing irregular periods. Try breathing exercises, meditation, yoga, or a leisurely walk around the block to relieve stress and support the endocrine system.

woman closing her eyes meditating iStock

High estrogen symptoms

Advertisement

It is important to note that signs and symptoms of high estrogen levels vary from one person to another. Recognizing these symptoms is crucial for effectively managing hormonal imbalances and seeking the appropriate medical guidance.

Irregular or heavy periods

Estrogen is a key player in regulating the menstrual cycle, but when levels are out of whack, it can lead to irregular cycles, missed periods, or a heavier flow.

Low sex drive

Estrogen plays a pivotal role in regulating libido, and any disruption in its normal balance can have a notable impact on feelings of sexual desire and arousal.

Fatigue

Elevated estrogen levels can significantly impact energy levels, resulting in exhaustion even after a whole night's sleep. As Manaker points out, "Higher estrogen levels have been linked to fatigue, as they may inhibit the proper functioning of the thyroid gland and interfere with the natural sleep cycle, leading to a feeling of persistent tiredness." If you're feeling exhausted and sluggish, having your thyroid tested for irregularities may be worthwhile.

Experts

Weekly Newsletter

Keep up with your baby's development, get the latest parenting content and receive special offers from our partners

I understand that I may withdraw my consent at any time.

Advertisement
Advertisement