What is estrogen and what do estrogen levels have to do with your health? Estrogen is a hormone found in both men and women, but women have higher levels of it. There are three types of estrogen hormones in the body, estradiol, estrone and estriol. Estradiol is produced during childbearing years by the ovaries and disappears at menopause. Estrone is produced during childbearing years and is the only type of estrogen left at menopause. Estriol is only present during pregnancy. The level of and type of estrogen in anyone’s body varies not only by age, but also diet.
Estrogen levels play a role in more than sexual functioning.
While estrogen is responsible for sexual development and regularity of menstrual cycles, it does more for the body than that. It helps build healthy bones and prevents osteoporosis, which causes bone loss, as you get older. Estrogen helps keep other hormones in balance, such as serotonin. That means low estrogen levels can cause mood issues. Estrogen also protects the heart by keeping blood vessels healthy and cholesterol levels low. During menopause and perimenopause, levels of estrogen fluctuate causing hot flashes, night sweats, menstrual irregularity and mood changes.
What you eat affects the level of estrogen.
Food doesn’t contain estrogen, but certain plant foods contain similar hormones, called phytoestrogen. It’s chemicals that have a weak effect on the body similar to estrogen. While they have a weak effect, it may be strong enough to prevent some of the problems faced by menopause. Soy is one of the best sources of phytoestrogens. It’s laden with isoflavones, which binds to estrogen receptors in the body. Eating soy may help with problems like blood cholesterol levels, ischemic heart disease and hot flashes. Another type of phytoestrogen is lignan, which is found in flaxseed.
Eating a well balanced diet is important.
Whether you’re experiencing the ravages of menopause or not, eating healthy is extremely important. Cutting food out of your diet that can cause estrogen imbalance, such as sugar treats, helps. Foods that make your insulin levels spike, reduces the protein globulin SHBG, which binds excess sex hormones, such as testosterone and estrogen, throwing them out of balance and affecting mood. Junk food should be out of your diet, so should trans fats and high sodium products. Limit alcohol and caffeine consumption, too. Eating healthy should take high priority.
- Foods that may trigger hot flashes, beside caffeinated drinks, include red wine, aged cheese, chocolate, fried foods and spicy dishes.
- Adequate protein is also important to help balance hormones and stop hot flashes. It should include seafood, particularly seafood caught in the wild, organic grass-fed meat, free range eggs and plant based protein from nuts, flaxseed, legumes and lentils.
- It’s important to eat healthy omega-3 essential fatty acids, such as found in salmon, avocados, nuts and olive oil. Omega-3 is proven to reduce hot flashes during menopause.
- Crucifers, such as cauliflower, broccoli, Brussels sprouts and cabbage contain glucosinolates, which help with detoxing the body. Eating a helping or two of greens each day also can aid in balancing hormones, while providing other benefits for the body.
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