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Hormones: Estrogen

Free Book Excerpt: Your Blood Never Lies by James LaValle
August 1, 2016 (Updated: August 3, 2021)
James LaValle

An excerpt from the book, “Your Blood Never Lies: How to Read a Blood Test for a Longer, Healthier Life” by James B. LaValle, RPh, CCN, ND. Read additional excerpts or buy the whole book.

Although it has a number of functions, estrogen is a class of steroid hormones known primarily for its role in sexual development and reproduction. While this type of hormone is present in both sexes, adult women typically have significantly higher amounts than men, particularly during reproductive age. The three main forms of estrogen are estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), and estriol (E3). Estriol is normally the weakest estrogen and is produced in meaningful amounts only in pregnant women. Estradiol, the most potent form, is the main estrogen in women during their reproductive years. It is also present in males as a derivative of testosterone. Finally, estrone increases in females during menopause to become the  predominant estrogen in postmenopausal women. As the ovaries lose the ability to make estradiol, the adrenal glands, liver, and fat cells compensate for the loss by producing estrone. The problem is that metabolized estrone can be harmful, and elevated levels can increase the risk of estrogen-related cancers like breast cancer. Because estrone may be secreted by fat cells, higher than normal amounts may be found in overweight individuals.

While they remain fairly constant in men, normal ranges for total estrogen levels in women vary considerably depending on stage of life. They also fluctuate during a woman’s menstrual cycle. The table below gives the reasonable ranges for total estrogen, measured in picograms per milliliter (pg/mL), for both males and females.

Category Stage Estrogen Normal Range (pg/mL)
Men Prepubertal 12 to 55
Adult 40 to 115
Women Prepubertal 12 to 57
Follicular Phase (Day 1 to 12 of menstrual cycle) 61 to 394
Ovulation (Day 13 to 16 of menstrual cycle) 122 to 437
Luteal Phase (Day 17 to 29 of menstrual cycle) 156 to 350
Postmenopausal 20 to 40

Reference ranges can vary depending on the lab, so always rely on your
doctor to determine whether or not your estrogen count is outside the norm
for your age.


It goes without saying that pregnancy elevates estrogen levels, as do fertility treatments for those who are having trouble getting pregnant. There are, however, other unintended factors that may raise estrogen levels, including:

  • Adrenal tumors
  • Cirrhosis of the liver
  • Environmental estrogens, such as those found in foods and cleaning products
  • Increased consumption of phytoestrogen-containing foods such as soy, in combination with a low-fiber diet
  • Ovarian tumors
  • Stress

Certain medications also cause high estrogen readings, including:

  • Anabolic steroids
  • Antibiotics, including ampicillin (Omnipen) and tetracycline (Ala-Tet)
  • Corticosteroids, including prednisone (Deltasone), cortisone, hydrocortisone, and methylprednisolone (Medrol)
  • Hormone replacement therapy
  • Oral contraceptives
  • Phenothiazines, including chlorpromazine (Thorazine) and promethazine (Pentazine)

Elevated estrogen levels have been associated with such health conditions as breast cancer, hyperthyroidism, and liver damage. If you notice symptoms of this issue, see your doctor.


Symptoms of high estrogen include fatigue, insomnia, gas and bloating, abdominal swelling, irregular periods, weight gain, mood swings, gynecomastia, loss of concentration, and mental fogginess.


When it comes to lowering estrogen levels, the best lifestyle choices you can make involve avoiding further ingestion of estrogenic compounds and boosting metabolism of this hormone. There are also supplements you can take to support hormone balance in general.


To promote hormonal balance and a healthy system, you may wish to investigate the following supplements.

Supplement Dosage Considerations
Calcium glucarate 500 mg one to two times a day. Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding.
DIM (diindolyl-methane) 75 to 150 mg twice a day. This supplement helps metabolize estrogen into a more beneficial form. Consult your health-care provider before using.
Probiotics 5 to 15 billion CFUs two to three times a day. Probiotics help normalize beneficial flora in the gastrointestinal tract, and are reported to decrease triglyceride and cholesterol levels. They are also reported to improve BUN levels and quality of life in people with kidney disease. It’s best to use heatstable products that do not require refrigeration. If using an antibiotic, wait three hours before taking probiotics. If diarrhea occurs, decrease your dosage.If this side effect persists for longer than 48 hours, stop taking the supplement and contact your doctor. Live cultures should be guaranteed through the date of expiration on label. For optimal results, take probiotics with meals, as food improves the survivability of the cultures.


The first step should be to stop drinking out of plastic containers that contain chemicals such as phthalates and bisphenol A (BPA), which can leach into your beverage and disrupt hormone balance. Because it can contain high amounts of hormones, meat should not be eaten, unless you buy organic meat, which should be free of any chemical additives. As fat cells secrete estrogen, other foods to limit would be refined carbohydrates and sugars, and high-fat products, which encourage weight gain.

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To help with estrogen metabolism, eat at least 30 g of fiber a day (with at least some from flax seed), and increase your consumption of cruciferous vegetables, including broccoli, cauliflower, and Brussels  sprouts. Finally, reduce your alcohol consumption and get some exercise, particularly aerobic. Thirty minutes a day, three to four times a week is recommended.


Low levels of estrogen are more common than high levels. They decrease naturally after giving birth, while breastfeeding, and at the onset of menopause. Because fat cells promote estrogen production, people who have extremely low amounts of body fat, such as athletes, may have low estrogen readings. There are, however, certain health factors that result in a reduction of this hormone, including:

  • Anticonvulsant medication
  • Eating disorders, including anorexia nervosa
  • Hypogonadism
  • Hypopituitarism
  • Ovariohysterectomy
  • Turner syndrome

Low levels of estrogen can lead to serious conditions such as osteoporosis, heart disease, and stroke, so it is important to recognize the symptoms of this issue.


Low amounts of estrogen in the blood are associated with decreased libido, hot flashes and night sweats, depression, anxiety, memory problems, headaches, fatigue, joint pain, dry skin, and vaginal dryness. Do not ignore these symptoms; consult your doctor regularly.


As recently stated, the reduction of estrogen at menopause is a normal occurrence. Some women, however, may experience severe symptoms caused by low estrogen at this time and wish to alleviate them through the use of hormone replacement therapy (HRT), in which synthetic estrogen is administered to raise amounts of this hormone. In recent years, though, HRT has drawn considerable criticism. A number of large studies have linked synthetic estrogen replacement therapy to an increased risk of dementia, breast cancer, heart disease, stroke, and blood clots. For this reason, you may want to ask your doctor about bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (BHRT), which preliminary studies have shown to be safer. Supplements and lifestyle changes may also be recommended in place of or in addition to hormone therapy.


The supplements listed in the following table may be effective for increasing estrogen levels. Because elevated estrogen may contribute to a number of serious diseases, raising levels of this hormone should be attempted only under a doctor’s supervision.

Supplement Dosage Considerations
Black cohosh standardized to 1 mg triterpenes) 20 mg twice a day. Do not use if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Avoid use if you have a hormone-sensitive condition such as uterine fibroids or breast cancer. Do not use if you have liver disease, had a kidney transplant, or are suffering from protein-S deficiency.
Rhapontic rhubarb (2.2 mg rhaponticin and 1 mg desoxyrhaponticin) 4 mg once a day. Do not take if you are pregnant or breastfeeding. Speak to your doctor before using if you have or have ever had a hormone-sensitive condition such as uterine fibroids or breast cancer.


When it comes to diet, the easiest step to take is to eat more phytoestrogen-rich foods. These include legumes such as chickpeas and lentils; fruits such as apples, cherries, and pomegranates; vegetables such as beets, carrots, and eggplant; grains such as barley, oats, and wheat; herbs and spices such as clover, garlic, and licorice; and seeds such as alfalfa, fennel, and sunflower seeds. As with any dietary supplementation, however, it is important that you consult with your doctor before making any major changes to your regime.


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