If you happen to have a few habits that are
lowering your estrogen, it may get to the point where you start to experience strange side effects, as a result. This hormone does, after all, play a vital role in your overall health. And it can have an impact on things like your period, mood, and energy levels.
To quickly review, "estrogen is one of the major sex hormones in women alongside progesterone," Dr. Kimberly Langdon, medical advisor at
Medzino, tells Bustle. "Estrogen's main role is in making the lining of the uterus grow for egg implantation and for providing a trigger to help the ovary release an egg during ovulation.
But it also helps your body maintain healthy bones, and can even impact mood, if your levels are low. "Serotonin levels in the brain can fall due to a lack of estrogen, leading to depression," Dr. Langdon says. "Low estrogen levels can also cause vaginal dryness, hot [flashes], and frequent urinary tract infections."
Even if you have
symptoms of low estrogen, though, that doesn't mean it's too late to turn things around. "A healthy diet, adequate sleep, and regular exercise are beneficial to regulate the hormonal balances in the body," Dr. Janelle Luk, a reproductive endocrinologist, tells Bustle. "In addition, certain foods can boost estrogen in the body. These are: flax seeds, soy products, pistachios, peanuts, [and] walnuts."
You should, however, let your doctor know if you think your
estrogen is low. Some of the habits listed below can contribute to the issue, but only your doctor will know for sure. Abei Bekenov/Shutterstock
While moderate exercise is good for your health, over-exercising can
result in low estrogen levels, and many of its associated symptoms.
"Women who rapidly start exercising at high intensities — for example, by training for a marathon or some other major event that requires a high level of physical excretion — can stop getting their period suddenly,"
Dr. Josh Axe, D.N.M., C.N.S., D.C., founder of Ancient Nutrition and author, tells Bustle.
And that might be due to the way stress impacts the body. "Cortisol is released in response to any real or perceived stress, which can be physical (including exercise) or emotional," Dr. Axe says. "This kind of exertion can actually increase stress and deplete the body of energy needed to regulate sex hormones."
Exercise can be beneficial for many people, but you may want to chat with your doctor before starting a hardcore workout routine, as it may have an impact on your hormones.
Letting Stress Take Over
While everyone deals with stressful moments, it's important to check in with yourself if you're
always stressed, and find ways to strike a healthier balance.
Because ongoing stress, even of the everyday variety, "can suddenly cause the adrenals to work overtime, which can disrupt the production of thyroid hormones, estrogen, and other reproductive hormones," Dr. Axe says. "The body always grants priority to producing these stress hormones that will help you survive a crisis, so sex hormones can take a backseat when your body perceives that 'times are tough.'"
To show your body that it isn't actually in a crisis, it can help to slow down and focus on your wellbeing. You might want to meditate, go to a yoga class, speak with a therapist, or practice some other form of self-care, so
you can properly unwind, and better manage your stress going forward.
If you are not eating enough throughout the day, it's unlikely your body is "getting enough energy to function correctly, which has an impact on your hormone levels," Dr. Langdon says.
When you aren't getting enough nutrition, "the body must preserve its energy to keep vital organs alive and thus the reproductive system is the first to be shut down," Dr. Langdon says.
Editor's Note: If you or someone you know has an eating disorder and needs help, call the National Eating Disorders Association helpline at 1-800-931-2237, text 741741, or chat online with a Helpline volunteer here.
Reaching For Non-Nutritious Foods
It's so easy to go through the day without getting proper nutrition, either because you're too busy, or are grabbing less-than-wholesome foods as you go. And while understandable, both of these habits can lower estrogen.
"A poor diet low in nutrients, antioxidants, and probiotic foods — yet high in stimulants — can tax the adrenal glands and thyroid," Dr. Axe says. "For example, a high intake of sugar, hydrogenated fats, and artificial additives [...] is linked with thyroid issues and adrenal fatigue that can raise cortisol."
And as we know, stress is no friend to estrogen. "Excess cortisol hinders the optimal function of many other essential hormones, such as sex hormones," Dr. Axe says.
While it can be tough to make dietary changes, you can always start off slowly by adding in healthier foods. "Eat
high antioxidant foods that are nutrient-dense, especially plenty of fats [...] and proteins," he says. Over time, it'll become second nature.
Eating A Raw Or Vegan Diet
As Dr. Axe says, some reports have shown that vegans and vegetarians, and especially folks who eat a "raw" diet, may be at a higher risk for becoming underweight or suffering
nutrient deficiencies, which can in turn impact estrogen.
Of course, this is definitely not true for all vegans and vegetarians, but it's still worth keeping in mind, especially if you're showing signs of low estrogen, such as missing periods.
If that's the case, speak with your doctor to make sure you're eating the right foods, and getting enough key nutrients. There are so many
benefits to being a vegan or vegetarian, and it's definitely possible to do so in a healthy way.
How much sleep do you get each night? Because as it turns out, a lot goes on while you're snoozing, in terms of hormone regulation.
"Sleeping [seven or more] hours per night will help stimulate body recovery, increase levels of
human growth hormone (made while you are sleeping between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m.), which supports [estrogen] levels," hormone expert Nisha Jackson, PhD, MS, WHCNP, HHP, tells Bustle.
So if you aren't getting enough sleep, you aren't giving your body a chance to regulate itself,
or maintain healthy hormone levels.
"Exposure to chemical and synthetic
xenoestrogens can block estrogen receptor sites and render estrogen in the body inactive or even overactive," Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of , tells Bustle. Hormone Balance
These are a
type of endocrine disruptor that can mimic estrogen, and include the likes of PCBs, BPA, and phthalates, Dr. Dean says, which are commonly found in plastics and cosmetics.
The best thing to do is avoid them, whenever possible. You might replace your usual plastic bowls and cups with glass or metal versions, for example, as a small way to
spare your hormones.
Of course, it's not possible to avoid all stress, all plastics, or to always get good sleep. But by doing your best to replace these habits with ones that don't have such a big impact on your hormones, you may find relief from
low estrogen-related symptoms.