A woman’s monthly cycle depends on the interplay of several hormones in the body. Hormones are the body’s chemical messengers that travel in your bloodstream to tissues and organs.
Working slowly over time, they affect many processes including growth and development, metabolism, sexual function, reproduction and mood.
Understanding the cycle
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It is important to understand the cycle, where oestrogen is produced and what they affect in the body before getting into the reasons behind the drop in oestrogen levels and what we can do about it.
Beginning at puberty a woman’s ovaries start releasing oestrogen in coordination with each monthly menstrual cycle. At mid-cycle, levels suddenly spike, triggering the release of an egg (ovulation). They then fall just as quickly. During the rest of the month oestrogen levels climb and fall gradually.
The ovaries are the prime location for oestrogen production
The oestrogen is released from the ovarian follicles and are also secreted by the corpus luteum (the temporary endocrine structure involved in ovulation and early pregnancy) following the release of an egg from the follicle and the placenta.
Oestrogen’s main function is to cause the tissue growth and cell proliferation in specific areas in the body.
What else is oestrogen responsible for?
– Promotes the development and maintenance of female reproductive structures. This includes the fat distribution on our hips, breasts, abdomen, thighs, in fact all those curvy bits that makes us female.
– It maintains the health of our inner reproductive organs especially the endometrial lining of the uterus.
– Assists in the control of fluid and electrolyte balance within the body, ensuring that our skin retains moisture.
– Prepares the follicle for the release of an egg.
– Controls the changes in our cervical mucus.
– Prepares our internal environment for fertility making it more sperm friendly.
– Helps maintain our bone density by increasing osteoblasts – which are bone-forming cells.
The three related hormones that make up the family of oestrogen are Estrone (E1), Estradiol (E2) and Estriol (E3).
Normal oestrogen levels vary widely
Large differences are typical in a woman on different days, or between two women on the same day of their cycles.
Symptoms of low oestrogen typically occur in women approaching and experiencing menopause. However, younger women can also experience low oestrogen, but their symptoms (and causes) differ from menopausal women.
Some women do not naturally produce enough of one or all forms.
Young women can experience low oestrogen levels from a variety of causes, and the type of testing used to measure levels depends on symptoms, age, family history and physical exam.
The most common symptom of low oestrogen in younger women is lack of menstruation and delayed development. Younger women, under age 40, with low oestrogen can experience early menopause resulting in hot flashes and night sweats.
Other symptoms include:
– Lack of sexual desire and painful intercourse
– Irregular menstruation or lack of menstruation occurs.
– Bladder infections and headaches might occur.
– Mood changes that lead to crying, feelings of depression and irritability.
– Bone loss also occurs that leads to osteoporosis.
– Infertility can signal low oestrogen levels in younger women.
Some reasons include:
– Ovarian failure
– Underactive pituitary gland
– Perimenopause and menopause
– Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
– Eating disorder
– Extreme exercise or training
How Would You Know If You Oestrogen Is Low?
By getting a blood or urine test – Your doctor will determine which type of test is needed to determine if you have low oestrogen levels. Younger women may be tested for FSH (follicle stimulating hormone), a direct measurement of oestrogen production. When oestrogen levels are low, FSH levels also decline.
So how would you boost your oestrogen levels?
Ideally the best way to get started is by improving your diet, including nutrient dense foods, reducing stress and paying attention to overall health and wellness.
Although it is not thought that you can gain oestrogen from eating certain foods, some foods are being researched as possibly having an impact on your body’s ability to make oestrogen or mimic oestrogen in the body.
Foods such as:
Vegetables and Fruits: These foods contain phytoestrogens, which have strong oestrogenic effects. 100g of vegetables like leafy greens (kale, spinach), green beans, broccoli, garlic and winter squash have 94-604mcg worth of phytoestrogens. Some other fruits and vegetables that have good phytoestrogen levels include cranberries, peas and sweet potatoes.
Seeds and Whole Grains: Flaxseed and sesame contain phytoestrogens and help to increase the levels of oestrogen. Rice and barley also boost the body’s oestrogen levels.
Herbs and Superfoods that help boost oestrogen levels
Chaste berry or Vitex: Has been used traditionally for many years as a women’s health tonic. It is thought that the active compound Linoleic acid may help to regulate female hormones and assist with symptoms of PMS and menopause.
Red Clover: This herb contains an oestrogenic compound known as isoflavone. Red clover can be used to relieve menopausal symptoms such as hot flushes.
Maca root: This has been used extensively as a hormone balancer, and research shows that its high nutrient density and phytochemical content may be the underlying contributors to this effect.
To get more information on balancing your hormones, you can connect with me directly through my WatchFit profile by clicking here.
Peace & fabulous health! Connect with Expert Gloria Halim.