To start with, oestrogen is an umbrella title for a group of hormones (the three major ones being oestriol, oestradiol and oestrone).
Sure, we know oestrogen plays a role in ovulation and our menstrual cycle, but what other roles does it have in the body?
These hormones influence us throughout out lives, including during puberty, pregnancy and menopause. Oestrogen is vital for health egg production and for nourishing the uterine tissue.
In the lead up to the middle of your menstrual cycle, oestrogen levels peak as ovulation looms.
It’s also responsible for healthy moods, energy and vibrancy, skin health and encourages a clear, level head and focus.
Oestrogen primes our body for penetrative sex, increasing lubrication and nerve sensation. Too little oestrogen can lead to vaginal atrophy (aka thinning of the tissues that make up the vagina and vulva).
Some women are scared of “oestrogen dominance” and others are worried they don’t produce enough oestrogen to maintain a healthy sex life.
It can be confusing – and googling can lead to all kinds of fear tactics and open up a can of worms. To keep things simple, I’m going to bust some common oestrogen myths and give you with some straight up facts.
Myth #1: Your levels of oestrogen aren’t in the “normal” range
During puberty, our brain gets the signal from our ovaries to release oestrogen in relation to where we are in our menstrual cycle.
This chart here gives you a good idea of what your oestrogen levels look like over your cycle each month.
Minute to minute, day to day, our levels change as our hormonal secretion is sporadic. As we age and head towards perimenopause and menopause, our oestrogen levels change again and steadily begin to decline.
If you’ve ever had your oestrogen levels tested via a blood test, your results will vary depending on the day/time/alignment of the moon (ok I’m kidding about that last one!).
As well as having these daily dips and peaks alongside our monthly cycle, it’s no wonder your hormone levels aren’t in the same “range” as your roommates or sisters – your base line oestrogen levels may very well be different from other women.
If your levels of oestrogen aren’t within the “normal” lab range, ask yourself
- Was this a once off test or done over a couple of cycles (to discover your “baseline” and compare results against that)
- What time in relationship to your cycle was this result taken? (Pre-ovulation, post ovulation or are you even ovulating at all?!)
- Was this test taken in the morning like your last one, or in the evening?
It is pretty uncommon for someone to be constantly within the “normal” oestrogen range when you aren’t taking in to account the information above.
A professional, qualified naturopath such as myself, have been trained to read your results as part of a larger picture not just a number on a page, and can interpret your test results in relation to your symptoms, cycle, lifestyle and other health concerns.
If your test results aren’t in the “normal” range, don’t freak out – seek out the opinion of a trained professional and get to the bottom of your concerns.
Myth #2: You can have too much oestrogen in your body⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀⠀
Well yes and no… (ugh how frustrating!)
Oestrogen dominance can be a bit of a misnomer as it’s not so much the fact that you have too much oestrogen, but rather the fact that your progesterone levels aren’t balancing it out. A better term for this is RELATIVE OESTROGEN EXCESS.
Relative oestrogen excess can lead to unpleasant feelings such as heavier periods, hot flushes and a heavy foggy head.
Reportedly most common in younger women, this can impact your libido and sexual health, as mood changes may occur, leaving your so not in the mood to be intimate.
This hormonal imbalance can also make symptoms of fibroids and endometriosis worse.
Correcting relative oestrogen excess is about balancing out your progesterone/oestrogen ratios, supporting elimination of hormone metabolites (aka hormone wastes), addressing your nutritional intake and supporting the nervous and reproductive system through evidence informed herbal supplementations and formulas.
A balanced ratio of progesterone to oestrogen is a beautiful thing, with plenty of (libido lovin’) body benefits to be observed…
Oestrogen helps the body to repair damage and rebuild bone density, alongside vitamin D and calcium. Strong bones are our foundation – they allow us to exercise, bend, move and dance!
Mood Boosting Effects
Oestrogen can cause our levels of “happy” hormone, serotonin to rise.
This can increase those feel good warm fuzzies and reduce feelings of depression.
This is why, post ovulation, leading up to menstruation, we can notice mood changes, as our oestrogen levels decrease.
Serotonin and our libido are closely linked, with research suggesting that higher serotonin levels are associated with an increase in our “love” hormone oxytocin. This can lead to more bonding and intimate partner time, which of course, can lead to sex.
A balance of oestrogen/progesterone give your skin the love it deserves!
Collagen production, the protein responsible for our skin’s elasticity and glow, increases in the presence of oestrogen. Less oestrogen can leave skin looking dull and wrinkled.
Muscle tone and elasticity of the pelvic floor
Due to the relationship between oestrogen and skin elasticity, it should come as no surprise that our hormones and our pelvic floor strength have a link. The mucosa of the vaginal and urethra are rich in oestrogen receptors, and as such, are sensitive to changes in oestrogen levels.
Maintaining balanced levels of our sex hormones ensures our pelvic floor is getting the blood flow and maintain the elasticity it requires to perform its function.
Poor pelvic floor tone can affect pleasurable sensations and can lead towards uncomfortable penetrative sex and lowered sex drive.
Oestrogen is linked to vaginal lubrication
Having difficulty maintaining enough lubrication during sexual activities (despite doing all the “right” things)? It could be related to your oestrogen levels.
As we age, as well as during other health changes (such as amenorrhoea (no period)), we can find that our vagina is no longer producing enough lubrication to entertain a pleasurable sexual experience.
This can lead to pain upon penetration as well as during deeper sexual intercourse and can result in difficulty staying aroused and even an aversion to intimate touch.
Seeking the advice of a health care practitioner to discuss your options is a great first step – as lifestyle changes, dietary tweaks and certain herbs can all play their role in pumping up your lubrication levels and ensuring you’re enjoying your intimate moments.
The takeaway message
Oestrogen is a complex sex hormone – and this only scratched the surface – but the basics are where we all begin and I hope it’s given you an oversight into why oestrogen is so important for us, and not just in the context of the menstrual cycle.
Speaking to a qualified professional is the first step in taking charge of your sexual health and getting your glow back.
If you’re concerned about your hormone balance and want to get to the bottom of it, no more band-aid fixes, book an initial appointment HERE and let’s work together to get you feeling like your sensual self again!