Stress, aging, food, weather, chemicals, drugs, radiation … You name it … our bodies constantly adjust to various internal and external factors. One of the ways we adjust is by producing different types and quantities of hormones to regulate the activity of our organs.
Estrogen is the sex hormone that gives females their sexual traits, such as wider hips, larger breasts, and additional body fat (men also produce a small amount of estrogen).
Why decreased estrogen?
Factors that could affect the levels of estrogen in your body. The main ones are:
- Age: after menopause, our bodies produce less estrogen.
- Chemicals, toxins, and radiation.
- Surgeries and any disease that affects the ovaries.
- Other factors such as anorexia, genetic diseases, thyroid problems, and low body fat
- Post-natal and breastfeeding times (temporarily)
- Right before and right after your periods (temporarily).
So how do you know if you have low estrogen? To be frank, an attempt to self-diagnose probably won’t work since the symptoms of low estrogen are also very similar to those of high estrogen. Check for yourself:
High estrogen: Hot flashes, weight gain, unstable moods, brain fog, and heavy periods are signs of estrogen dominance.
Low estrogen: Dryness of the vagina, trouble sleeping, hot flashes, lack of sex drive, dry skin, unstable moods, and light periods.
If you suspect you have low estrogen, talk to your physician to order a test.
Estrogen and UTI prevention
#1: Estrogen and healthy vaginal wall
Estrogen helps maintain the strength and thickness of the vaginal wall and the urethral lining and encourages vaginal lubrication. It strengthens the epithelial integrity preventing bacteria from reaching deeper layers of the urinary tract lining where they can otherwise hide.
#2: Estrogen and antimicrobial peptides
Estrogen makes your body produce natural antimicrobial peptides making the epithelium (that lines much of the urinary tract, including the renal pelvis, the ureters, the bladder, and parts of the urethra) stronger in the face of an E. coli attack.
#3 Estrogen and lactobacillus
Studies show that when women are given estrogen hormones, their vaginal Lactobacillus flora increases. As a result, the vaginal pH decreases (a vaginal pH of 5 or less is acidic enough to interfere with the adhesion of E. coli). Therefore, hormonal balance is critical to maintaining healthy vaginal flora.
How to increase estrogen?
Once you have established low estrogen levels, your physician might prescribe you hormones that can be taken orally, as well as a topical estrogen. Given the effects of estrogen on your vaginal flora, no wonder there are more and more studies demonstrating that estrogen treatment delivered vaginally may help prevent repeat urinary tract infections.
I suggest you also find out what causes your low estrogen levels and try to fix the core issue, if possible. You can do a lot by changing your lifestyle and diet to increase estrogen levels and using bio-identical estrogen products, but that is a topic for another post.
If you have an older female relative who suffers from frequent urinary tract infections (UTIs), please share this information with her and her doctor. As you know, with the current state of medicine, physicians are more likely to “play it safe” and prescribe preventive doses of antibiotics to keep bacteria at bay. However, this approach builds up antibiotic resistance and has various side effects.
Check out other ways to prevent UTI naturally:
Estrogen and Breast Cancer Myth
For women undergoing perimenopause, it’s critical to start hormonal therapy early. If you are hesitant to start with estrogen due to cancer in the family or a genetic predisposition to cancer, please read this book below ASAP; it can save your life or, at least, your health and sanity. Here is a free interview with the authors of the book as well. Please read, listen, and your older self will thank you.
Vitamin E vs. Topical Estrogen
If age-related vaginal atrophy or dryness is your case, an easy option could be starting (or supplementing with) topical vitamin E. There are various forms, such as salves and suppositories, that you could use vaginally and apply to the perineal region. Here is a review on how to differentiate between types of vitamin E and what vitamin E could help you with: Benefits of Vitamin E.