Stress, aging, food, weather, chemicals, drugs, radiation … You name it … our bodies are constantly adjusting to a variety of 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 the symptoms 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 that you might 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 it 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 E. coli attack.
#3 Estrogen and lactobacillus
Studies show that when women are given estrogen hormones their vaginal Lactobacillus flora increased and as a result the vaginal pH decreased (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 that you have low estrogen levels, your physician might prescribe you hormones that can be taken orally, as well as 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 levels of estrogen and try to fix the core issue, if possible. You can do a lot with changing your lifestyle and diet to increase the levels of estrogen, as well as 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 comes with various side-effects.
Check out other ways to prevent UTI naturally: