8 Fascinating Things That Happen When Your Estrogen Levels Aren't Balanced
It's no secret that the human body is complex, and sometimes, it can be hard for us to grasp just how much hormone imbalances can impact us, especially when it comes to estrogen. And since estrogen is so important to reproductive health and overall wellbeing, we might not consider all the possible things that happen when your estrogen levels aren't balanced.
According to Dr. Carolyn Dean, author of Hormone Balance, and Medical Advisory Board Member of Nutritional Magnesium Association, estrogen is the hormone that makes women alert, focused, and extroverted (mostly in the first half of the cycle).
Estrogen imbalances can also be thrown out of whack from a variety of common causes. For example, estrogen levels rise before your period, which can lead to magnesium levels dropping, Dr. Dean says. According to her, other common things that can cause estrogen to become imbalanced include puberty, a diet that lacks fiber, and birth control pills.
When estrogen levels aren't balanced, the body ends up rebelling, Dr. Dean says. As the body rebels, you might face a plethora of symptoms and side effects, some of which are so common you may not even think to attribute them to an imbalance.
Here are eight fascinating things that can happen when your estrogen levels aren't balanced, according to experts.
1. Breast Swelling And Tenderness
According to Dr. Dean, estrogen promotes breast tissue growth. However, progesterone production also causes the milk glands to swell. When there is an imbalance of these hormones, it can cause swelling, tenderness, and pain. However, if progesterone levels are balanced, it may offset some of the pain, Dr. Jennifer Landa, Chief Medical Officer of BodyLogicMD Orlando, tells Bustle. According to Dr. Landa, if the swelling and tenderness is "mild and transient," right before menstruation, you probably don't need to see your doctor. "However, if it is severe and frequent then it may be a sign of a hormonal imbalance that one may seek a hormone specialist to deal with," Dr. Landa says.
2. Leaky Gut
According to naturopathic doctor Serena Goldstein, elevated estrogen levels erode the lining of our gut, which in turn can lead to indigestion, food sensitivities, gas, bloating, and other digestive concerns. "In fact, gut bacteria that's out of balance can actually unbind estrogen from it's binding protein, allowing it to recirculate in the system instead of getting excreted as waste through out body," Dr. Goldstein says.
3. Mood Swings
If you're noticing changes in your mood, it could be a sign of an estrogen imbalance. According to Dr. Dean, in non-menopausal women, estrogen rises before the period, causing a shift of blood magnesium into bone and muscle. As a result, Dr. Dean says magnesium levels in the brain are lowered. "This explains mood swings because serotonin, the 'feel-good' brain chemical [...] depends on magnesium for its production and function and that is why magnesium is known as the anti-stress/anti-anxiety mineral," Dr. Dean says.
According to Jessica Bauer, MD, of Conceptions Florida, sleep disturbances, including insomnia, are a common symptom of your body not making enough estrogen. Estrogen exerts its effects throughout the body including in your brain. "The area of the brain that controls the sleep and wake cycle is no exception," Dr. Bauer says. In other words, an estrogen imbalance may significantly alter a woman's sleep and wake cycles.
"Magnesium levels are decreased due to hormonal imbalance, and as a result sleep can be disrupted [...] because magnesium facilitates sleep-regulating melatonin (sleep hormone) production," Dr. Dean says.
5. Changes In Vaginal pH
The loss of estrogen also contributes to changes in the vaginal pH, Dr. Landa says. "This change can increase the risk of vaginal infections such as yeast infections and bacterial vaginosis leading to symptoms such as excess vaginal discharge," Dr. Landa says. If you notice abnormal discharge (thin, foul-smelling, thin, thick, etc.), make sure to see your doctor.
6. Foggy Thinking
According to registered nurse and founder of Remedies For Me, Rebecca Lee, low levels of estrogen can lead to difficulty concentrating and remembering. "This can occur during your period, in the time leading up to menopause (perimenopause), and in menopause itself," Lee says.
7. Irregular Bleeding
"Female periodic cycles are governed by two to three hormones and the way they go up and down in a repetitive and rhythmic fashion each month," Dr. Richard Honaker, Chief Medical Officer of Your Doctors Online, tells Bustle. However, when that rhythm is disturbed, the lining of the womb "sloughs off irregularly" which either leads to spotting, an unexpected period, or a missed period, Dr. Honaker says. If you notice this happening frequently, talk to your doctor about it ASAP.
8. Hair Loss / Gain
Estrogen plays a significant role when it comes to our hair. According to Dr. Bauer, high estrogen levels give us thick, full hair. "But, when our levels plummet such as after giving birth or during menopause, you lose more than you gain. Lower estrogen levels push the growth cycle of hair toward the resting or shedding phase," Dr. Bauer says.
All in all, human bodies are complicated, and hormonal imbalances can present itself in a variety of physical ways. If you feel like you have any of the above symptoms, you may want to confer with your doctor and come up with a treatment and game plan option.