The spotlight of this article will be on the primary female sex hormone, Estrogen. When the body’s hormones are in balance, the menstrual cycle may run smoothly. It is when things go out of balance that symptoms may arise.
To understand your menstrual cycle, it is important to understand the various players, Estrogen being one of the primary hormones.
What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is a sex hormone made from cholesterol. It is responsible for secondary sex characteristics at puberty, it regulates the menstrual cycle, it thickens the lining of the uterus, it keeps the vaginal wall thick and lubricated, it is important for libido. It is also important for bone, brain and cardiovascular health.
There are 3 different types of Estrogen in the body:
- Estradiol is highest in reproductive years
- Estriol is highest in pregnancy
- Estrone is highest in menopause
There are many reasons that may contribute to lower levels of Estrogen in a woman’s body. As we age,hormone levels decline. During perimenopause a woman may notice the symptoms of Estrogen deficiency. By menopause (defined as no period for at least 1 year), the symptoms may become more apparent or may affect a woman’s daily life. Other reasons for low Estrogen levels include low body fat (a woman needs 22% body fat to menstruate regularly), excessive exercise, a thyroid problem and stress.
-brain fog, anxiety, feeling irritable or moody, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, fatigue, dry eyes, decreased libido, weight gain, bloating and heart palpitations. These symptoms may really affect a woman’s quality of life.
When is the best time to test for Estrogen?
Estrogen can be tested via blood, saliva or urine. Your Naturopathic physician or Medical doctor can discuss which test may be best for you.
If you do not have a menstrual period, you can test anytime of the month. If you do have a period, I generally recommend testing on Day 3 of your cycle (I usually include FSH at this time). A saliva collection can measure hormones throughout the cycle.
The Importance of Estrogen Metabolism
For healthy estrogen metabolism, we need good nutritional support, healthy liver and good bowel function. The way your body (and liver) metabolizes Estrogen is important in how you feel. During phase 1 of detox, Estradiol and Estrone is converted to 2OH, 4OH and 16OH forms. The 2 form is the best. The 4- and 16- forms may increase risk of certain cancers and contribute to fibroids, endometriosis, heavy bleeding and hormonal symptoms. During phase 2 of detox, these hormones get conjugated and get excreted through bile and out the bowels.
Foods To Support Healthy Estrogen Metabolism
Eating Cruciferous veggies is an excellent way of supporting healthy Estrogen metabolism. Leeks, cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts are all great veggies to add into your daily diet. Adequate fiber, probiotics and water are also beneficial for bowel function and healthy hormone metabolism.
For those women who are in menopause and are experiencing the symptoms of Estrogen deficiency, Bio-identical Hormone Replacement Therapy may be an option.
There we go. I have provided a brief overview of a complicated hormone. Every decade of life our hormones change, therefore it is important to understand our hormones and track our hormones! There are many great apps available to help you understand your monthly cycle. The Naturopathic doctors at Vitalia Health Care are highly experienced in testing and treating hormone imbalances.
Remember stress can also affect our hormone health! Stay safe, practice stress management , and enjoy the beautiful summer months in our city.
Yours in health,
Dr Tasreen Alibhai, ND