Dr. Michael Ruscio, DC is a clinician, Naturopathic Practitioner, clinical researcher, author, and adjunct professor at the University of Bridgeport. His work has been published in peer-reviewed medical journals and he speaks at conferences around the globe.
How to Lift and Balance Estrogen Levels With Supplements and Lifestyle
Vitamins and minerals that play a role in hormonal balance and managing estrogen deficiency symptoms include B complex, vitamin C, vitamin D, calcium, magnesium, and boron.
Herbs and dietary supplements, including dong quai, black cohosh, astragalus, and DHEA, may have a more direct effect on low estrogen levels.
If natural alternatives aren’t sufficient, hormone replacement therapy (HRT) may be an effective option to boost estrogen levels and ease menopausal symptoms, including hot flashes, mood swings, and vaginal dryness.
A gut-healthy diet (e.g. a Paleo diet) is essential to underpin any hormone-balancing supplements or medications.
Good sleep and reduced stress are also important to manage the symptoms of low estrogen levels.
Estrogen is a vital female hormone with roles that include keeping the vaginal lining healthy, preserving bone strength, and regulating cholesterol metabolism.
If you have a deficiency of this important hormone and are looking for natural ways to relieve your symptoms, you may have come across the use of vitamins to increase estrogen levels.
Some of the vitamins linked to better estrogen balance include vitamin D, the B complex, and vitamin C. Minerals such as calcium and boron may help protect against the effects of low estrogen, while some herbal supplements, including dong quai and black cohosh, are also known for their hormone-balancing effects.
A Brief Introduction to Estrogen
During a woman’s fertile life, estrogen works in conjunction with progesterone, another important sex hormone, to prepare the womb for possible implantation by an egg [1, 2, 3].
Levels of estrogen fall at menopause. This can cause some uncomfortable symptoms such as hot flashes, joint aches, brain fog, and depression.
Estrogen deficiency (or estrogen dominance) symptoms can also occur when levels of the hormone are normal, but become out of balance with other hormones, particularly progesterone, or testosterone [4, 5]. This could happen at any age, not just at menopause.
In this article we’ll consider ways to support healthy estrogen levels, including using vitamins to increase estrogen levels.
Vitamins to Increase Estrogen Levels: How They Work
Vitamins support a healthy hormone balance either by providing the raw materials required to make hormones or by being activators of steps in hormone manufacture. Vitamins and minerals may also ease menopause-related symptoms that are associated with low estrogen. For example, the right nutrients can prevent bone loss, support joint and gut health, and improve mood.
Below are the main vitamins and minerals that can help manage the symptoms of low or imbalanced estrogen levels, and some of the best dietary sources of these. Food is often the best way to get vitamins and minerals, but you can use supplements, such as a good multivitamin and minerals, to meet increased nutritional needs.
Effect on Estrogen
Foods Found In
B complex vitamins
Good intake of B2, B6, B12, and folate makes it less likely that post-menopausal women will experience low estrogen-related bone loss and cognitive decline .
A diet high in vitamin B6 may also help delay the onset of menopause, according to one study .
Higher vitamin C intake can benefit bone health, cognitive function, and provide extra protection against heart disease in menopausal women .
Berries, citrus fruits, kale, spinach, bell peppers
Vitamin D can improve quality of life beyond menopause because of its beneficial effects in preventing osteoporosis, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, infections, and neurodegenerative disease.
Higher vitamin D levels may also help with depression or anxiety, which are common when estrogen levels decline .
Oily fish and eggs are the two main food sources, along with milk fortified with vitamin D
Vitamin D supplements may be needed in women who do not get sufficient sun exposure
Calcium and magnesium
These minerals work together to reduce bone loss and fracture risk in postmenopausal women .
Dietary intake of calcium greater than 700-800 mg per day is needed to mitigate low estrogen , while an intake of 334 mg or more of magnesium has been associated with increased bone mineral density .
Magnesium: Nuts and seeds (especially Brazils, almonds, and pumpkin seeds), whole grains, kidney beans
Boron is essential for the growth and maintenance of bone and improves the way the body uses estrogen, testosterone, and vitamin D. It also reduces markers of inflammation in the body.
If your estrogen levels are low, 3 mg of boron a day may help optimize hormonal health .
Boron is fairly widespread in fruits and vegetables, but data is limited on which sources are best
Taking a 3 mg supplement is the most reliable way of boosting your intake
Other Helpful Supplements to Increase Estrogen
The herbs, herbal combinations, and supplements listed below may lift declining estrogen levels enough to make hormone replacement therapy (HRT) unnecessary for some women.
Which of the below works best will vary from woman to woman, but combined herbal ingredients are generally more effective for raising or balancing estrogen levels than individual herbs . When used together, black cohosh, dong quai, and licorice (first in the list below) is a reliable blend that makes a good place for most women to start. If you then need additional help, you can experiment with additional supplements from there.
Black Cohosh, Dong Quai, and Licorice
A blend of black cohosh, dong quai, and licorice, together with the antioxidants gamma oryzanol and trans-resveratrol, has proven to be an effective way to boost or balance estrogen levels for many of our clinic patients at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine. Other benefits associated with the ingredients in this blend are [13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18]:
Reduced hot flashes and night sweats (gamma oryzanol, dong quai, licorice, black cohosh)
Improved sleep in women with sleep disturbances (black cohosh)
Heart-protecting benefits (resveratrol)
Improved mood and cognition (gamma oryzanol and resveratrol)
White peony, chasteberry, and licorice is a different mix that can also help correct the symptoms of low estrogen . However, our clinical experience suggests this combination is more effective in cases where unbalanced progesterone levels are the bigger problem.
This Ayurvedic herb is associated with a statistically significant increase in the most active form of estrogen, called estradiol, in the blood of menopausal women . Those taking the herb also saw fewer menopausal symptoms and better quality of life as a result.
A hormone produced by the body’s adrenal glands, DHEA can also be derived from soy or wild yam and taken as a supplement. Estradiol levels increased in postmenopausal women who took 50 mg DHEA daily for at least 26 weeks . However, DHEA can have some side effects, including unfavorable changes in cholesterol, acne, and migraines, so it should be used under the guidance of a healthcare practitioner knowledgeable in hormonal supplements.
Fenugreek seed extract can boost estrogen levels in younger women, ages 20-49, according to a study that looked into herbs that may affect sex drive. In this group of healthy, younger women who reported low libido, taking fenugreek extract was associated with higher levels of both estradiol and testosterone levels, as well as improved sexual desire .
Isoflavones, part of a plant compound family called phytoestrogens, have a mild estrogen-boosting effect. You’ll find isoflavones in foods such as sesame and flax seeds, soy products, and chickpeas. Eating these foods regularly may help to top up low estrogen levels. However, isoflavone supplements are a more concentrated and reliable way to mitigate low-estrogen symptoms [22, 23, 24, 25].
A Healthy Gut Improves Estrogen Levels
Interestingly, the quality of gut bacteria has been shown to impact female hormonal health [26, 27, 28]. For example, some signs of a hormonal imbalance, such as polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) and painful periods, are associated with a less healthy bacterial balance and leaky gut [29, 30, 31, 32].
When the gut microbiome is imbalanced (gut dysbiosis), the activity of an enzyme called beta-glucuronidase, which creates active forms of estrogen, can be altered. This can produce either a deficiency or an excess of the hormone .
Though taking probiotics can’t increase estrogen directly, probiotics can help to correct gut bacteria imbalance (dysbiosis), which means your gut is in a better place to support a healthy hormonal balance overall.
However, when turning to probiotics to improve your gut and hormonal health, it pays to make improvements to your diet first. If your diet is generally unhealthy or not tailored to meet your specific dietary needs, you may not get the benefits that you’re looking for by simply taking supplements like probiotics and vitamins to increase estrogen levels.
What Is a Gut (and Hormone) Healthy Diet?
A healthy diet will help improve your gut health and make it easier for your body to keep your hormones balanced.
The four main principles of a gut-healthy diet are:
Eating to control inflammation
Removing any foods you’re sensitive to
Eating to control blood sugar
Finding the optimal amount of carbohydrates and prebiotics for your needs
The Paleo diet works particularly well to tick all the above four boxes for most people.
Whichever diet you choose, make sure it includes adequate amounts of healthy fats. If your diet is too low in healthy fats, you may have trouble producing enough hormones, including estrogen [33, 34].
If you can tolerate the natural sugars, prunes (dried plums) can be a useful addition for postmenopausal women, as they benefit bone health. A daily dose of five to six prunes was effective in reducing low estrogen-related bone loss in one randomized controlled trial, perhaps as a result of the phenols in the fruit, limiting bone breakdown .
Sleep and Stress Relief
Before considering supplements and vitamins to increase estrogen levels, looking at ways to improve your stress levels is a good idea.
A 2017 literature review explained that constant stress can derail sex hormone levels . Chronic stress may cause your body to use the raw materials needed to make sex hormones for making stress hormones instead [2, 34, 37].
This is true whether your stress is from external factors, like a job you don’t like, or internal stressors, like frequent blood sugar fluctuations or gut infections and inflammation.
Common ways to reduce the effect of stress on our body include steps like doing yoga, meditating, and improving sleep .
For women with low or unbalanced estrogen levels, improving sleep is a particularly important way to reduce stress and feel better. Of menopausal women, 40–60% report sleep disturbances .
If obvious sleep hygiene measures such as taking a relaxing bath and having fixed sleep and wake times don’t work for you, acupuncture is another therapy to try. Research suggests acupuncture can tackle sleep, stress, and hormonal issues in one go.
For example, a 2016 systematic review and meta-analysis involving nearly 2,500 perimenopausal and postmenopausal women found that acupuncture reduced likelihood of sleep disturbances while increasing estradiol levels .
Another review concluded that standard acupuncture was effective at improving low estrogen levels and menopausal symptoms in general .
What About Hormone Replacement Therapy?
HRT can be effective at reducing low-estrogen symptoms in those who don’t respond to more conservative therapies like botanicals and dietary changes, but has traditionally been considered a little risky. However, more recent research suggests the negative side effects have likely been overstated and that the therapy doesn’t appreciably raise health risks, especially if used for no more than five years .
HRT comes with some health benefits that include decreased risks of bone fracture, diabetes, and esophageal, gastric, and colorectal cancers [43, 44, 45, 46, 47].
The downsides include a slightly increased risk of blood clots and hormone-dependent breast cancers [47, 48, 49, 50].
To minimize risks when using HRT, it’s best to use topical estrogen (applied to the skin), which decreases the risk of clots compared with oral estrogen. Bioidentical progesterone taken at the same time further reduces health risks by protecting the wall of the womb from estrogen-related thickening .
A good rule of thumb, based on evidence, is that HRT has a lower risk profile for younger women, but non-hormonal therapies are preferred in menopausal women over 60 or those who are 10 years post-menopause .
Estrogen, Vitamins, and Supplements: Bottom Line
If you’re investigating vitamins to increase estrogen levels, be realistic about the results you can expect. Vitamins and minerals won’t directly raise estrogen levels but can help your body maintain a healthy hormonal balance, while also protecting against the negative effects of low estrogen, such as bone depletion and hot flashes.
By adding in some hormone-balancing herbs and underpinning these strategies with a gut-healthy diet, you’ll often be able to boost low estrogen levels and soothe menopausal symptoms naturally. Acupuncture is something else to consider to balance low estrogen levels at menopause, especially if you have issues getting a good night’s sleep.
If natural methods don’t help your estrogen deficiency symptoms, hormone replacement therapy is the next option to consider — under the right circumstances it can be safe and very effective.
For more individualized support concerning your hormonal health, you can request a consultation with me or a colleague at the Ruscio Institute for Functional Medicine.
The Ruscio Institute has developed a range of high-quality formulations to help our patients and audience. If you’re interested in learning more about these products, including the hormone-balancers Estro-Harmony and Progest-Harmony, please click on the relevant links. Note that there are many other options available, and we encourage you to research which products may be right for you.
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