You probably know that estrogen is a hormone. You might think of it as that thing that causes you to go crazy during your period. You might even think of it as a “female” hormone. And you’re partially right: Estrogen and progesterone (another hormone) regulate sexual development, menstrual cycles, reproduction and menopause. Although women do generally have higher estrogen levels than men, both men and women produce estrogen (and testosterone). Having these hormones in balance is very important to your well-being. The effects of too much estrogen can range from minor annoyances to major red flags.
Some minor symptoms can include:
— Weight gain
— Trouble sleeping
— Decreased sex drive
— Worse than usual PMS
— Swollen or tender breasts
Some more troubling symptoms can include:
— Memory problems
— Anxiety or panic attacks
— Fibrocystic lumps in your breasts
— Irregular or missing periods
High-risk complications from too much estrogen:
— Thyroid dysfunction
— Blood clots
— Breast, ovarian and/or endometrial cancer
High levels of estrogen may be produced by the body naturally or they may be caused by medication. If medication is the cause of high estrogen levels, speak to your doctor about altering your dose. If you think you might be experiencing high levels of estrogen, it’s important to see your doctor anyway because of some of the high-risk complications it can lead to. A simple blood test will determine your estrogen levels.
Things you can do for yourself:
Alter your diet
Studies have shown the benefits of eating a high fiber, low-fat diet in treating estrogen levels.
Lose excess weight
Holding onto excess weight has been linked to hormone imbalances
Medications your doctor may prescribe:
These medications stop enzymes from converting androgens into estrogen. Medications such as:
These medications stop your ovaries from producing estrogen. Medications such as:
If you have estrogen-sensitive cancer, these stop cancer cells from binding to estrogen.
Surgery is only needed in very extreme cases or if you have a very strong family medical history of breast or ovarian cancer. It is noteworthy that studies have shown ovary removal reduces the risk of breast cancer by 50% in high-risk individuals.
Although this all may sound scary, most of the time high levels of estrogen are not life-threatening. Just make sure to listen to your body and consult a doctor if anything feels amiss.