Written by: Dr. Amy Beckley, PhD, Founder and Inventor of the Proov test — the first and only FDA-cleared test to confirm successful ovulation at home.
Written on 8/16/21
High estrogen, also called estrogen dominance, is a common hormonal imbalance many women experience as they transition into perimenopause.
Hormonal imbalances can leave us feeling a bit off and sometimes not our best. After all, balanced hormones lead to a balanced life!
If you’ve been feeling off lately, it’s important to listen to your body and take note of the symptoms you’ve been experiencing. Not only can this help you pinpoint what the issue might be, but it’s also great information to bring to your doctor to get help.
High estrogen, also called estrogen dominance, is a common hormonal imbalance many women experience as they transition into perimenopause. Understanding 8 high estrogen symptoms to look out for can help you determine if estrogen dominance is a concern for you.
What is high estrogen and what causes it?
High estrogen occurs when estrogen levels are too high in comparison to progesterone levels. If you’re familiar with your menstrual cycle, you’ll probably remember that estrogen is dominant during the first half of your cycle (the follicular phase), while progesterone is dominant during the second half (the luteal phase).
After estrogen is elevated during the follicular phase, progesterone needs to be elevated to a certain level during the luteal phase in order for your hormones to be balanced. If excess estrogen is present during the follicular phase or not enough progesterone is present during the luteal phase then the balance is thrown off, leading to estrogen dominance.
High estrogen can be caused by a variety of different factors, but is most commonly seen in women entering perimenopause. Some common causes of high estrogen include:
- An imbalance between estrogen and progesterone, specifically low progesterone during the luteal phase
- Changes in the way your body breaks down and gets rid of estrogen
- An overproduction of estrogen, often caused by excess adipose (fat) tissue
High estrogen can be caused by a variety of different factors, but is most commonly seen in women entering perimenopause.
What are the top 8 high estrogen symptoms?
Here are 8 high estrogen symptoms to look out for:
1. Mood swings
If your estrogen dominance is caused in part by low progesterone, you may experience mood swings during your cycle. Studies show that a sharp decrease in progesterone can lead to premenstrual symptoms such as mood changes or postpartum depression. If you start experiencing mood swings, this could be a sign of estrogen dominance.
2. Decreased libido
Libido is also known as our sex drive. While high estrogen doesn’t directly cause decreased libido, some sources show that imbalances between estrogen and progesterone can impact our libido.
Additionally, some women report their libido is lower when they’re also experiencing other high estrogen symptoms and not feeling their best. It’s difficult to get in the mood when you just don’t feel good!
3. Weight gain
Estrogen dominance and weight gain go hand in hand and, unfortunately, have a somewhat cyclical relationship. High levels of estrogen can cause weight gain, particularly around the belly, hips, and thighs. If you haven’t changed your diet or exercise regimen but are gaining weight, this could be a sign of a hormonal imbalance.
What’s worse is that fat cells also produce estrogen. So as you gain weight, you may be at a higher risk of high estrogen, but high estrogen also puts you at risk for weight gain. It’s frustrating, really!
4. Breast changes, including fibrocystic lumps
Estrogen plays a role in breast tissue development. Sometimes when you have increased estrogen levels you may notice breast swelling or tenderness.
Additionally, you may experience fibrocystic breast lumps, which are noncancerous. While these lumps aren’t necessarily dangerous, often they can be uncomfortable. Fibrocystic lumps can also make detection of breast cancer more difficult.
5. Heavy periods
Estrogen is one of the main hormones that helps regulate your cycle, along with progesterone. It’s responsible for thickening your uterine lining during the first half of your cycle to make a comfortable place for an embryo to implant, given conception occurs.
When your estrogen levels are higher, it can make your uterine lining thicker than normal. This means that when your period comes later in your cycle, there is more lining that needs to be shed. More uterine lining means a heavier period.
6. Severe premenstrual symptoms
As we saw above, low progesterone levels can cause premenstrual symptoms such as mood changes, menstrual cramps, and spotting. If your estrogen dominance is really low progesterone in disguise, you may experience more severe PMS.
7. Hair loss
Hair loss is another common high estrogen symptom. A recent study found that a gene variant that causes higher levels of estrogen may be associated with female pattern hair loss.
Not surprisingly, the imbalance between estrogen and progesterone that occurs during estrogen dominance may play a role in hair loss as well. Progesterone acts as a natural counterbalance to the hair loss effects of testosterone and estrogen. Low progesterone levels may allow excess estrogen to lead to hair loss.
A recent study found that a gene variant that causes higher levels of estrogen may be associated with female pattern hair loss.
8. Sleep problems
Estrogen has energy inducing and stimulating effects. This is why you may feel more energized or in a better mood during the first half of your cycle versus the second half. When your estrogen levels are elevated to an abnormally high level, this may cause you to feel overly stimulating and can prevent you from sleeping.
On the other hand, if low progesterone is the root of your estrogen dominance, you also may have trouble sleeping. Progesterone, one again, balances out estrogen’s energetic effects by being more calming and relaxing. If you don’t have enough progesterone, you may not feel it’s calming effects that prepare you for sleep.
Understanding the symptoms of high estrogen levels and then taking steps to get hormones back into balance can help you get back to feeling your best faster!