3 ways to increase estrogen naturally
Everyone knows their bodies will change with age — hair may turn gray, skin wrinkles and eyesight worsens. But hormonal changes are happening beneath the surface too. For people assigned female at birth, a decrease in estrogen can have a significant impact on how they feel.
Most people only think of estrogen as a reproductive hormone. Supporting reproductive organs and processes is its main function, but estrogen also plays a critical role in:
- Bone strength
- Heart health
Fortunately, there are ways to combat low estrogen, and they don’t all involve hormone replacement therapy (HRT) — treatments that contain female hormones. You may be able to boost your estrogen levels naturally by eating certain foods and taking herbal and vitamin supplements.
Read on, and then check with your primary care physician (PCP) to see if these solutions will work for you.
Causes of low estrogen
- Cancer treatment
- Eating disorders
- Having your uterus removed (hysterectomy)
Signs of low estrogen
Hormone levels can vary depending on the day and the person — what’s normal for you may not be the same as your friend, coworker or sister. Estrogen levels change according to your menstrual cycle, which tends to be irregular during perimenopause and non-existent after menopause.
Common symptoms of low estrogen include:
- Brain fog (trouble concentrating)
- Decreased interest in sex
- Hot flashes
- Irregular periods
- Mood changes
- Trouble sleeping
- Vaginal dryness
If you suspect low estrogen, your PCP can order a blood test. It’s the only way to know whether your estrogen levels are low.
How to increase estrogen naturally
If you’re having symptoms associated with low estrogen, there are natural approaches you can take. Keep in mind that research on these solutions’ ability to effectively manage estrogen levels is limited.
Natural solutions that may improve low estrogen include:
1. Eating foods that boost estrogen
All plants contain phytochemicals — compounds that work as antioxidants and offer protection from DNA damage. One group of phytochemicals, called phytoestrogens, mimics estrogen. When eaten, your body absorbs them during digestion and recognizes them as estrogen.
The most common phytoestrogens are:
Foods containing high levels of these specific phytoestrogens include:
- Fruits, including apples, berries, grapes, peaches, pears, plums
- Grains, such as barley, oats, wheat germ
- Liquids derived from plants, specifically beer, coffee, olive oil, red wine, tea
- Nuts and Seeds, including almonds, flaxseeds, peanuts, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds
- Soy and soy products, such as soybeans, tofu, miso soup, miso paste
- Vegetables, particularly broccoli, Brussels sprouts, kale, onions, spinach, sprouts
Research suggests that phytoestrogens provide health benefits if you consume an average of 50 mg daily. That’s about ½-cup of boiled soybeans.
2. Getting enough of the minerals and vitamins that help estrogen levels
Some vitamins and minerals help your body produce estrogen and use it more effectively. To increase your estrogen levels, consider adding:
- Boron, a mineral that helps your body absorb testosterone and estrogen
- Vitamin B, which helps your body create and use estrogen
- Vitamin D, which functions as a hormone in the body and helps with estrogen production
- Vitamin E, because research shows vitamin E may help reduce hot flashes and insomnia.
3. Taking natural estrogen supplements
There are supplements believed to reduce the symptoms of low estrogen. But supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), so talk to your PCP about any supplements you’re considering before taking them.
Natural supplements believed to affect estrogen levels include:
- Black cohosh: People use this Native American herbal remedy to treat menopause symptoms associated with low estrogen. One small study shows it to be especially effective in treating hot flashes.
- DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone): A synthetic version of this naturally occurring hormone — available as pills, powders and topical treatments — can help produce other hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
- Red clover: This herbal supplement is rich in phytoestrogens. Research shows it is effective at alleviating hot flashes in menopausal women. Further study is needed to determine if red clover increases estrogen.