Estrogen: Hormone, Function, Levels & Imbalances (2023)


What is estrogen?

Estrogen is one of two sex hormones commonly associated with people assigned female at birth (AFAB), including cisgender women, transgender men and nonbinary people with vaginas. Along with progesterone, estrogen plays a key role in your reproductive health. The development of secondary sex characteristics (breasts, hips, etc.), menstruation, pregnancy and menopause are all possible, in part, because of estrogen.

Estrogen plays an important role in other body systems, too. For this reason, although AFAB people have the most estrogen, all genders make this hormone.

What are the types of estrogen?

There are three major forms of estrogen:

  • Estrone (E1) is the primary form of estrogen that your body makes after menopause.
  • Estradiol (E2) is the primary form of estrogen in your body during your reproductive years. It’s the most potent form of estrogen.
  • Estriol (E3) is the primary form of estrogen during pregnancy.

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What role does estrogen play in reproductive health for women or DFAB?

Estrogen, like all hormones, is a chemical messenger. It tells your body when to start and stop processes affecting your sexual and reproductive health. These processes cause important changes in your body.


Estrogen levels rise during puberty. The increase leads to secondary sex characteristics like breasts and changes in overall body composition (like curves).

Menstrual cycle

Along with hormones made in your brain (FSH and LH) and progesterone, estrogen plays an important part in your menstrual cycle. These hormones coexist in a delicate balance to keep your periods regular. Estrogen plays a role in ovulation (when your ovaries release an egg) and thickens the lining of your uterus (endometrium) to prepare it for pregnancy.

Pregnancy & Fertility

Estrogen peaks in the days leading up to ovulation. This is your most fertile period. At the same time, estrogen thins your cervical mucus, a fluid sperm has to swim through to reach and fertilize an egg. These estrogen-induced changes make it easier for you to become pregnant if you have intercourse.

Regardless of where you are in your menstrual cycle, the presence of estrogen makes it more comfortable to have intercourse. It keeps your vaginal walls thick, elastic and lubricated, reducing pain associated with penetrative sex.

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Estrogen levels drop during perimenopause, the time right before menopause. Perimenopause may last several years before menopause. Menopause officially begins when you don’t have a period for 12 months. It usually happens around age 51. With menopause, your estrogen levels drop and you no longer ovulate. The decrease in estrogen may lead to symptoms like vaginal dryness, mood changes, night sweats and hot flashes.

The primary estrogen in your body changes from estradiol (E2) to estrone (E1) during menopause.

What role does estrogen play in reproductive health for men or AMAB?

Estrogen affects the reproductive health of people who are assigned male at birth (AMAB), too. In cisgender men, transgender women and nonbinary people with penises, estrogen impacts sex drive and the ability to get an erection and make sperm.

Too little estrogen can lead to a low sex drive. Too much of it can cause infertility and erectile dysfunction. Excessive estrogen can cause gynecomastia, or enlarged breasts.

If you’re assigned male at birth and concerned about your estrogen levels, speak with an endocrinologist or a functional medicine specialist for help.

What is the non-reproductive function of estrogen?

Estrogen regulates important processes in your skeletal, cardiovascular, and central nervous systems that impact your overall health. Estrogen affects:

  • Cholesterol levels.
  • Blood sugar levels.
  • Bone and muscle mass.
  • Circulation and blood flow.
  • Collagen production and moisture in your skin.
  • Brain function, including your ability to focus.


Where is estrogen located in the body?

Your ovaries make most of your estrogen during your reproductive years. Your adrenal glands (the glands on your kidneys) and adipose tissue (body fat) secrete estrogen, too. The placenta (the organ that allows nutrient-sharing between parent and fetus) secretes estrogen during pregnancy.

Once it’s released, estrogen travels through the bloodstream until it reaches the part of your body that needs to be spurred into action. There, estrogen binds to a protein, called an estrogen receptor, that gets the process moving. Estrogen receptors are located throughout your body.

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Conditions and Disorders

What are the common conditions and disorders associated with estrogen?

Estrogen plays a role in most conditions that fall under the umbrella of women’s health. Some of the most common include:

  • Anorexia nervosa: Conditions like anorexia nervosa are associated with low estrogen levels. Too little estrogen can cause irregular and missed periods (amenorrhea). People with very little body fat (models, athletes) or engage in disordered eating may also have low estrogen.
  • Breast cancer: Studies have shown that increased exposure to estrogen does not increase breast cancer risk, but it may worsen breast cancer once it’s formed.
  • Endometriosis: Estrogen doesn’t cause endometriosis, but estrogen may worsen endometriosis pain.
  • Female sexual dysfunction (FSD): Falling estrogen levels can cause physical and emotional changes that make sex less enjoyable. However, estrogen is not considered for hormone replacement until you’re menopausal.
  • Fibrocystic breasts: Fluctuating estrogen levels during your menstrual cycle may make your breast tissue feel lumpy, tender or uncomfortable.
  • Infertility: Low and high estrogen can disrupt your menstrual cycle. Underlying causes that can lead to low and high estrogen may be associated with infertility.
  • Obesity: Estrogen levels are often higher among people with more body fat.
  • Osteoporosis: Low estrogen levels can weaken your bones so that they fracture and break more easily.
  • Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): PCOS is a condition that occurs when the ovaries produce too many androgens (hormones associated with being assigned male at birth). Sometimes with PCOS, estrogen levels are too high in relation to progesterone levels.
  • Primary ovarian insufficiency (also known as premature menopause): With this condition, the ovaries prematurely stop producing eggs (before age 40). As a result, your ovaries don’t secrete the estrogen your body needs.
  • Premenstrual syndrome (PMS) and Premenstrual dysphoric disorder (PMDD): The cyclical hormone changes associated with menstruation can lead to unpleasant physical symptoms and mood changes. Dips in estrogen following ovulation are a potential cause of PMS and PMDD.
  • Turner Syndrome: Ovaries are often underdeveloped in Turner syndrome, resulting in low estrogen. As a result, people with this condition may not develop breasts or get their periods.
  • Uterine cancer (endometrial cancer): High estrogen levels may cause the lining of your uterus to build up. Eventually, cancer cells may start to grow.
  • Uterine fibroids and polyps: Too much estrogen may be associated with noncancerous tumors called fibroids or polyps that grow in your uterus.
  • Vaginal atrophy (atrophic vaginitis): Too little estrogen may cause the lining of your vagina to thin and become dry. Vaginal atrophy is most common during menopause and postmenopause.

Research is ongoing about estrogen's role in conditions affecting other body systems. For instance, estrogen has been linked to some endocrine disorders and gastrointestinal diseases.

What are normal estrogen levels?

Estrogen levels rise and fall throughout life. The fluctuation is normal. For instance, it’s normal for estrogen levels to rise during puberty and decline as you approach menopause. It’s normal for estrogen levels to rise during ovulation so that your body can prepare itself for pregnancy. It’s normal for levels to dip during your period when the pregnancy changes aren’t needed.

Levels that are consistently low or high may signal an underlying condition that requires your provider’s attention.

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What happens when estrogen levels are consistently low?

Low estrogen is often a tell-tale sign that you’re approaching menopause. Low estrogen may also signify a fertility problem, a nutritional deficiency, a condition like Turner syndrome, etc.

Symptoms may include:

  • Breast tenderness.
  • Weak or brittle bones.
  • Hot flashes and night sweats.
  • Irregular periods or no periods.
  • Headaches, trouble concentrating.
  • Fatigue, drowsiness, trouble sleeping.
  • Mood changes, irritability and depression.
  • Vaginal dryness, leading to painful intercourse (dyspareunia).

What happens when estrogen levels are consistently high?

Excess estrogen in your body can be associated with multiple conditions: polyps, fibroids, PCOS, endometriosis pain, ovarian tumors, etc.). Your levels may be high because you have too much estrogen in relation to your other sex hormone, progesterone. Medications you’re taking that contain estrogen may cause you to have too much of it in your body.

Symptoms may include:

  • Decreased sex drive.
  • Weight gain, especially in your waist and hips.
  • Irregular periods (unpredictable timing, light or heavy bleeding).
  • Worsening symptoms associated with PMS or PMDD.

How do I know my estrogen level?

An estrogen test can measure your levels of estrone (E1), estradiol (E2) or estriol (E3). Your provider will do a simple blood draw and send it to a lab for analysis.

What are common treatments for estrogen-related conditions?

Hormone replacement therapy (HT) is a common treatment for low estrogen, especially for people experiencing menopause. With HT, your provider prescribes small doses of estrogen to boost your level or a combination of estrogen and progesterone (or the synthetic version of progesterone, progestin). HT comes with risks, though, and isn’t for everyone. Talk to your provider about whether you’re a good candidate for HT.


How can I maintain healthy estrogen levels?

You can’t always prevent the conditions associated with hormone imbalances. Still, you can put good practices into place to help maintain your overall health.

  • Get enough sleep. Getting adequate, uninterrupted sleep each night helps your body maintain the healthy hormone levels needed to carry out important functions.
  • Manage your stress. High stress can cause your body to produce too much of the stress hormones cortisol and adrenaline. Excess stress hormones can cause a hormone imbalance that negatively impacts your estrogen levels.
  • Get the right amount of exercise. A healthy amount of exercise can help you regulate how much you eat and how much body fat you have. It can help you sleep better, too.
  • Limit your alcohol intake. Alcohol can raise your estrogen levels. Over time, too much exposure to estrogen may raise your cancer risk.
  • Practice good eating habits. Monitor your food intake to help balance your hormones. Reducing foods with sugar and eating foods high in fiber and healthy fats (fats found in olive oil, nuts, seeds and fish) can help with hormone balance.

A note from Cleveland Clinic

Estrogen is an essential part of your reproductive health — and your overall health for that matter. It’s natural for estrogen levels to vary depending on your age and menstrual cycle. If they’re consistently high or low, you may experience unpleasant symptoms worth discussing with your provider. Treatments are available that can help, most often in the form of contraception, lifestyle modifications or hormonal therapies after menopause.

(Video) 8 Alarming Signs You Have Too Much Estrogen


What happens when estrogen is imbalanced? ›

The female sex hormone estrogen has an effect on neurotransmitters in the brain including serotonin (a chemical that boosts mood). Fluctuations in estrogen can cause premenstrual syndrome (PMS) or depressed mood during the perimenopause (the phase before periods stop completely) and the menopause.

How do estrogen levels affect your body? ›

In addition to regulating the menstrual cycle, estrogen affects the reproductive tract, the urinary tract, the heart and blood vessels, bones, breasts, skin, hair, mucous membranes, pelvic muscles, and the brain.

What are the 5 hormonal imbalances? ›

The five most important hormonal imbalances are diabetes, hypo- and hyperthyroidism, adrenal insufficiency, polycystic ovary syndrome, and hypogonadism.

How do I know if my estrogen is too high or too low? ›

If your doctor suspects that you might have high estrogen, they'll likely order a blood test to check your hormone levels. A trained professional will collect a sample of your blood to be tested in a laboratory. The results will indicate if your estrogen levels are too low or too high.

How do you get rid of estrogen imbalance? ›

  1. Decrease your percentage of body fat. ...
  2. Relieve stress. ...
  3. Eat a healthy diet: Eating a low-fat, high-fiber diet with very little processed sugar can make it easier for your liver to process estrogen.
  4. Limit your alcohol intake: Eliminating alcohol or drinking in moderation can help your liver break down estrogen.
Feb 9, 2022

How do you fix estrogen imbalance naturally? ›

Here are some ways to naturally balance your hormones.
  1. Get enough protein. ...
  2. Exercise regularly. ...
  3. Maintain a moderate weight. ...
  4. Watch your gut health. ...
  5. Lower sugar intake. ...
  6. Reduce stress. ...
  7. Get enough sleep. ...
  8. Eat healthy fats.

What vitamins can increase estrogen? ›

Vitamin B, Vitamin D, Boron
  • All three of these vitamins/minerals play an important role in the body's production of estrogen.
  • If any of them are low, it can lead to a decrease in the body's regular production of estrogen.

Which vitamin deficiency causes hormone imbalance? ›

A deficiency in vitamin D can lead to lower estrogen levels, which can cause depression, hot flashes, mood swings, and much more. Parathyroid hormone imbalance. A vitamin D deficiency limits your body's ability to regulate calcium levels, which your parathyroid controls.

How do you feel with low estrogen levels? ›

Signs of low estrogen include:
  1. Dry skin.
  2. Tender breasts.
  3. Weak or brittle bones.
  4. Trouble concentrating.
  5. Moodiness and irritability.
  6. Vaginal dryness or atrophy.
  7. Hot flashes and night sweats.
  8. Irregular periods or no periods (amenorrhea).
Feb 8, 2022

What symptoms does high estrogen cause? ›

Summary. High estrogen levels can cause symptoms such as irregular or heavy periods, weight gain, fatigue, and fibroids in females. In males, they can cause breast tissue growth, difficulty getting or maintaining an erection, and infertility.

Can low estrogen cause anxiety? ›

The drop in estrogen and progesterone that occurs at the end of a women's menstrual cycle may cause anxiety and other mood symptoms. This is similar to the drop experienced during perimenopause, the time during which your body makes the natural transition to menopause.

How do I know which hormone is imbalanced? ›

Blood test. Your doctor will send a sample of your blood to a lab for testing. Most hormones can be detected in the blood. A doctor can request a blood test to check your thyroid and your levels of estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol.

What are 3 Disorders causes by hormone imbalances? ›

Adrenal Insufficiency & Addison's Disease. Cushing's Syndrome. Cystic Fibrosis link.

Does low estrogen cause fatigue? ›

Fatigue and Sleep Issues

Estrogen is intimately linked to serotonin, and serotonin makes melatonin. Melatonin is the primary sleep hormone. This means, if you've been sleeping less and feeling fatigued, you could have low estrogen.

Does vitamin D increase estrogen? ›

High blood levels of vitamin D linked to reduced estrogen – and potentially lower breast cancer risk. Can taking daily vitamin D supplements decrease sex-hormone levels and thereby potentially reduce the risk of breast cancer in older women?

How do you normalize estrogen levels? ›

10 Natural Ways to Balance Your Hormones
  1. Eat enough protein at every meal. ...
  2. Engage in regular exercise. ...
  3. Maintain a moderate weight. ...
  4. Take care of your gut health. ...
  5. Lower your sugar intake. ...
  6. Try stress reduction techniques. ...
  7. Consume healthy fats. ...
  8. Get consistent, high quality sleep.

What vitamins help hormonal imbalance? ›

The 4 Essential Vitamins and Nutrients for Hormonal Imbalance
  • Vitamin D. Vitamin D controls the production and activity of estrogen and progesterone to keep these hormones balanced . ...
  • Vitamin C. Ascorbic acid (vitamin C) is a popular vitamin, nutrient, and antioxidant. ...
  • B Vitamins. ...
  • Vitamin B12. ...
  • Vitamin B6. ...
  • Omega-3.

What is the main cause of hormonal imbalance? ›

What Causes Hormonal Imbalance? An imbalance in hormones can be caused by unusually high stress, insufficient sleep, an unhealthy diet, diabetes, menopause, pregnancy, thyroid problems, and other conditions.

What foods should I avoid if I have hormonal imbalance? ›

4 Foods That Throw off Your Hormonal Balance
  • Red Meat. Red meat contains high amounts of saturated and hydrogenated fats which are considered unhealthy types of fat. ...
  • Processed Foods. Processed and refined foods have been linked to various health issues. ...
  • Caffeine. ...
  • Soy and Dairy products.

What causes lack of estrogen? ›

The most common cause of low estrogen is menopause. But too much exercise, disordered eating, or complications with your ovaries could also lead to lower levels. HRT may be an option for reducing symptoms, but you should talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits.

What is the best vitamin for estrogen? ›

B vitamins

B vitamins play an important role in the creation and activation of estrogen in the body. Low levels of these vitamins can lead to reduced levels of estrogen.

What vitamin is deficient in estrogen? ›

Estrogen imbalance: Vitamin D deficiency may lead to lowered estrogen levels, which can cause depression, hot flashes, mood swings and more. Impaired immune system: Vitamin D deficiency may lead to an impaired immune system, putting women at an increased risk of infection and illness.

How do you balance estrogen and progesterone? ›

How To Balance Estrogen and Progesterone
  1. 1 - Reduce stress. ...
  2. 2 - Get enough sleep. ...
  3. 3 - Maintain a healthy liver and gut. ...
  4. 4 - Eat for hormone health. ...
  5. 5 - Improve hormone receptivity with exercise. ...
  6. 6 - Consider replacement.
Apr 15, 2022

What is the best hormone balance supplement? ›

Here are the 10 best hormone balance supplements you should take.
  • Magnesium. Taking magnesium for hormone balance regulates cortisol (the stress hormone) and estrogen while producing testosterone and increasing DHEA and serotonin. ...
  • Vitamin D. ...
  • Diindolymethyl (DIM) ...
  • DHEA. ...
  • Probiotics. ...
  • Maca. ...
  • Chaste Tree. ...
  • Licorice root.

Can low estrogen cause weight gain? ›

For women, a specific estrogen hormone called estradiol decreases at menopause helps regulate metabolism and body weight. The lower the levels of estradiol may cause weight gain. Throughout a woman's life, they may notice weight gain around their hips and thighs.

Can low estrogen make you feel weird? ›

Your mental health is declining

Estrogen is associated with serotonin, which is one of your brain's neurotransmitters responsible for boosting our moods. This is why women with low estrogen can suffer from depression. They can also experience strong mood swings, anxiety, irritability, and anger.

Does high estrogen cause anxiety? ›

Fluctuating levels of estrogen and testosterone, which are considered sex hormones, may play a role in how much anxiety you experience. Changing levels of these hormones can affect your mood. This is why anxiety sometimes peaks during times of hormonal change such as puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, and menopause.

What are the symptoms of high estrogen and low progesterone? ›

The more frequent fluctuations in estrogen, along with low progesterone are what produce estrogen dominance symptoms: heavy periods, worsened PMS, sleep problems and hot flashes. Overall, perimenopause is a time of low progesterone and high estrogen.

What hormone causes panic attacks? ›

A new study has linked panic disorder to a wayward hormone in a brain circuit that regulates vigilance. While too little of the hormone, called orexin, is known to underlie narcolepsy, the new finding suggests that too much of it may lead to panic attacks.

Which hormone is responsible for stress? ›

Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars (glucose) in the bloodstream, enhances your brain's use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. Cortisol also curbs functions that would be nonessential or harmful in a fight-or-flight situation.

Can low estrogen cause mental health problems? ›

Low estrogen levels can lead to irritability, anxiety, and depression. Your moods can change quickly and vary greatly, from laughing to crying within minutes.

How long does it take for a hormonal imbalance to correct itself? ›

How Long Does It Take to Balance Hormones? As you can imagine, this varies. However, research shows that by taking a holistic, well-rounded approach, you can balance your hormones in less than four months. In fact, you can significantly reduce the amount of chemicals and pesticides in your body, in one week.

How can I check my estrogen level at home? ›

Blood tests – At-home estrogen blood tests are quick and easy. You just need to prick your finger and collect a small blood sample in a vial. After that, you can send your sample to a lab for testing. Urine tests – Estrogen tests that use urine take a little longer to administer.

Is hormonal imbalance reversible? ›

Too much or too little of a certain hormone can throw off your body's balance and have a series of strange effects, including weight gain, depression, anxiety, infertility, thinning hair, or even acne. Thankfully, hormonal imbalance can be treatable.

What is the most common female hormone disorder? ›

The most common female hormone disorders include: Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS): This is the most common of the female hormone disorders. It causes irregular periods, ovarian cysts, weight gain, and fertility problems. PCOS affects about 1 in 10 women of reproductive age.

What is the most common hormone deficiency? ›

The most common hormones that show selective deficiencies are GH and gonadotropins. Children tend to suffer from GH deficiency while adults often complain of symptoms from gonadotropin deficiency [3].

What is a hormonal belly? ›

Sometimes, excess fat around the belly is due to hormones. Hormones help regulate many bodily functions, including metabolism, stress, hunger, and sex drive. If a person has a deficiency in certain hormones, it may result in weight gain around the abdomen, which is known as a hormonal belly.

Can low estrogen affect sleep? ›

Low estrogen levels typically cause insomnia, because estrogen helps move magnesium into tissues, which is crucial for catalyzing the synthesis of important sleep neurotransmitters, including melatonin.

Does lack of estrogen cause brain fog? ›

Regardless of whether a woman's estrogen levels are low or high, the imbalance can contribute to cloudy thinking. For women, maintaining a balance of estrogen can reduce the feelings of brain fog.

Does low estrogen cause hair loss? ›

When the levels of estrogen and progesterone drop, hair grows more slowly and becomes much thinner. A decrease in these hormones also triggers an increase in the production of androgens, or a group of male hormones. Androgens shrink hair follicles, resulting in hair loss on the head.

What happens if a female has too much or too little estrogen production? ›

As estrogen levels drastically change in perimenopause, high levels can cause bloating, breast tenderness, and heavy bleeding. Once these levels become more consistently low, that can cause hot flashes, night sweats, mood changes, changes in fat distribution (new or growing “spare tire”), insomnia, and fatigue.

What problems can too much estrogen cause? ›

Estrogen dominance causes a variety of sexual issues, including vaginal dryness, loss of libido, and sexual dysfunction. Excess estrogen can also cause heavy menstrual periods, fibrocystic breasts, fatigue, depression, and water retention.

How do I balance my hormones with too much estrogen? ›

Five Steps To Reduce Oestrogen Excess
  1. Eat Phytoestrogen Rich Foods. Phytoestrogens found in soy and legumes provide a weaker form of oestrogen that down regulates your total oestrogen load. ...
  2. Reduce Your Alcohol Intake. ...
  3. Eat Magnesium Rich Foods or Supplement. ...
  4. Eat Cruciferous Vegetables Regularly. ...
  5. Aim for 30 g of fibre per day.


1. Hormone Balance in Women: Estrogen, Progesterone, PCOS, and more
(Rajsree Nambudripad, MD)
2. How to Fix Your Low Estrogen Levels
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
3. Understanding the Women Menstrual Cycle and Estrogen Dominance – Dr. Berg
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4. Hormones Out of Balance - This is Why! - Dr. Berg On Hormonal Imbalance
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
5. Fix Your HORMONES with the Right FOOD!
(Dr. Eric Berg DC)
6. The Underlying Causes And Solutions For Women’s Hormonal Imbalances
(Mark Hyman, MD)
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