Has your doctor recently diagnosed you with low estrogen levels?
Or are you wondering if some of your uncomfortable symptoms may be connected to low estrogen?
While only your doctor can diagnose you for sure, if you’re searching for how to increase estrogen naturally, today’s guide may be able to point you in the right direction.
I’ll help shed light on the situation by diving into topics such as:
Before I go any further, here’s a brief overview of why estrogen, and having the right levels, is so vital at every age.
When it comes to female hormones, estrogen is the most popular and most talked about, yet very few women really understand its primary functions.
Because it’s so essential to your health, it’s important to get a strong grasp on what estrogen is, how it changes over time and what you can do to keep your estrogen levels in a healthy range. Let’s begin with estrogen’s main functions:
#1: Reproductive Health
Estrogen is part of a group of sex hormones and is produced in the ovaries and adrenal glands[*].
It stimulates the growth of your vagina and fallopian tubes during puberty and is responsible for the development of your breasts and wider-than-male pelvis[*].
Estrogen also regulates your menstrual cycle and your entire reproductive system[*].
One of its main roles is to trigger the release of an egg each month, then its levels quickly drop after ovulation.
Throughout a woman’s monthly cycle, estrogen also causes the uterus and cervix to grow and thicken, as well as produce mucous secretions for proper reproductive functioning.
But ovulation isn’t the only fluctuation in estrogen levels women will experience.
In fact, estrogen levels change constantly during a woman’s lifetime and drop drastically after menopause, which you’ll learn more about later on.
#2: Heart Health
Estrogen also plays a key role in heart health. According to research[*], estrogen…
- Promotes the survival of stem cells
- May reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease by improving your lipid profile (cholesterol levels) and vascular effects
- Aids cardiac repair
- Increases the survival of heart cells (cardiomyocytes) after a heart attack
Low estrogen can put your cardiovascular function at risk.
Studies show the risk of heart disease increases dramatically in postmenopausal women (who have low estrogen) compared to premenopausal women[*].
Outside of your heart, estrogen also benefits your metabolism.
#3: Metabolic Health
In the Women’s Health Initiative (WHI) — one of the largest prospective studies ever conducted — healthy estrogen levels were shown to reduce the risk of type 2 diabetes and improve insulin sensitivity[*].
A moderate or severe decrease in estrogen levels can create insulin resistance, which opens the way for other metabolic diseases.
Research finds that while healthy premenopausal women have adequate estrogen levels that protect them against metabolic diseases, even a slight dip in their estrogen levels can cause insulin resistance and increase the risk of cancers, particularly in organs with a high estrogen demand (breasts, endometrium, and ovaries).
Postmenopausal women with a profound estrogen deficiency can have an even higher risk of ovary and breast cancer[*].
Here’s how your age alters your estrogen levels and its effects in your body:
There are three types of estrogen in your body, depending on which stage of life you’re in[*]:
- Estrone (E1), is a weaker form of estrogen women who are past the point of childbearing and are in menopause use.
- Estradiol (E2), which is produced in the ovaries, is the most common form of estrogen in non-pregnant women. This form peaks just before ovulation and drops right after it.
- Estriol (E3) is created by a woman’s placenta during pregnancy. This is a weaker form of estrogen that becomes more dominant when a woman is pregnant since their body is no longer stimulating the release of an egg each month.
Even though women out of their childbearing years are more likely to experience drops in estrogen, it’s possible this can happen a few years before menopause actually hits during a period known as perimenopause.
It’s also possible for women who are still ovulating to experience low estrogen levels too.
Because of that, it’s crucial that women of all ages understand the red flags signaling something may not be right with their hormone levels.
There are several medical reasons why your estrogen levels may be low, so let’s rule those out first.
Low estrogen levels are common if[*]:
- You’re in menopause
- You have not yet reached puberty
- You have a thyroid disorder or a congenital condition
- You’re undergoing chemotherapy
- Your pituitary gland is not functioning properly
Over exercising, not eating enough calories and being underweight can also cause your estrogen to drop significantly.
But what if you don’t fall in any of those buckets?
If you’re experiencing the following symptoms of low estrogen, it may be time to see your doctor[*]:
- Missing your period, or it’s irregular when you do get it (and you’re not pregnant)
- Having trouble sleeping
- Mood swings
- Fatigue and trouble concentrating
- Hot flashes
- A change in sex drive
- An increase in UTIs (urinary tract infections)
- Painful intercourse and vaginal dryness
- Breast tenderness
Now, before you try to use these to self-diagnose the cause of your symptoms, I must stress why this is not a good idea.
Since these symptoms can overlap with many other issues, including very serious medical conditions, it’s best to double check with your doctor before you consider treating low estrogen on your own.
If you try to increase your estrogen levels when they’re already where they should be, you’ll end up with too much in your system, which can lead to a hormonal imbalance and these symptoms[*]:
- Irregular periods
- Breast swelling
- Decreased libido
- More PMS symptoms
- Weight gain
- Hair loss
- Cold feet or hands
- Lumps in your breasts
To be on the safe side, get tested if you suspect something’s up so both you and your doctor have an updated picture of where your estrogen levels currently stand before you start any treatment options.
And for readers who have already done that and have a confirmed low estrogen diagnosis from their doctor, these next tips may be the perfect supplement to your doctor’s plan (read: not a replacement).
In addition to the treatment options your doctor has planned, you can also use these tips to boost your estrogen levels.
#1: Eat More Foods Rich in Soy
Soy products contain phytoestrogens, or isoflavones.
Phytoestrogens mirror estrogen in your body, which means they activate the same receptors and can trigger almost the same changes[*].
To be clear, these foods will not increase your estrogen levels. That’s where your doctor’s plan comes in.
These foods are here to help you get back on track in the meantime.
Here are some of the richest sources of soy, which are also keto-friendly:
- Organic tempeh
- Silken tofu
- Soy sauce
- Miso and Natto
As for soybeans and soy milk, these are high in carbs, which is why they didn’t make the list.
In addition to loading up on more foods rich in soy, you should also include these next ones too.
#2: Reach for These Five Foods Too
While you can’t get estrogen straight from the foods you eat, you can load up on foods packed with phytoestrogens, such as:
- Flaxseeds, which have some of the highest concentrations
- Sesame seeds
- Pumpkin seeds
- Nuts such as hazelnuts, walnuts, chestnuts, and pistachios
Since these foods are healthy and keto-friendly, you should have no trouble including them in your diet.
Speaking of that, the quality of your food is also key for healthy estrogen levels.
Avoiding processed foods and sugar helps ensure your body functions optimally and has everything it needs to produce enough estrogen.
Here’s why sugar is such a problem.
#3: Cut Down Your Sugar Intake
In one study on mice and human cell cultures, researchers discovered sugar had enough power to shut down estrogen production[*]. That’s the exact opposite of what someone with low estrogen wants.
The research showed both glucose and fructose (the kind found in fruits and veggies as well as processed foods) had this estrogen-lowering effect.
Sugar is also bad for anyone following a ketogenic diet, as too much sugar will kick you out of ketosis, so that’s just another reason to ditch the sweet stuff.
On the other hand, you may be happy to learn your coffee-a-day habit is actually a good thing — but only in certain cases.
#4: Increase Your Caffeine
Researchers discovered an interesting connection between caffeine intake and estrogen levels in women.
When participants drank 200mg of coffee, or about two cups per day,[*]:
- Asian women increased their estrogen levels.
- White women decreased their estrogen levels.
- Black women also increased their estrogen levels, but it wasn’t enough to be considered significant.
Keep in mind, this study was done on women in their baby-making years (i.e., between the ages of 18-44).
So what about for women in menopause? Is caffeine an issue?
Too much caffeine can also put your body in a state of stress where it releases more cortisol, a stress hormone, which can further tip your overall hormonal balance out of whack.
And last, but certainly still worth considering, drinking too much caffeine may also lead to an earlier onset of menopause[*].
So what’s the verdict here?
If you’re already low on estrogen and you’re caucasian, going beyond the 200mg caffeine point each day may not be a good idea.
To keep it safe, limit yourself to drinking one bulletproof coffee per day tops.
It’s also a good idea to opt for organic coffee to avoid commercial pesticides that can throw off your hormones even more.
The next two habits can have the same effect.
#5: Don’t Over Exercise (But Do Make Exercise a Priority)
Working out too much or too intensely can cause your body to secrete more stress hormones like cortisol.
When this happens, your entire hormonal balance may be thrown off, including your estrogen levels.
But that doesn’t mean you should forgo exercise altogether. Working out should still be a top priority, but you’ll want to keep your intensity at a moderate level for as many as 3-5 days per week.
One of the reasons why exercise is so beneficial is that it can prevent the accumulation of fat that tends to happen in women during menopause, which happens thanks to the drop in estrogen levels[*].
Our next tip will also help reduce unwanted weight gain around your midsection in addition to improving your estrogen levels.
#6: Quit Smoking Already (Including Being Around Secondhand Smoke)
By now it should be abundantly clear smoking is bad for your health, even if you don’t smoke yourself but are around people who do (aka secondhand smoke).
In both men and women, studies have shown smoking and secondhand smoke lowers estrogen levels, among many other health markers[*].
And because estrogen helps keep calcium where it belongs in your bones, people who smoke also have an increased risk for osteoporosis, especially women in menopause[*].
The choice here is clear: It’s time to ditch smoking, including secondhand smoke, and focus on your health.
As you make your smoke-free transition, consider reaching for one of these teas to replace your habit. They’re also great for women who don’t smoke but have low estrogen levels.
#7: Try One or More of These Teas
While these herbal teas may not be as common as others on the market, it’s worth making the extra effort to track them down to help fight the side effects and symptoms of low estrogen:
#1: Chasteberry Tea
Chasteberry, a tea commonly found in Central Asia and the Mediterranean, may help improve breast tenderness, pain and other premenstrual symptoms[*].
And for women in menopause, one study found Chasteberry tea may be able to increase sexual libido, although more research is needed to confirm this[*].
#2: Dong Quai Tea
As for Dong Quai, a traditional tea from China, it’s been used for centuries as a way to reduce hot flashes, ease the transition to menopause and reduce PMS symptoms[*].
#3: Red Clover Tea
Red clover is packed with phytoestrogens, which means it may be able to raise and balance low levels of estrogen when consumed as a tea[*].
Where To Go From Here?
If after reading today’s guide you feel you may have symptoms of low estrogen, your next step is to get your hormones checked by your doctor.
Remember, you don’t want to follow all six of our tips to increase estrogen if your levels are normal. This will cause just as much of an imbalance as estrogen levels that are too low.
For readers who have already been diagnosed with low estrogen levels, it’s still a good idea to touch base with your doctor to see if the strategies in today’s guide are approved to use as a supplement to your treatment plan.
Once your doctor gives you the green light, you’ll be able to safely practice these tips to increase your estrogen on a keto diet with confidence.