Estrogen is a hormone that plays various roles in the body. In females, it helps develop and maintain both the reproductive system and female characteristics, such as breasts and pubic hair.

Types of Estrogen


This type of estrogen is present in the body after menopause. It is a weaker form of estrogen and one that the body can convert to other forms of estrogen, as necessary.


  • Both males and females produce estradiol, and it is the most common type of estrogen in females during their reproductive years.

  • Too much estradiol may result in acne, loss of sex drive, osteoporosis, and depression.

  • Very high levels can increase the risk of uterine and breast cancer.

  • However, low levels can result in weight gain and cardiovascular disease.


Levels of estriol rise during pregnancy, as it helps the uterus grow and prepares the body for delivery. Estriol levels peak just before birth.

Functions of Estrogen

Estrogen enables the following organs to function:

  • Ovaries: Estrogen helps stimulate the growth of the egg follicle.

  • Vagina: In the vagina, estrogen maintains the thickness of the vaginal wall and promotes lubrication.

  • Uterus: Estrogen enhances and maintains the mucous membrane that lines the uterus. It also regulates the flow and thickness of uterine mucus secretions.

  • Breasts: The body uses estrogen in the formation of breast tissue. This hormone also helps stop the flow of milk after weaning.

Effects of Estrogen imbalance

An imbalance of estrogen leads to:

  • Irregular or no menstruation

  • Light or heavy bleeding during menstruation

  • More severe premenstrual or menopausal symptoms

  • Hot flashes, night sweats, or both

  • Noncancerous lumps in the breast and uterus

  • Mood changes and sleeping problems

  • Weight gain, mainly in the hips, thighs, and waist

  • Low sexual desire

  • Vaginal dryness and vaginal atrophy

  • Fatigue

  • Mood swings

  • Feelings of depression and anxiety

  • Dry skin

Estrogen therapy

  • Estrogen therapy can help manage menopause symptoms as part of hormone therapy, which people usually refer to as hormone replacement therapy.

  • The treatment may consist solely of estrogen (estrogen replacement therapy, or ERT), or it may involve a combination of estrogen and progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone.

  • Hormone treatment is available as a pill, nasal spray, patch, skin gel, injection, vaginal cream, or ring.

It can help manage:

  • Hot flashes

  • Vaginal dryness

  • Painful intercourse

  • Mood changes

  • Sleep disorders

  • Anxiety

  • Decreased sexual desire

Side effects of Estrogen therapy

  • Bloating

  • Breast soreness

  • Headaches

  • Leg cramps

  • Indigestion

  • Nausea

  • Vaginal bleeding

  • Fluid retention, leading to swelling

Food sources of Estrogen

  • Some foods contain phytoestrogens, which are plant-based substances that resemble estrogen.

  • Some studies suggest that these may affect levels of estrogen in the body.

  • However, there is not enough evidence to confirm this.

Foods that contain phytoestrogens include:

  • Cruciferous vegetables

  • Soy and some foods containing soy protein

  • Berries

  • Seeds and grains

  • Nuts

  • Fruit

  • Wine

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