Estrogen is a hormone that is present in both men and women. It is responsible for regulating many of the body’s systems. In women, it helps to regulate the menstrual cycle and reproductive process. It also helps to regulate the bladder and reduce the risk of urinary tract infections.
Additionally, it’s responsible for building bone tissue, which decreases the risk of osteoporosis. Estrogen is also produced in men, but at lower levels than in women. It plays an important role in regulating metabolic processes like fat storage and muscle mass.
During menopause women’s estrogen levels decline, which can lead to symptoms such as hot flashes. Symptoms such as these can be reduced naturally by increasing the consumption of specific foods. Foods that contain estrogen can naturally increase your body’s levels of this hormone. Some foods also have phytoestrogens which help to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body.
What Are The Three Main Sources Of Estrogen?
Phytoestrogens From Plants
Phytoestrogens are a type of estrogen found in plants. They have a chemical structure that functions similarly to estrogen but aren’t exactly the same. They can help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure while helping reduce hot flashes for menopausal women.
Animal meat has estrogen in it, this is because animals have an endocrine system just like humans. This type of estrogen is referred to as conjugated estrogen because it changes form once inside the body to become more usable for metabolic purposes.
Hormone replacement therapy which uses man-made forms of estrogen are the most unnatural source of estrogen available today. These are not found in nature at all and have been known to increase risk for heart disease, stroke, etc. which brings us back to the importance of naturally increasing your intake of estrogens. Foods that contain natural sources can reduce or even eliminate these risks when consumed appropriately.
List Of High Estrogen Foods
Below are some of the foods you should add to your diet to boost your estrogen levels:
Flaxseeds are a powerful source of phytoestrogens. They contain lignans, which help to mimic the effects of estrogen in the body (8). One study showed that women who consumed flaxseed also had reduced hot flashes for menopausal women (6).
One of the most common ways to consume flaxseeds is by grinding them into a powder and mixing with food or drinks. If you don’t like this method, they’re available at most grocery stores already ground up in containers.
Soy contains two types of natural estrogens, genistein and daidzein, both responsible for helping increase human estrogen levels when eaten (13). Soybeans are available in many forms, including edamame which can be steamed and sprinkled with salt.
Soy flour is also a great way to consume more soybeans without eating too much of the same thing. You can add it to smoothies or use it as an ingredient in baking recipes for breads, muffins, etc.
These veggies are also rich in many other nutrients that can help improve your health so it’s a good idea to eat them regularly regardless of estrogen.
Red wines contain high levels of plant-based estrogens which can help increase your estrogen levels (1). However, drinking too much alcohol in general can decrease testosterone and sperm production in men so it’s best to consume in moderation.
Garlic also contains phytoestrogens (17). These are just some of the many benefits garlic has on overall health, so it’s always worth consuming regularly.
When you eat peaches, you’re getting more than water and fiber like most fruits provide; you’re also getting natural phytoestrogen that helps increase human estrogen in the body when eaten regularly (7). They’re great when eaten alone or added to other dishes and drinks.
Sesame seeds contain high levels of lignans which mimic estrogen in the body and help to reduce blood pressure and cholesterol when consumed regularly (20). They’re also part of many traditional recipes in Middle Eastern and Asian cuisine.
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Many nuts are high in estrogen including, but not limited to: almonds, peanuts, sunflower seeds, cashews, brazil nuts and flaxseeds, all containing high levels of phytoestrogens that can help increase your estrogen when eaten regularly (14).
Dried fruits that are high in phytoestrogens include: dried prunes, dried dates and apricots (25). These fruits contain all the nutrients of fresh versions with some additional benefits including more natural estrogen levels.
All berries contain high levels of antioxidants as well as phytoestrogens which help increase your estrogen levels (18). If you don’t like eating these by themselves, they can be added to cereal or yogurt for breakfast or used as a topping for other dishes and baked goods during the day.
As one of many whole grains containing phytoestrogens, wheat bran contains lignans that mimic human estrogen in the body, successfully reducing blood pressure and cholesterol when consumed regularly (15).
Fennel is not only a great digestive aid but it’s also high in plant-based estrogens that can help increase estrogen levels when eaten regularly (9). This vegetable is often used as an ingredient in many dishes so you’ll be getting this nutrient whether you realize it or not.
What Are The Health Benefits Of High Estrogen Foods?
High amounts of estrogen are often found in foods naturally, but can also be created in the body when certain food items are eaten. These high levels of estrogen have been known to help with symptoms related to menopause, improve bone health, and lower risk for heart disease and certain cancers.
Decreased Symptoms Of Menopause
When large amounts of estrogen are consumed it has been known to help with symptoms related to menopause such as hot flashes and night sweats (12). The reason these symptoms may improve is that the increased amount of estrogen binds to receptors in the brain that were previously affected by low levels of estrogen. This results in lowered symptoms compared to what one would normally experience.
Improved Bone Health
High levels of estrogen have been known to help improve bone health (23). It is believed that estrogen may work by reducing calcium loss by the body and helping with calcium absorption. As women get older they are more at risk for developing osteoporosis, a disease that causes bones to become weak and brittle. Research has shown that consuming large amounts of high estrogen foods can be beneficial in preventing this from happening to an individual.
Estrogen has some protective effects on heart health due to its impact on cholesterol levels in the bloodstream. High levels of estrogen will help decrease LDL (bad) cholesterol and increase HDL (good) cholesterol (3). These changes protect against heart disease by reducing the risk of developing atherosclerosis or hardening of the blood vessels.
Tips For Balancing Your Hormones Naturally
Reduce Your Sugar Intake
Sugar causes the body’s insulin levels to rise. Insulin is a hormone that signals cells into absorbing blood sugar for energy. This causes the liver to store extra blood sugar as glycogen for later use, which in turn keeps insulin levels elevated for extended periods of time.
Excess glycogen accumulates as fat in fat cells resulting in weight gain and obesity, especially around the waistline. High insulin also prevents the thyroid gland from releasing adequate amounts of two key thyroid hormones T3 (triiodothyronine) and T4 (thyroxine). This can lead to hypothyroidism and cause the body’s metabolism to slow down (24).
Resolve Food Sensitivities
Food sensitivities are due to intolerance or allergy to certain foods which cause the immune system to overreact (10). The most common food allergies are gluten and dairy; there is a genetic predisposition to these, but they can also be caused by stress and inflammation throughout the body.
Foods high in starch such as breads and pastas may trigger an increase in blood sugar leading to weight gain and insulin resistance (2). Keep a food diary and write down everything you eat including any symptoms that occur after eating certain foods (i.e., digestive complaints, skin flare-ups, mood swings, etc).
Manage Stress Levels
Chronic stress causes the body’s fight or flight response (sympathetic nervous system) which increases cortisol levels in the bloodstream that are responsible to mobilize glucose into the bloodstream when needed. Although short-term stress that produces cortisol is beneficial to our bodies, chronic exposure causes elevated levels of cortisol all throughout the day making it difficult for other hormones to perform their functions. Cortisol also causes metabolic dysfunction by inhibiting thyroid hormone production (23).
Cortisol has a reciprocal relationship with DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) levels in the blood. Cortisol is produced from pregnenolone which is converted into progesterone then to DHEA; both are precursors to testosterone and estrogen production (5).
Excessive cortisol levels deplete progesterone, DHEA, and testosterone causing fatigue, low libido, bone loss, weight gain around the waistline, sleep problems including insomnia. Stress relief techniques such as meditation, yoga, tai chi, and massage therapy may lower cortisol levels.
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Deal With Inflammation
Inflammation is a normal bodily response to harm or stressors within the body, but chronic inflammation disrupts hormone levels because it interferes with insulin production, and inhibits normal cellular function (4).
If you have a chronic health condition, consider consulting a health professional to determine which foods cause inflammation for you or if your symptoms are triggered by stress or infection from bacteria, parasites, viruses, etc.
Inflammation can be resolved through dietary changes such as increasing anti-inflammatory foods such as turmeric, kale, and berries, drinking herbal teas such as ginger and chamomile to reduce nausea during flare-ups.
Eat More Fiber
A low fiber diet can lead to constipation which may affect hormone levels causing thyroid hormone production to slow down or even become underactive. Consume 15 or more grams of fiber per day such as cruciferous vegetables, flax seeds, berries, and beans to normalize bowel function (11).
Balance Hormones With Exercise
Exercise can help balance hormones by increasing the release of feel-good endorphins that reduce pain and depression while improving blood flow and reducing inflammation.
Women who exercise regularly have higher levels of estrogen and progesterone, lower cortisol levels, and maintain healthy blood sugar levels.
Exercise may include walking briskly for 20-30 minutes a day or engaging in high intensity interval training 3 times per week (HIIT) to increase endorphins and reduce stress hormone secretion. Women should avoid over-exercise which can cause estrogen levels to increase and lead to infertility.
Practice Better Sleep Hygiene
Poor sleep hygiene can contribute to hormone imbalance that leads to fatigue, sugar cravings, metabolic dysfunction, poor immunity, mood swings, weight gain around the abdomen or difficulty losing weight (21).
Establish a regular sleep routine by going to bed and waking up at the same time each day (even on weekends) and avoid exposure to light 2 hours before sleep.
Relax before going to sleep by meditating or practicing yoga for 20-30 minutes to reduce cortisol levels, lower blood pressure, and strengthen immunity.
The liver detoxifies harmful substances from plants and man-made chemicals that enter your bloodstream from food, household cleaners, soaps, perfumes, and products you put on your skin. If the liver is not able to keep up with detoxification it results in accumulation of harmful chemicals/toxins which can affect hormone balance.
Hormone balance can also be affected by estrogen dominance due to exposure of xenoestrogens (synthetic estrogens found in man-made products like birth control pills that get into our waterways). This increases body fat and decreases muscle and bone mass especially around the waistline (menopause weight gain).
Xenoestrogens increase the risk for breast and prostate cancers; they attach to hormone receptor sites blocking natural hormones from attaching thus preventing them from carrying out their functions (19).
For this reason, avoid plastics, non-stick cookware, pesticides, herbicides (found in weed killers), chlorine (in swimming pools), and most beauty products including shampoo/conditioner/soaps. Instead use glass for storage, stainless steel water bottles, natural ingredients like baking soda or lemons to clean surfaces, etc.
The Bottom Line
Hormonal imbalance can result in a variety of health conditions including PCOS, thyroid disease, diabetes, infertility, and blood sugar disorders. A diet high in processed foods and foods with additives can cause inflammation which may affect hormone levels while a whole food diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and healthy fats helps reduce chronic inflammation.
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This article is intended for general informational purposes only and does not address individual circumstances. It is not a substitute for professional advice or help and should not be relied on to make decisions of any kind. Any action you take upon the information presented in this article is strictly at your own risk and responsibility!
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- Dehydroepiandrosterone – an overview (n.d., sciencedirect.com)
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- Estimated dietary phytoestrogen intake and major food sources among women during the year before pregnancy – Nutrition Journal (2011, nutritionj.biomedcentral.com)
- Flaxseed—a potential functional food source (2015, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Foeniculum vulgare as Valuable Plant in Management of Women’s Health (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Food Allergies (2021, fda.gov)
- Health benefits of dietary fiber | Nutrition Reviews | Oxford Academic (2009, academic.oup.com)
- Hot flashes – Diagnosis and treatment (n.d., mayoclinic.org)
- Isoflavones (2019, mdpi.com)
- Phytoestrogen Content of Beverages, Nuts, Seeds, and Oils (2008, pubs.acs.org)
- Phytoestrogen content of cereals and cereal-based foods consumed in the UK (2006, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Phytoestrogens and human health effects: weighing up the current evidence (1999, onlinelibrary.wiley.com)
- Phytoestrogens and Their Health Effect (2019, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Phyto-oestrogen content of berries, and plasma concentrations and urinary excretion of enterolactone after a single strawberry-meal in human subjects (2000, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Risks and benefits related to alimentary exposure to xenoestrogens (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sesame Ingestion Affects Sex Hormones, Antioxidant Status, and Blood Lipids in Postmenopausal Women (2006, academic.oup.com)
- Short- and long-term health consequences of sleep disruption (2017, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)
- Sources of estrogen and their importance (2003, sciencedirect.com)
- The role of estrogen and androgen receptors in bone health and disease (2013, nature.com)
- Thyroid Hormone Regulation of Metabolism 2013, journals.physiology.org)
- Vascular Effects of Phytoestrogens and Alternative Menopausal Hormone Therapy in Cardiovascular Disease (2012, ncbi.nlm.nih.gov)