High Estrogen Symptoms: Causes and Remedies

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Estrogen, a group of sex hormones produced by the body, is crucial for reproductive health in both women and men. While estrogen is commonly known as the “female” hormone and testosterone as the “male” hormone, these hormones are produced in both women and men. Generally, females tend to make more estrogen, while males have more testosterone.

Normal estrogen levels vary for women during different stages of life. They rise during puberty, decline as menopause approaches, increase during ovulation, and decrease during the menstrual period. However, consistently or excessively high estrogen levels may indicate underlying health conditions.

What is Estrogen?

Estrogen is a group of sex hormones necessary for developing female secondary sexual characteristics, regulating the menstrual cycle, and sustaining the uterine lining during pregnancy. Although more prevalent in females, males also produce small amounts of estrogen, which plays a role in overall health and reproductive function.

In females of reproductive age, the ovaries are the primary source of estrogen. Additionally, the adrenal glands and fat tissues release estrogen. During pregnancy, the placenta, which surrounds the foetus and provides nutrients, secretes estrogen. There are three primary forms of estrogen:

Estrone (E1): Women produce this estrogen hormone exclusively after menopause.

Estradiol (E2): This is the primary estrogen hormone in nonpregnant, childbearing women. It also supports fertility and contributes to brain and bone health.

Estriol (E3): During pregnancy, women experience an increase in estriol hormone.

Summary

Estrogen, essential for female secondary sexual characteristics, menstrual regulation, and pregnancy, is primarily produced by the ovaries in reproductive-age women. While more common in females, males also produce some estrogen, influencing overall health and reproduction. During pregnancy, the placenta releases estrogen. Three key forms include Estrone (produced exclusively after menopause), Estradiol (for fertility and overall health), and Estriol (during pregnancy).

Normal Estrogen Levels in Women and Men

Estriol is typically almost undetectable except during pregnancy, so healthcare professionals measure blood estrogen levels by considering estrone and estradiol. While estrogen levels may vary based on sex assigned at birth, age, and other factors, estrone and estradiol generally fall within the following ranges:

CategoryEstrone ( pg/mL)Estradiol ( pg/mL)Prepubescent womenundetectable–29undetectable–20Pubescent women10–200undetectable–350Premenopausal adult women17–20030–400Postmenopausal adult women7–4030–400Prepubescent menundetectable–16 pg/mlundetectable–13 pg/mlPubescent menundetectable–60 pg/mlundetectable–40 pg/mlAdult men10–60 10–50

Symptoms of High Estrogen

High estrogen levels can manifest with varying symptoms from person to person. It’s crucial to recognise that in men, high estrogen can manifest as problems like poor sperm quality, breast enlargement, and erectile dysfunction. Meanwhile, common symptoms in women may include:

Mood Swings

If you start having mood swings, it could indicate that estrogen is higher than progesterone. A sharp decline in progesterone triggers premenstrual symptoms such as mood changes or postpartum depression. If low progesterone partially causes your high estrogen, you might experience mood swings, anxiety, panic attacks, and depression. 

Migraines or Severe Headaches

Headaches during menstrual cycles are a common occurrence that most women go through. It is a result of the fluctuation of estrogen levels during these cycles. Similarly, estrogen is likely a significant factor in the development of menstrual migraines, but its impact varies based on medical history, age, and use of hormonal therapy.

Poor Libido 

While high estrogen itself doesn’t directly lower libido, imbalances between estrogen and progesterone might affect it. Some women also find their libido is lower when experiencing other symptoms of high estrogen, like mood swings and migraines.

Hair Loss

The imbalance between estrogen and progesterone in estrogen dominance may contribute to hair loss. Progesterone naturally counteracts the hair loss effects of testosterone and estrogen. When progesterone levels are low, excess estrogen may contribute to hair loss.

Weight Gain

High estrogen and weight gain are closely connected, and they often influence each other in a cyclical manner. High estrogen levels lead to weight gain, especially around areas like the breasts, belly, hips, and thighs. Additionally, fat cells produce estrogen, although it’s a different type than what the ovaries produce. Estrogen from fat cells can contribute to a rise in blood levels of estrogen, further influencing this interconnected relationship between high estrogen and weight gain.

Breast Swelling and Tenderness

High estrogen levels can make your breasts more tender and swollen, especially around the nipples and front area. It happens because hormonal changes affect your breast tissues. The increased estrogen can change the quality of connective tissues, making them bumpy and rope-like, known as fibrocystic breast lumps.

Heavy Periods

Estrogen and progesterone are the main hormones that regulate the menstrual cycle. Estrogen thickens the uterine lining in the first half of the cycle, providing a favourable environment for potential implantation after conception.

Increased estrogen levels lead to a thicker uterine lining. Without pregnancy, the thicker lining results in a heavier period. As estrogen plays a crucial role in regulating the menstrual cycle, even a slight variation can result in irregular periods, causing them to be late or early.

Poor Sleep or Insomnia

Maintaining a balance between progesterone and estrogen is essential for peaceful sleep. Progesterone aids in calming the mind, while estrogen keeps the body alert. When estrogen rises and progesterone decreases, it can disrupt sleep, leading to feelings of tiredness, restlessness, and exhaustion. These symptoms may indicate estrogen dominance.

Summary

High estrogen levels bring various symptoms that differ between individuals. Notably, in men, high estrogen can lead to issues like poor sperm quality, breast enlargement, and erectile dysfunction. Women commonly experience mood swings, migraines, low libido, hair loss, weight gain in specific areas, breast tenderness, and heavier periods due to increased estrogen. Maintaining estrogen balance is necessary for regular sleep patterns, as a rise in estrogen and a drop in progesterone may result in poor sleep, causing tiredness and restlessness. These symptoms collectively indicate estrogen dominance.

Symptoms of Low Estrogen

Insufficient estrogen levels, much like excess estrogen, can result in adverse symptoms that often resemble those of menopause. Menopause stands as the primary contributor to reduced estrogen in women, as the ovaries produce less estrogen during this period. Low estrogen levels may also contribute to an increased risk of depression. Besides menopause, various factors can lead to a decrease in the production of this essential sex hormone.

The common symptoms of low estrogen are:

Vaginal dryness

Dry skin

Fatigue or insomnia

Hot flashes

Night sweats

Irregular periods

Summary

Insufficient estrogen, like excess, causes menopause-like symptoms. Menopause reduces estrogen as ovaries produce less. Low estrogen may heighten depression risk. Symptoms include vaginal dryness, dry skin, fatigue, insomnia, hot flashes, night sweats, and irregular periods.

Causes of High Estrogen Levels

Estrogen dominance arises when estrogen levels are excessively high compared to progesterone. It’s important to note that this doesn’t always imply normal progesterone levels with higher estrogen. Sometimes, abnormally low progesterone levels can lead to estrogen dominance.

The body can naturally experience high estrogen levels. For example, estrogen fluctuates throughout the menstrual cycle, reaching its peak in the middle of the cycle. However, excessive estrogen can also arise from taking specific medications or other health conditions. These may include:

Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) 

In PCOS, women overproduce estrogen, leading to estrogen dominance. Prolonged exposure to high estrogen levels may excessively thicken the endometrium, raising the risk of endometrial cancer. PCOS is characterised not only by high estrogen levels but also by heightened levels of testosterone and insulin, which collectively contribute to the manifestation of all symptoms.

Due to an excess of androgens, women with PCOS commonly face a hormonal imbalance that prevents ovulation, known as anovulation. In the absence of ovulation, there is no empty follicle to produce progesterone, resulting in an imbalance where estrogen is excessive compared to little or no progesterone.

Obesity

Excessive fat cells in women may lead to anovulation, where excess estrogen levels act as a form of “natural” birth control, preventing ovulation. Without ovulation, no progesterone is produced, potentially causing an imbalance with excess estrogen relative to progesterone.

Adipose tissue can contribute up to 100% of circulating estrogen in postmenopausal women and 50% of circulating testosterone in premenopausal women. Therefore, increasing fat mass or adipose tissue in obesity leads to higher estrogen levels. This effect is more prevalent in obese postmenopausal women.

Ovarian Cancer

Ovarian cancer occurs when ovarian cells undergo uncontrolled growth, forming tumours. As the ovaries produce hormones like estrogen and progesterone, ovarian cancer can negatively affect the production levels of these hormones.

Women with ovarian cancer exhibit higher levels of estrogen-DNA adducts, which are sites where DNA binds to estrogen molecules. The high ratio of estrogen-DNA adducts to estrogen metabolites indicates an imbalance in estrogen metabolism, often resulting in excess estrogen levels.

In Vitro Fertilisation (IVF)

During your IVF cycle, taking estrogen, often in the form of Estrace, is a common practice. It helps stimulate egg growth or, during a frozen embryo transfer, thickens the uterine lining to enhance embryo implantation chances. Therefore, you will experience high estrogen levels during IVF treatment.

IVF stimulation leads to increased estrogen levels, with blood levels in a typical IVF procedure ranging from 5,000–15,000 pmol/L, averaging about 9,000–10,000 pmol/L. It is approximately ten times higher than in a regular menstrual cycle.

Age

Age significantly influences various hormones. In ageing men and individuals assigned male at birth (AMAB), testosterone levels naturally decline, accompanied by a rise in estrogen levels.

Increased Aromatase

Depending on lifestyle or underlying health factors, your body might produce a higher concentration of the aromatase enzyme, known as aromatase overexpression. Excess levels of this enzyme in men result in more testosterone conversion into estrogen, reducing testosterone levels and increasing estradiol levels.

Summary

Factors like PCOS and obesity contribute to estrogen imbalance. In PCOS, excessive estrogen and hormonal imbalances can lead to symptoms and increased endometrial cancer risk. Obesity, especially in postmenopausal women, increases estrogen due to fat cells. Ovarian cancer negatively affects estrogen production. IVF treatments involve elevated estrogen levels, aiding in embryo implantation. Ageing influences declining testosterone and rising estrogen levels. Lifestyle factors can increase aromatase enzymes, converting more testosterone to estrogen and altering hormone balance.

Risks Related to High Estrogen

High estrogen levels can have adverse effects on reproductive health, causing unpleasant symptoms and increasing the risk of certain diseases.

In Women:

Polyps

Fibroids

PCOS

Endometriosis pain

Ovarian tumours

Breast cancer

Uterine cancer

In Men:

Dementia

Heart disease

Insulin resistance

Erectile dysfunction

Gynecomastia

Summary

High estrogen levels pose risks to reproductive health, leading to adverse effects and increased disease susceptibility. In women, it leads to conditions like polyps, fibroids, PCOS, endometriosis pain, ovarian tumours, breast cancer, and uterine cancer. Men may experience dementia, heart disease, insulin resistance, erectile dysfunction, and gynecomastia due to high estrogen levels.

Ways to Maintain Normal Estrogen Levels

Estrogen dominance is a common experience in most women, and there are several ways to identify and treat it. If managing your estrogen levels indicates a need for further care, HealthifyMe’s personalised approach connects you with vetted treatment options. It guides you on the next steps for regaining hormonal balance. With HealthifyMe, you can have one-on-one consultations with certified nutritionists and health coaches to address your health concerns. They will assess your symptoms and suggest potential steps, such as dietary or lifestyle adjustments.

Manage Weight Effectively

Maintaining a healthy weight is crucial for managing estrogen levels. As body fat decreases, the overall production of estrogen decreases. Additionally, maintaining a healthy weight leads to improved reproductive health. HealthifyMe’s calorie trackers and personalised weight management programs can help you achieve a calorie balance that supports weight loss and helps control hormonal fluctuations.

Maintain a Healthy Diet

If you have PCOS, you need to make some dietary changes to aid weight loss and balance hormone production. These could involve reducing processed foods, opting for more plant-based foods over red meat, increasing whole grain intake while cutting back on refined carbs, limiting unhealthy fats, incorporating more fibre, and following a Mediterranean eating plan. 

HealthifyMe’s food tracking and Snap feature enables you to make informed choices and select healthier options. These adjustments aim to support overall health and manage the symptoms associated with PCOS.

Surgery

Estrogen-sensitive cancer, like certain breast cancers, might require an oophorectomy or removing the ovaries. It helps induce surgical menopause since ovaries are a primary source of estrogen, and their removal decreases estrogen levels. However, most cases are not cancer-related and usually don’t require surgery. 

Summary

HealthifyMe offers personalised solutions for managing estrogen levels, connecting you with vetted treatments and guiding steps for hormonal balance. One-on-one consultations with certified nutritionists provide insights into dietary and lifestyle adjustments. Weight management programs and calorie trackers help achieve a balance supporting weight loss. Dietary changes assist PCOS by reducing processed foods and incorporating healthier options. 

HealthifyMe Suggestion

If you’re looking to manage high estrogen levels through diet, consider the following tips. Eat more fibre as it helps to remove excess estrogen from the body. Include plenty of fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes in your diet. Limit processed foods as it often contain additives and preservatives that can disrupt hormonal balance. Include healthy fats in your diet regularly. Omega-3 fatty acids, found in fish like salmon and in nuts and seeds, can help support hormone balance. Alcohol can interfere with estrogen metabolism. Limiting your alcohol intake can help manage estrogen levels. Stay hydrated, drinking plenty of water can help support overall hormone balance and ensure that your body can effectively eliminate excess estrogen.

The Final Word

Estrogen, a vital sex hormone in both women and men, plays a crucial role in reproductive health. While its levels naturally fluctuate, consistently high estrogen may signal underlying health issues. Understanding the symptoms, causes, and remedies for high estrogen is essential. 

It’s essential to consult healthcare professionals for guidance tailored to individual needs. HealthifyMe offers personalised approaches, including weight management, dietary changes, and medical interventions, to help individuals achieve hormonal balance. 

Disclaimer: The purpose of this article is just to disperse knowledge and raise awareness. It does not intend to replace medical advice from professionals. For further information, please contact our certified nutritionists Here.

Research Sources

The complex relationship between estrogen and migraines: a scoping review

Level of Estrogen in Females—The Different Impacts at Different Life Stages

Obesity, estrogens, and adipose tissue dysfunction – implications for pulmonary arterial hypertension

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Q: What happens when estrogen levels are high?

A: When estrogen levels are high, you may experience heavier or irregular periods, fertility issues, and endometriosis. It may also contribute to symptoms like breast tenderness, mood swings, and migraines.

Q: What causes high estrogen levels?

A: High estrogen levels can occur naturally or be induced by certain medications and health conditions. Factors like hormonal imbalance from hormone replacement therapy or in vitro fertilisation (IVF), estrogen-producing tumours like ovarian cancer, and Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS) can lead to an excess of estrogen compared to progesterone.

Q: How to lower high estrogen?

A: Regular exercise helps maintain balanced estradiol levels. Additionally, reducing body fat, managing stress, limiting alcohol consumption, and adopting a healthy diet are effective strategies for lowering estrogen levels.

Q: How do you tell if a woman has high estrogen?

A: A woman with high estrogen may experience breast tenderness, headaches, weight gain, light or heavy menstrual bleeding, decreased sex drive, and feelings of depression or anxiety. Sometimes, it can also lead to severe signs like fibrocystic lumps in the breasts and noncancerous tumours (fibroids) in the uterus.

Q: How to test for high estrogen levels?

A: A blood test is a common way to check for high estrogen levels. Other approaches, such as urine or saliva analysis, can also be tried.

Q: Can estrogen cause high blood pressure?

A: Yes, high estrogen levels can lead to high blood pressure due to hormone imbalance. It usually occurs during pregnancy or due to hormone replacement therapy.

Q: How do you treat high estrogen levels naturally?

A: Regular exercise is a reliable method for keeping estradiol levels in check. Lowering body fat, managing stress, limiting alcohol intake, and adopting a healthy diet are also effective ways to reduce estrogen levels.

Q: How does high estrogen impact menstrual cycles and fertility?

A: Excessive estrogen may lead to irregular periods, disrupt the normal ovulation process, and reduce the chances of conception. It may also worsen PCOS, raising the risk of endometriosis. However, there are appropriate interventions to restore hormonal balance and improve reproductive health.

Q: Can I get pregnant with high estrogen levels?

A: Having high estrogen levels can affect fertility and may make ovulation irregular, reducing the chances of conception. However, it doesn’t mean you can’t get pregnant. If you’re trying to get pregnant, consult a healthcare professional for guidance on enhancing fertility through lifestyle adjustments or medical assistance.

Q: Does a high-fat diet increase estrogen?

A: Yes, eating a lot of fat can raise estrogen levels in your body. It can cause hormonal imbalances and affect your menstrual cycles and fertility. Eating a balanced diet helps maintain desirable estrogen levels and supports overall well-being.

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