Hormone imbalances can affect your body in a number of different ways. Having too much or too little of a particular hormone can lead to a variety of health problems and/or physical changes. You're probably aware of how important estrogen is for your reproductive health. But what can happen to your body if you have higher than normal estrogen levels?
"Increased estrogen levels can be linked to certain cancers, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, blood clots and high cholesterol," U by Kotex partner, Dr. Jessica Shepherd, MD, MBA tells Bustle. "If you are experiencing symptoms that suggest high levels of estrogen, I would recommend visiting your doctor for testing."
As an integrative clinical nutritionist and functional medicine practitioner, Jennie Miremadi, MS, CNS, LDN tells Bustle, someone with high levels of estrogen will typically come to her exhibiting symptoms such as major sugar cravings, fluid retention, heavy periods, fibrocystic breasts, brain fogs, headaches, and mood swings, among others.
Having high levels of estrogen in your body is something that can be turned around by a few simple life adjustments. If you believe you may have a hormone imbalance and are exhibiting symptoms that come along with it, it may be best to speak with your doctor and tweak your habits accordingly.
So here are some everyday habits you may not know contribute to higher levels of estrogen in the body, according to experts.
1. Forgetting To Eat Your Vegetables
If you want to keep your estrogen levels in check, it's important to make sure you get enough fiber. As Miremadi says, "A diet high in whole, fiber-rich foods can help to lower estrogen because fiber binds the hormone in the digestive tract so that it can be eliminated from the body." Your best bet is to incorporate a ton of cruciferous vegetables to your diet like cauliflower or anything green and leafy.
2. Buying Meat And Dairy Products Without Checking To See If Hormones Were Added First
"Hormones are given to animals to produce more milk or grow larger animals for meat, which can lead to increased levels of estrogen in the human body," Dr. Kelly Kasper, OBGYN at IU Health tells Bustle. So you don't have to avoid meat or dairy altogether. Just be mindful to avoid products that don't specifically say "no hormones added" if you can.
3. Not Exercising
It's no secret that exercising regularly can help keep your body healthy. As Dr. Kasper says, not exercising can lead to more fatty tissues in the body, which can produce excess estrogen. As a bonus, moderate to intense exercise can also decrease estrogen levels and keep your hormones in check.
4. Drinking Alcohol
As both Dr. Kasper and Miremadi suggest, avoid alcohol if you can. If not, just try to limit your intake. According to Dr. Kasper, alcohol affects the liver which is responsible for metabolizing estrogen. "Consuming an excess amount can damage the liver which can lead to excess estrogen," she says.
5. Consuming Fruits And Vegetables That Aren't Organic
If you can, try to stay away from produce that contains pesticides and chemicals. "These substances are usually found on fruits and vegetables and can act like estrogen in the body," Dr. Kasper says.
6. Not Taking Probiotics
An imbalance of one hormone can lead to imbalances in other places of the body. For instance, a bacterial imbalance in the intestines can decrease the elimination of estrogen from the body. That's why Dr. Kasper says taking a probiotic can "re-establish healthy bacteria in the intestines" and help eliminate any excess estrogen.
7. Consuming A Lot Of Soy Products
"Soy has a decently high concentration of certain types of estrogens," Dr. Kasper says. So as much as you can, try to limit your intake. Speaking with your doctor or a nutritionist may also be a good idea to help cut back on foods that may contain hormones in them already.
8. Giving Into Your Caffeine Addiction
Like sugar and alcohol, Miremadi says drinking a lot of coffee or consuming things with a lot of caffeine can also increase your estrogen levels. You don't have to avoid it altogether, but be mindful to consume a healthy amount. Studies find limiting yourself to three cups of coffee a day is a good idea.
9. Sleeping For Only A Few Hours Each Night
Getting enough sleep is not only important for keeping your hormones in check, it's important for your overall health. As Dr. Kasper says, "Decreased sleep can lead to lower levels of melatonin, which helps to protect your body from having excess estrogen levels." So make sure you're getting enough sleep each night.
10. Getting Too Overwhelmed By Stress
If not managed properly, stress can lead to a lot of different health issues including imbalanced hormones. "Increased stress causes increased levels of cortisol, which is made from progesterone," Dr. Kasper says. "Because of that, excess levels of estrogen in the body can then occur."
Luckily, having too much estrogen can be turned around. "Someone experiencing high levels of estrogen should work closely with a trusted physician on a treatment plan," Dr. Shepherd says. "That might include hormone replacement therapy and certain lifestyle changes for improved diet (e.g. less alcohol, more organic-based foods), increased exercise, sleep and stress management."
Unless there are any other underlying issues present, all you have to do is stick to healthy foods, get enough exercise and sleep, and manage stress effectively. You should be fine.
Editor's Note: This story has been updated to better reflect habits that may lead to higher levels of estrogen in the body.