The most female of all hormones, oestrogen often gets a bad wrap because for many women, let’s just say, the struggle is real. When oestrogen is out of balance, life can be tough. Here’s why. Whilst oestrogen is predominantly made in your adrenal glands (those also responsible for release of our stress hormones as we learnt here and here), it is an anabolic hormone also released from fat cells, especially after menopause but not limited to. The trouble is, the more fat cells release oestrogen, more fat cells can be made and more oestrogen released… not good news for your thighs and hips! But what’s more, many of our gynaecological issues may be related back to excess oestrogen.
Whilst it sounds like oestrogen is a major pest in your life, I’m here to help you fall back in love with each and every hormone because they all play an equally vital role. Oestrogen is a key player in your monthly cycle much like your favourite full forward football player. She doesn’t just work alone however, the right mix of progesterone and oestrogen can be the difference between you and your happier cycle. What you may not know is that oestrogen is actually made up of three hormones.
Oestradiol – the most powerful of the three, oestradiol is the master hormone in early womanhood. Oestradiol is produced mainly in the ovaries and in small amounts by the brain. It’s in charge of transitioning into a woman – you can thank oestradiol for your womanly curves, fertility and sexual function. It doesn’t stop there, it’s also important for healthy bones, brain function and sleep. There’s a lot to love, but it must be said that oestradiol is mostly responsible for our gynaecological issues like endometriosis, adenomyosis, fibroids and reproductive cancers.
Oestrone – also made in your ovaries as well as your body fat and adrenals. This oestrogen group is the major type in post menopausal years – when you’re more interested in enjoying life rather than making babies.
Oestriol – the weakest oestrogen is made by the placenta during pregnancy.
When we see oestrogen decline as we approach peri-menopause we can see a host of symptoms arise including thinning and wrinkly skin, brittle bones, hot flushes, changes with hair, tiredness and body fat distribution changes. We can also feel moody, tired and suffer from insomnia.
The truth is however, most of us are experiencing way too much oestrogen in our lives. This is because there are so many factors that can influence oestrogen, not necessarily your body producing more but due to external factors like alcohol, phytoestrogens from foods like soy, xenoestrogens found in chemicals (everywhere!) in your body products, cleaning products, detergents and more, as well as your own internal influence of stress; that can drive your oestrogen crazy too. But we need oestrogen, not only does it facilitate your period each month, it helps to keep our moods balanced and keeps us focused. It influences other neurotransmitters like serotonin (hence helping regulate mood) and this in turn also keeps our sleep and appetite in check. Oestrogen is also the key hormone influencing your uterine lining each month in preparation for conception (let’s face it, you’re body really does get excited each month just incase). If conception occurs, oestrogen (with progesterone) thickens the lining for the embryo to grow. No conception, no worries, your body just goes about shedding your lining and getting itself excited for the next cycle. It’s also responsible for you being ‘clucky’ quite often in your reproductive years.
There’s a lot to love about oestrogen!
There are a plethora of knock on effects your out of balance oestrogen may be having, it may be influenced by your cortisol (excess cortisol will impact progesterone leaving oestrogen either high or low – most commonly the latter), your external environment, diet, history of medicinal use like the pill or the mirena where it’s often again either extremely low or dangerously high.
As you now understand, it’s time to love your oestrogen and get it back into balance. Here are a few tips to lead it back to it’s happy place.
- Identify if it is high or low or get a test to show you. Remember tests aren’t always definitive. I see many women in my practice with seemingly normal levels of oestrogen, however their symptoms speak otherwise. High oestrogen we’ve spoken about here before. Low oestrogen is typically alongside low progesterone especially in our reproductive years. Work out which way your body is leaning.
- High oestrogen is typically in the presence of high stress or high external driving factors like stress (need help there – I’m giving you 50% off courses until the end of the month with the code word “birthday”), diet or environment. It’s time to work out what’s driving yours crazy and adapt accordingly.
- Magnesium, B vitamins, Zinc and the magic Vitex is a powerful combination to help get your oestrogen happy when in excess. Supplementing these for those with high oestrogen can be a game changer. It’s always best to utilise supplements under the care of your favourite health care professional.
It’s all about balance. Supporting your healthy oestrogen is an essential element in creating your happy and healthy hormones. Need more? You can always join the crew to really dig deep into your hormone health in our membership. Click here to learn more.