HORMONE SERIES | Dealing with Low Estrogen
Estrogen, beautiful estrogen. With estrogen dominance making waves recently, this juicy hormone has sure taken a lot of crap. But there is a lot to love about estrogen. Adequate amounts are necessary for ovulation and you can credit estrogen for your breasts, feminine curves, soft skin, and even the pitch of your voice. Additionally, estrogen helps us maintain bone density and muscle mass, keeps our vagina lubricated, and protects our heart and brain.
So what happens when we don't have enough estrogen?
First off, let's look at some of the prominent causes of low estrogen, which include:
- perimenopause and menopause
- taking the Pill
- thyroid issues
- disordered eating and/or over-exercising
- excess soy consumption
(Additionally, certain cancer treatments and genetic diseases, as well as having a total hysterectomy can contribute to lower estrogen levels.)
Because estrogen is responsible for lubrication, one of the main symptoms that something is off with your estrogen is vaginal dryness. Other major indicators include:
- sporadic periods
- dry skin
- painful sex
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- joint pain
- memory loss
These symptoms are pretty major, not to mention incredibly uncomfortable. Luckily, there is plenty that can be done to boost estrogen levels.
- A Nourishing Diet is Key. The foods you are consuming on a daily basis are the most powerful tools you have for maintaining hormonal balance. Fill half your plate with non-starchy veggies, 1/4 with clean protein, 1/4 with complex carbs, and a hearty sprinkle of healthy fats. Easy peasy.
- Eat More Healthy Fats. It's time to rethink that low-fat diet you have been following since the 90s. Fat is necessary for hormone production and adequate absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E, and K. Increase your consumption of avocados, avocado and olive oils, grass-fed butter, and all things coconut. That's right, you can and should eat more butter (in moderation of course).
- Consider Seed Cycling. This practice is straightforward, super easy, and provides you with the oils and nutrients necessary for optimizing your follicular and luteal phases. The Chalkboard Mag recently posted a handy resource here.
- Lower Your Caffeine Intake. Caffeine lowers estrogen levels so it's best to limit it to one cup of coffee or caffeinated tea per day.
- Try Magnesium. If stress is at the root of your estrogen deficiency, consider taking 400-600 mg of magnesium glycinate per day. Alternatively, an epsom salt bath is a great way to boost magnesium levels.
- Acupuncture, acupuncture, acupuncture! I love acupuncture for hormonal imbalances of all kinds.
- More Orgasms. Yep, I said it. Orgasms raise estrogen levels. If vaginal dryness is an issue, bring a non-toxic lubricant to the party.
- Quit The Pill. The pill is no friend to healthy hormone production. If ending your relationship with the pill has you slightly freaked out, read my guide to Gracefully Quitting The Pill.
- Incorporate More Restorative Exercise. Skip the spinning class and connect with your breath in a yoga or pilates class. Over-exercising or exercising too aggressively stresses your body and can further exacerbate an estrogen deficiency.
- Take Self Care Seriously. More "me time" is really at the heart of everyone's healing journey. Self care is important so dig in.
One last thing to remember, you can be estrogen deficient without having blood work that shows low estrogen. Estrogen levels are notoriously difficult to check so focus on the symptoms and work from there.
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