I learned early on that endometriosis tends to be an estrogen dominant condition. Your body either has too much estrogen or not enough progesterone to balance things out.
Estrogen has always been the “bad” hormone in my mind. It feeds endo right? Because of this much of the treatment options offered for endometriosis (like Lupron or birth control pills) limit your body’s natural estrogen production.
But hold on…. we do still need some estrogen. Especially if you are trying to conceive.
On my journey of struggling to conceive, much of my attention has been on my progesterone levels: the primary player in my luteal phase where the magic happens and pregnancy takes place.
After charting my cycle for years now I am aware of the my history of short luteal phases and spotting prior to flow, both strong indicators of progesterone issues. And when I miscarried about a year and a half ago I was sure it was because of low progesterone.
With this in mind, I had not considered estrogen being a factor in my infertility journey.
Turns out I was wrong.
Estrogen’s Role in Your Menstrual Cycle
First and foremost, estrogen is what triggers your body to ovulate. If there is not enough estrogen then this doesn’t happen and pregnancy is not possible.
Estrogen also plays a role in the production of cervical fluid, which should increase prior to ovulation. Lubricative cervical fluid is meant to carry sperm to your eggs for fertilization.
With low estrogen, however, you may experience little to no cervical fluid.
Estrogen, specifically estradiol, is necessary for the thickening of your endometrium in your follicular phase. This endometrial lining contains a number of glands that are meant for implantation of a fertilized egg in your uterine wall.
If your body does not produce enough estrogen then the lining of your uterus becomes thin and it becomes impossible for the egg to implant. Another infertility factor.
With a thin uterine wall then your periods could be lighter, shorter or completely absent.
How Could I Have Low Estrogen?
Like I said, estrogen wasn’t on my radar in my infertility journey, but I’ve given it more attention of late because, well, I’m not getting any younger and… have yet to conceive.
As we age estrogen levels drop off, which is why it becomes harder to conceive past 35.
(I’m knocking on that door).
In addition to my age, I cannot deny the fact that I spent most of my fertile years on birth control pills.
Birth control pills essentially turns off your body’s natural hormone production and pumps it instead with artificial ones. The overuse of them throws your body’s hormones out of order.
For ten years my body was not naturally producing progesterone or estrogen.
If you take birth control pills for a long period of time there is a greater chance for thinning of your endometrial lining. Eventually it actually causes shrinkage of your lining.
While this may help with endometriosis it’s a bad situation for pregnancy.
Factors That Can Lead to Low Estrogen
In addition to age, and long term use of oral contraceptives, there are other factors that can lower your estrogen levels. These include:
- Decreased functioning of your ovaries
- Cysts on and/or in your ovaries
- Pregnancy problems that lead to miscarriage
- Childbirth and breast feeding
- Decreased functioning of your pituitary gland
- Eating disorders or excessive exercise, resulting in very low body fat
- Any estrogen prohibiting drugs like Lupron
Another factor to consider are the health of your adrenal glands. If your adrenal glands are fatigued then hormone production is affected.
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone produced by your adrenal glands and is a precursor to estrogens, progesterone and testosterone.
If your adrenals are fatigued then DHEA production drops and so does the production of your other sex hormones.
If Estrogen Is Low What Do You Do?
I’m not one for adding in more artificial hormones to the mix, so I wouldn’t jump to adding in artificial estrogen, which in most cases is made from synthetic horse urine!
My thoughts on hormonal imbalance line with the idea of balancing different factors in your system as a whole so that the body is able to reset.
An important factor in it all is your uterus. Increasing blood flow to your uterus is the first step to improving natural rhythms and stagnation that can contribute to infertility.
Here are some ideas…
Acupuncture has been show to improve the supply of blood to the uterus and in turn this can help improve the thickening of a thin endometrial lining. Acupuncture can also stimulate the master pituitary gland, which can help bring hormones back into balance.
Maca root is another option. This superfood is supposed to help bring your hormones back to natural balance. I’ve taken this in the past with great results, but I know other ladies with endo have had mixed results. If you decide to go this route start slow.
Royal jelly is said to have an estrogen effect on the body and can be helpful if you have inadequate levels of estrogen. It’s been shown to increase the thickness of your endometrial lining.
Nettle is said to increase blood flow to your uterus and keep the endometrium healthy and fertile.
Raspberry leaf supports overall health of your uterus.
Castor oil packs are helpful in stimulating your circulation to your uterus and improving lymphatic supply and liver function. These also promote the breakdown and removal of scar tissue. They promote blood flow and hormonal balance.
Address adrenal fatigue. Check out my course Eat for Energy with Endo on how to support and heal your adrenals here.
On the Positive Side?
In retrospect it’s funny how one sided my focus has been:
progesterone = good
estrogen = bad
When I looked back at the hormonal saliva sample I did a short time ago I saw that my estradiol levels were right above what was considered “low”.
The first go around I didn’t even notice this number. All I saw was that my progesterone was “low”.
Turns out estrogen isn’t that bad after all 🙂
Do you know that you have endometriosis and low estrogen? Experienced any of the symptoms of low estrogen? Struggling to conceive?
I’d love to hear from you….