Better Health and Wellness: Impact of estrogen levels beyond menopause and fertility

Better Health & Wellness

WICHITA, Kan. (KSNW) – Estrogen, although present in small amounts in the body, can impact one’s overall health and wellness from physical to mental health.

Dr. Vikki Petersen, certified clinical nutritionist, chiropractor and certified functional medicine practitioner, says estrogen is most talked about surrounding conversations of fertility and menopause. Still, deficiencies or excess levels can impact women of any age.

“In our young women, and I’m talking 20s and early 30s, I’ll do blood tests on their sex hormones, and their estrogen will look like they’re menopausal. And this is really scary,” Dr. Petersen said.

Petersen points to exogenous estrogens, or estrogens coming from the environment into the body that compete with its national estrogens such as chemicals from the environment, the food we eat, the products we put on our body that all disrupt our endocrine system.

Household cleaning products often contain endocrine-disrupting ingredients.

“You want to sort of clean up as many chemicals as you can have control over, and I always tell my patients control what you can, don’t worry about what you can’t,” Petersen said.

Old-fashioned cleaners like vinegar, bleach and water can cut back on the toxic ingredients impacting estrogen levels.

Petersen also suggests a plant-based diet for balancing estrogen levels.

If you suspect you are suffering from insufficient estrogen, here are Dr. Petersen’s five symptoms to watch for:

  • Weight gain: With insufficient estrogen, your body burns and metabolizes starch and sugars less effectively. The result is an increase of fat storage, decreased muscle mass and resultant weight gain, more predominantly in the abdomen.
  • Mood swings and depression: Estrogen is a serotonin stabilizer. When levels decrease you are more likely to experience depression, irritability and mood swings. 
  • Fatigue: Low estrogen not only decreases your ability to deal with stress but also tends to burden your thyroid, resulting in fatigue and lethargy.
  • Urinary tract infections and vaginal dryness: Estrogen is needed to keep the tissues of the vagina healthy and the mucus lining stable and healthy. Lowered estrogen levels not only result in vaginal dryness, but the reduced health of the mucus membranes open you up to opportunistic infection and can result in urinary tract infections.
  • Hot flashes and night sweats: Lowered estrogen affects your hypothalamus, the part of your brain that controls your internal temperature. The result is hot flashes during the day and night sweats at night, resulting in disturbed sleep and insomnia.

While some medications are available, there are holistic approaches to take in leveling out estrogen.

Here’s what Dr. Petersen suggests:

  • Vitamin D plays a role in estrogen synthesis, therefore maintaining a healthy vitamin D level can help maintain or raise estrogen levels. You can even get vitamin D from sun exposure, so make sure to spend some time outdoors each day.
  • Flax seeds and sesame seeds are natural phytoestrogens that can help with estrogen metabolism, and are a tasty addition to many meals, including salads, smoothies and more.
  • Soybeans (in their organic form) also contain phytoestrogens that act to balance estrogen, raising deficient levels and lowering excess levels.

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