Females with an estrogen imbalance may experience weight gain, decreased mood, and intense PMS symptoms. In males, high estrogen levels can lead to difficulties in achieving or maintaining an erection. The body must properly balance estrogen and other sex hormones for optimal health.
Estrogen is a hormone found in males and females but in higher female concentrations. Estrogen levels naturally change over time, but persistently high levels can lead to unwanted health issues. The effects of estrogen can vary between males and females.
Estrogen is significant in both male and female health and essential to sexual development and other bodily functions. This hormone helps to regulate cholesterol levels, keep bones strong, and influence emotions. For women, it is also a significant factor in puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, and menopause.
There are three main types of estrogen:
Estrone (E1): Estrone is the primary type of estrogen found in both males and females. It is produced by the ovaries, placenta, testicles, and fat tissue and is synthesised from androstenedione or androgens. After menopause, estrone is the primary form of estrogen in women.
Estradiol (E2): Estriol is the most potent type of estrogen found in the human body. It is produced mainly by the ovaries and reaches its highest levels in women of reproductive age. Estriol is used by doctors to measure the health of a woman's ovaries and to monitor hormone levels during pregnancy.
Estriol (E3): Estriol, a type of estrogen, is produced by the placenta and reaches its highest levels as the fetus grows during the pregnancy.
Estrogen levels, including the reproductive system, skin, hair, bones, muscles, brain, and breast tissue, can significantly impact the body. Although its effects are most pronounced in females, males can experience similar changes due to the presence of breast tissue.
Estrogen dominance occurs when the ratio of estrogen to progesterone is higher than usual.
Possible causes of elevated estrogen levels include:
Estrogen dominance in females occurs when the estrogen level exceeds the amount of progesterone, another female hormone. Any of the conditions listed above can cause this.
The following factors may cause estrogen dominance:
Obesity: Excessive body weight can lead to an increase in estrogen levels because fat tissue produces estrogen.
Stress: Elevated stress can cause an increase in cortisol levels, which can lead to a decrease in progesterone levels. This can, in turn, reduce the amount of estrogen produced in the body.
Alcohol consumption: Consumption of large amounts of alcohol increases the amount of estradiol in the body, making it more difficult for the body to metabolise estrogen.
Dysbiosis: Intestinal dysbiosis is when there are too many harmful species of bacteria or insufficient beneficial species in the large intestine. Some gut bacteria can reduce how well the body gets rid of excess estrogen, leading to higher levels.
Xenoestrogen exposure: Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates are chemicals in some plastics, soaps, shampoos and other products. If they enter the body, they can mimic the effects of estrogen.
Medications: Certain medications can increase the amount of estrogen in the body or decrease the amount of progesterone.
Health conditions: PCOS, uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and certain cancers are all known to be connected to or result in an imbalance in estrogen levels. Additionally, insulin resistance can also contribute to an elevation in estrogen.
Tumours: In a few instances, a growth of the adrenal glands or adrenal tumours known as feminising adrenocortical tumours can produce excessive amounts of estrogen, causing abnormally high hormone levels in males or children. This can lead to breast enlargement, the most common symptom. These tumours can be either benign or cancerous.
Genetic conditions: Aromatase excess syndrome is a genetic or inherited condition which can cause the body to produce higher-than-normal levels of the hormone estrogen. It can affect people.
If testosterone levels decrease, estrogen levels in comparison to testosterone can increase in males.
Too much estrogen may cause the following symptoms in females:
The following symptoms are also possible:
An excessive amount of estrogen in males can lead to:
Males with elevated estrogen levels have a greater likelihood of exhibiting depressive symptoms.
An individual with consistently high estrogen for an extended period is at greater risk for:
Observed a correlation between elevated levels of free estriol and a heightened probability of developing gestational diabetes during pregnancy. Additionally, high estrogen levels may exacerbate pre-existing conditions like asthma and epilepsy.
Tests to measure estrogen dominance are not always necessary for females exhibiting signs of this condition, as many interventions to reduce elevated estrogen levels benefit overall health and pose minimal risk.
Suppose a medical practitioner believes that a medical condition may be the cause of a symptom. In that case, they may conduct tests to determine if there is an imbalance and identify the origin. Estriol levels can also be monitored during high-risk pregnancies.
In females, doctors can measure all three types of estrogen via blood testing. In males, they only measure estradiol and estrone.
These levels vary in females based on age, menstruation and pregnancy status and are measured in pictograms per millilitre (pg/mL).
undetectable to 29 pg/ml
undetectable to 20 pg/ml
undetectable to 350 pg/ml
less than ten pg/ml
At the onset of puberty, estrogen levels in males remain the same as during childhood, while estrogen levels in females will start to increase.
These are the usual levels:
undetectable to 16 pg/ml
undetectable to 13 pg/ml
undetectable to 60 pg/ml
undetectable to 40 pg/ml
Age 18 years and over
Treatment for high estrogen depends on the underlying cause.
To address estrogen dominance not caused by a medical issue, medical professionals may suggest changes to one's lifestyle to reduce estrogen levels.
People can try:
If a person suspects their high estrogen levels may be due to a medication or supplement they are taking, they should consult their doctor about alternative medications or supplements. Not altering the dosage of any medicine or supplement is essential without consulting a doctor.
A doctor may prescribe aromatase inhibitors such as Arimidex (Anastrozole) to lower estrogen levels. Aromatase is an enzyme the body produces that helps convert androgens into estrogen. By inhibiting the enzyme, these medications can reduce estrogen levels in the body, potentially preventing long-term damage.
Doctors may prescribe a synthetic form of luteinising hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) to reduce estrogen levels. This hormone blocks the signal that stimulates the ovaries to produce estrogen. Doctors may recommend this therapy if they believe high estrogen levels worsen a severe condition, such as metastatic breast cancer.
Surgery may be an option for individuals with genetic changes in BRCA1, BRCA2 or other genes or those with a personal or family history of breast or ovarian cancer due to the potential risk of cancer associated with the presence of estrogen. Removing the ovaries is the recommended course of action in such cases.
High estrogen levels often raise the following questions:
Changes in estrogen levels are regular and can be affected by menstruation and pregnancy. However, certain health conditions, obesity, and alcohol consumption can all increase estrogen levels.
Males may experience increased estrogen levels due to specific genetic features, obesity, stress, and age, which can lead to a higher-than-normal ratio between estrogen and testosterone.
Sometimes, a doctor may prescribe medication to help lower estrogen levels when lifestyle remedies are insufficient. However, it is essential to note that maintaining a healthy weight, making dietary choices, and reducing stress levels can also help reduce estrogen levels.
Women may experience irregular or heavy menstrual cycles, weight gain, fatigue, and fibroids due to elevated estrogen levels. In men, this can lead to the development of breast tissue, erectile dysfunction, and difficulty conceiving.
To diagnose high estrogen levels, a doctor will take a patient's medical history and, if necessary, order blood tests. The cause of the elevated hormones will dictate the treatment options. Lowering estrogen levels with lifestyle and dietary changes may be possible, but speaking with a medical professional is vital if symptoms persist or are concerning.
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