March and getting to know your Estrogen

Ah Estrogen, the powerhouse of what makes a female body work the way it does, the central and most talked about hormone in women’s health, and for good reason. Estrogen is produced by the glandular tissue in the ovaries, making it unique to a woman’s body (unlike most of the other hormones which are made in the brain, thyroid, heart, liver, adrenal gland and pancreas). Even in utero, before the ovaries of the fetus are fully developed, the fetus gets estrogen from the placenta that acts as a temporary organ to produce hormones (the male fetus also gets these hormones until testosterone takes over at 9 weeks gestation, beginning the differentiation of the genitals as their sex hormone glandular tissue begins to develop). However, for the female baby girl, the sex hormones plumet after delivery, and rest until puberty, when the hormones begin their drifting up and down pattern until it is disrupted by stress, birth control pills, pregnancy, environmental exposures and then finally menopause.

What I want to review today is the impact that estrogen has on the body and your health. And since the care model of Hearts and Hands is based on the mind-body connection in your health, that is the approach I will take here. This approach is also why I came up with the symptom tracker tool which I have shared with each post (Click here for the March Tracker), because, unlike bodies who thrive on testosterone, estrogen varies from day to day, creating waves and shifts in energy, mood and even inflammation, all of which impacts our experience of physical and emotional wellbeing. If we know our cycle, we can anticipate our symptoms, and care better for our physical and emotional wellbeing. And of particular interest to me as a health care provider: when you know your normal, you will better recognize abnormal, at which point you can access medical care to better support your health.

Symptom Tracker March

Estrogen – Throughout the lifespan, we have 3 different estrogens that circulate in our bodies, the main being Estradiol. This is the hormone that is activated during puberty to develop breast tissue and hip development and is most dominate during the first 2 weeks of the menstrual cycle until the peri-menopause years.

  • The physical body and Estrogen: Estrogen supports fertility, and is needed to create the lining that sheds monthly to create the period. Equally importantly though, estrogen protects our cardiovascular system, stabilizes our bone density, impacts inflammation and sleep quality, increases our immune system and improves brain function in many unique ways. All these benefits only occur when our health is in balance, and we are premenopausal. When levels are out of balance:
    • High Estrogen contributes to heavy periods, mood swings, fibroids, migraines and bloating.
    • Low Estrogen contributes to joint pain, sleep disturbance, hot flashes, hair loss, weight gain, changes in libido, vaginal dryness and skipped periods.
  • The emotional impact of Estrogen (thoughts and feelings) – estrogen has a binding capacity to serotonin among other supporting hormones, so when estrogen is elevated, leading up to ovulation, moods are elevated and more resilient to the world around us. This creates an environment where we are more social, connect better with others, have elevated self-confidence and focus, stronger sense of food cravings and an increase in creative and physical energy. During the last half of our cycle, not only do we lose some of the circulating estrogen, but progesterone becomes the dominant hormone, and with that, there is an uptick in irritability, restlessness, perception of pain and loss of energy.

So, that is a lot of ups and downs, and as we all know well both from our own lived experience and the impact of media, these swings are especially notable during the teen years, peri-menopause, and, most importantly, when our hormones are out of balance or “off.” The goal of the monthly symptom tracker is to chart our unique symptoms and begin to recognize a pattern. When we can anticipate the pattern of our more resilient self, we can harness that energy for big projects, social events, or to plan out what you can to support your lower energy days. When there are patterns that are harmful to our physical or emotional health, you can chose to rest and be kind, or access care to help manage those symptoms – aka, book an appointment to be seen at Hearts and Hands. There are many options for care, from life style changes to botanicals and supplements to traditional pharmaceutical medications. There is help out there to feel better with your or your loved ones hormones, but remember, to embrace and feel empowered with the pattern of your cycle you need to listen, learn and understand it.

 

  1. Decrease in estrogen levels with age, https://www.invitra.com/en/cervical-mucus/estrogen-hormone-graph/, Feb 28, 2024
  2. Romm, A (2021) Hormone Intelligence, New York, NY: HarperOne.