We must not fear estrogen—our own queen of hormones. With all the current talk of estrogen dominance, plus the 2002 HRT scare, estrogen has acquired a bad reputation it does not deserve.
Estrogen is good for sleep, mood, and libido
Our main estrogen—estradiol—sensitizes the brain to oxytocin and dopamine and triggers the release of serotonin. It supports healthy mood and sleep and is also important for skin, bone health, insulin sensitivity, metabolic rate, and libido.
Too little estrogen can cause depression and severe insomnia, which is why taking estrogen can relieve those symptoms.
Too much estrogen can cause symptoms because it stimulates the mast cells and histamine. Read The curious link between estrogen and mast cells and histamine. Estrogen is a hormone to keep in check.
How to keep estrogen in check
- Reduce histamine and mast cell activation. Inflammation interferes with estrogen detoxification and increases the sensitivity of the estrogen receptor. A particular part of the inflammatory response (associated with mast cells and histamine) plays a big part in the symptoms typically attributed to “estrogen dominance.”
- Ensure adequate progesterone. Progesterone down-regulates and calms tissue. The only way to make progesterone is with regular, healthy ovulation. After menopause, the only way to have progesterone is to take micronized progesterone, not progestin. Read The crucial difference between progesterone and progestins.
- Promote healthy estrogen detoxification or clearance. There are many steps to healthy estrogen clearance including the magnesium-dependent COMT enzyme, as well as phase 2 liver detoxification pathways. Gut bacteria help to escort estrogen from the body. If they are disrupted by, say, antibiotics, then estrogen is not cleared. Even worse, active estrogen intermediates are reabsorbed.
- Stabilize receptors with iodine. Iodine deficiency causes tissue to overreact to estrogen. Consider supplementing iodine to calm the body’s response to estrogen.
- Don’t be insulin resistant. Insulin is a growth hormone and promotes cell division in hormone-sensitive tissues like uterus, breasts, and prostate. Furthermore, the pattern of weight gain associated with insulin resistance increases the activity of aromatase which converts testosterone to estrogen.
A modern approach to hormone therapy
Modern hormone replacement is body-identical topical estradiol plus oral micronized progesterone.
Hormonal birth control is not a good type of hormone therapy
Hormonal birth control is a particularly soul-crushing type of hormone therapy because it suppresses the body’s own estradiol and progesterone and replaces them with contraceptive drugs.