- Estrogen and progesterone are hormones present in human bodies.
- When they are out of balance, it can cause many health issues.
- There are many ways to fix this imbalance, both chemically and naturally.
Estrogen and progesterone are hormones in the human body associated with female sexual development, but male and intersex people also produce these hormones. The human body has approximately 50 known hormones. When and how much is present significantly impacts growth, metabolism, reproduction, and other systems.
Biological sex and age change the presence of certain hormones and their levels in the body, and they can become imbalanced. Hormone imbalances, especially estrogen and progesterone, can wreak havoc on your health.
Let’s explore these two powerful hormones, how they relate to each other, and how to keep them balanced.
What Are the Functions of Estrogen and Progesterone?
While estrogen and progesterone have a reputation as major players in the female sexual reproduction game, they do a whole lot more than that and are essential in everybody. Together, they help control:
- Development of the brain
- Creation of strong bones
- Maintain a healthy appetite and weight
- Mood cycles and behavior
When either of these hormones is out of balance, it can cause serious health issues. Fortunately, there are ways of evaluating estrogen and progesterone to know the best way to help them snap back into shape.
Imbalanced Estrogen and Progesterone
Any imbalanced hormone can harm your general well-being, and some can be downright dangerous. Several issues can arise when there is too much or not enough estrogen or progesterone.
The body can make too much estrogen or metabolize it incorrectly to cause dominance. This condition can cause fibroids, increase risk of breast and uterine cancers, endometriosis, and polycystic ovarian syndrome.
In men and intersex bodies, it can look like gynecomastia (breast-like developments), hair loss, enlarged prostate, and depression.
Changes in the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) supplements can cause an increase in progesterone. It causes many of the same symptoms as estrogen dominance.
In men and intersex people, it can cause extreme fatigue, difficulty losing weight, mood swings, and lowered libido.
Estrogen naturally declines with age. When women go into menopause, estrogen depletes rapidly, and hot flashes, night sweats, mood swings, and other symptoms occur. Thyroid issues, chemotherapy, pituitary gland problems, and congenital issues can all cause a drop in estrogen.
Stress is the most common cause of drops in progesterone. Xenoestrogen, an estrogen-like chemical compound in many foods and cosmetics, as well as excessive exercise, can also cause deficiencies.
Estrogen and progesterone work off each other. When one is high, the other is typically low. Since they are so similar in function, it’s easy to regulate their presence and levels simultaneously.
Regulating Estrogen and Progesterone Levels
Balancing hormones at midlife is no easy task, especially for women, but it is vital to subduing the many side effects of imbalance. Many natural remedies can help, but there are also medicines available.
Hormonal imbalances are a good night’s sleep’s worst enemy. And since sleep is necessary for healthy hormone balance, this causes a significant circular problem. Some people turn to sleep medications, but natural remedies such as chamomile, lavender, and meditation can also help regulate sleep patterns and hormones.
Stress impacts so many of our bodily functions, including the production of cortisol and hormones. Yoga, meditation, and other stress reduction techniques help reduce the urge to lose your cool in the moment but also teach you to reduce stress levels for the long term.
Maintain Liver and Gut Health
Optimal liver health is crucial because it metabolizes estrogen. Reducing exposure to alcohol and other toxins is the first step.
Gut microbes also help regulate estrogen. Keeping your gut in good shape means eating fermented foods, like kimchi, kefir, and sauerkraut, that nurture good microbiome bacteria.
The typical American diet of processed sugary foods keeps estrogen in high production. Other types of diets, like the Mediterranean diet, work in the opposite way. They normalize estrogen with foods such as whole grains, leafy veggies, olive oils, and fish.
Regular exercise reduces body fat, which carries estrogen. Exercise also helps the body be more receptive to the messages hormones carry.
Many herbs help with the ebbs and flows of estrogen and progesterone. These include:
- Chaste tree berry: Known as a female herb, this herb efficiently regulates estrogen and progesterone in women. In men, however, it dampens the sex drive and has a negative impact on the hormones.
- Wild yam: Promoted as a natural alternative to progesterone hormone therapy, it can help with menopause symptoms, lack of sex drive, and breast enlargement.
- Licorice: This unusual-tasting herb has positive adrenal functions and helps promote progesterone. It can be dangerous for those with high blood pressure, however.
Always consult with a medical professional before taking any supplement.
Hormone replacement therapy is a complex decision. Traditional (HRT) replacement therapy is synthetic or artificial. These chemicals act similarly to your natural hormones, but they are not exactly the same. Long-term HRT has many risks, including stroke, increased rates of certain cancers, and heart disease.
With BHRT (Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy), the hormones come from plants and are bioidentical to human hormones. Bioidentical hormones can be customized based on each person’s distinctive hormone profile.
There are several effective ways to balance and replace estrogen and progesterone. The key is finding what works for your particular situation and symptoms.
All sorts of health problems arise when your hormones are out of whack. It depends on the reason for the imbalance, but you can usually get back to feeling like yourself using natural methods. Trial and error with plenty of medical advice will reveal the answer.
Holistic Help with Your Hormone Issues
Hormone deficits and dominances are hard enough to understand, but add in all the signs, symptoms, and causes, and it can sound like gibberish to a layperson.
Dr. Karen Threlkel is a naturopathic doctor serving primarily women (and women’s health concerns) in the greater D.C. area. She provides a holistic approach to medicine (mind-body-spirit) and natural-focused remedies for treating symptoms and underlying conditions. Contact our offices today to see everything we can do for you.