Estrogen is a naturally occurring hormone found in both men and women. Keeping estrogen at healthy levels is important for both genders, although women need more estrogen for normal bodily functions such as during pregnancy. During menopause, women’s estrogen levels drop significantly. Learn how simple changes to your lifestyle and diet can increase estrogen.
Seeking Medical Care
Watch for symptoms. If you experience symptoms that indicate that your hormones are out of balance, or symptoms that are impairing your health, see your doctor. Keep in mind that hormonal changes are quite common, especially in women going through menopause. However, if your age is not within the normal range of menopause or perimenopause, or if your symptoms are severe, you can see a doctor. These symptoms include:
Hot sensation or trouble sleeping
Mood swings or moodiness
Changes in sexual function or decreased fertility levels
Changes in cholesterol levels
Visit your doctor. Before you start an estrogen treatment program, ask your doctor about the effects of estrogen on your body. While a lack of estrogen can cause problems, estrogen levels that are too high (or prolonged exposure to estrogen at the wrong time) can cause menstrual cycle disorders, ovarian cysts, and breast cancer.
There are many conditions that can cause symptoms such as a burning sensation, low sex drive, and other symptoms associated with low estrogen levels. Don’t assume that the cause of your symptoms is estrogen levels. Consult your doctor first before starting any treatment to increase your estrogen, including taking natural or herbal supplements.
Have your estrogen levels checked. There are a variety of tests available to determine hormone levels. Your doctor will likely ask you to have a blood test. Your blood will likely also be checked for levels of FSH ( Follicle-Stimulating Hormone ), which is responsible for regulating the production of estrogen and progesterone in the ovaries. .
You must tell what medicines and supplements you are taking before undergoing the examination. You should also tell your doctor about the birth control you are using, as this will affect the results of the test. You should also discuss medical conditions including thyroid disease, sex hormone-dependent tumors, ovarian cysts, and unusual vaginal bleeding with your doctor, as these can affect your FSH levels.
The FSH test is usually done on the second or third day of your period.
There are three types of estrogen, namely; estrone, estradiol, and estriol. Estradiol is the type of estrogen that is usually measured on examination, and has a normal range of 30-400 pg/mL for premenopausal women (depending on the time of day in your menstrual cycle) and 0-30 pg/mL for postmenopausal women. Estrogen levels lower than 20 pg/mL can cause hormonal symptoms such as a burning sensation.
Try estrogen therapy. There are a variety of estrogen therapies available, including pills, skin patches, and topical gels and creams. There are also vaginal estrogens available in the form of tablets, rings, or creams that are inserted directly into the vagina. Talk to your doctor about the best option for you.
Changing Lifestyle and Diet
Quit smoking. Cigarettes have a negative effect on the endocrine system, and inhibit the body’s ability to produce estrogen effectively. Smoking in premenopausal women has been linked to menstrual dysfunction, infertility, and early menopause.
Start moderate exercise. Exercise has been linked to decreased estrogen levels. Avoid strenuous exercise, but start exercising regularly. Moderate exercise is not only healthy, but also lowers the risk of breast cancer in women, and increases overall life expectancy.
Athletes may experience decreased levels of estrogen. This is because women with low body fat have difficulty producing estrogen. If you are an athlete or you are low in body fat, see your doctor for the right way to increase your estrogen.
Follow a healthy diet. Your endocrine system needs a healthy body to work properly and produce normal levels of estrogen. Women cannot get estrogen from diet, but eating a variety of fresh foods will give your body the best chance of producing estrogen naturally.
Eat soy and drink soy milk. Soy products, especially tofu, contain genistin, which is a plant compound with estrogen-like effects. In large amounts, this compound is able to reduce menopausal symptoms, but soy alone probably will not provide a significant difference in hormone levels. If you want to try incorporating soy products into your diet, try:
Miso, in small quantities
Textured Soy Product (TSP), or food made from soy flour.
Reduce your sugar intake. Sugar can cause hormonal imbalances in the body. Switch from simple carbohydrates to a lower-carb, whole-grain diet.
For example, substitute white flour for whole wheat flour. Use whole grain pasta, or brown rice.
Drinking coffee. Women who drank more than two cups of coffee (200 mg caffeine) daily had higher levels of estrogen than those who didn’t. Although caffeine can increase estrogen levels, it does not increase fertility in women. If you’re trying to increase estrogen to ovulate, coffee and caffeine probably won’t help much.
Drink organic coffee. Most coffee is a crop that receives a lot of insecticide spray and fertilizer, so drinking organic coffee will reduce your exposure to herbicides, pesticides and fertilizers. Use a coffee filter without bleach. Many white coffee filters contain bleaching agents that can get into the coffee, so try to look for unbleached coffee filters for a safer brew.
Drink coffee and other caffeinated beverages in moderation. You shouldn’t drink more than 400 mg of caffeine each day, and you should try to consume much less than that.
Using Herbal Medicine
Take a chasteberry supplement . This herb can be found in pill form at most health stores. Follow the instructions on the package for the exact dose. Chasteberry may be able to relieve symptoms of premenstrual syndrome, although scientific evidence to support it is still limited. However, chasteberry has not been shown to relieve menopausal symptoms, increase breast milk, or increase fertility.
Chasteberry is known to affect estrogen levels. However, the nature and magnitude of the effects of chasteberry are not clearly known.
Avoid using chasteberry if you are taking: birth control pills, antipsychotic drugs, Parkinson’s disease medicines, or metoclopramide, a drug that affects dopamine.
Choose foods rich in phytoestrogens. Phytoestrogens work like estrogen substitutes in the body, and are naturally available in some plants and herbs. Consider taking phytoestrogens if you are trying to relieve symptoms of low estrogen, or menopause. Take phytoestrogens in moderation. You may also want to avoid phytoestrogens if you want to get pregnant. Phytoestrogens have been linked to infertility and developmental problems, although you have to take them in very large amounts to get clinically significant levels of phytoestrogens. Foods and herbs that contain phytoestrogens include:
Legumes: soybeans, peas, pinto beans and lima beans
Fruits: cranberries , plums, apricots
Herba: oregano, black cohosh, sage, licorice
Vegetables: broccoli and cauliflower
Make herbal tea. Some herbal teas or tisane can increase estrogen levels or relieve symptoms of menopause or premenstrual syndrome without affecting your estrogen levels. Steep this herb in a cup of hot water for five minutes.
Black tea and green tea. Black tea and green tea contain phytoestrogens.
Dong quai ( Angelica sinensis ). Used in traditional Chinese medicine, this herb “can” relieve premenstrual symptoms. Do not use this herb if you are taking blood-thinning medications such as warfarin.
Red clover. Red clover contains isoflavones, which can help relieve symptoms of menopause or premenstrual syndrome.
Black cohosh . This herb appears to provide some of the benefits of estrogen, but does not increase estrogen levels. This plant can relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot sensations, and vaginal dryness. Ask your doctor for advice before using black cohosh , as this plant interacts with some medications.
Eat flax seeds . Flax seed is one of the foods that contain the highest phytoestrogens. Flax seeds are also rich in omega-3 fatty acids, which can lower your risk of heart disease, cancer, stroke, and diabetes.
Add flax seeds to your breakfast cereal, or in healthy juices for an easy way to enjoy flax seeds .