The body needs a suitable balance of estrogen and other sex hormones for health. High estrogen levels may cause weight gain, low mood, and severe premenstrual syndrome (PMS) in females. In males, it may lead to erectile dysfunction.
Estrogen is considered a female sex hormone. It is also present in males but in smaller amounts.
Estrogen levels fluctuate over time, but consistently high levels can lead to health problems. The effects can be different in males and females.
Read on to learn more about the symptoms and causes of high estrogen levels in males and females.
A note about sex and gender
Sex and gender exist on spectrums. This article will use the terms “male,” “female,” or both to refer to sex assigned at birth. Click here to learn more.
Estrogen is a hormone. It is essential for male and female health and sexual development.
There are three main types of estrogen:
- Estrone (E1): This is the primary type of estrogen in males. It is also the primary form of estrogen in females after menopause. The ovaries, placenta, testicles, and fat tissue produce estrone from androstenedione or androgens.
- Estradiol (E2): This is the most potent form of estrogen, and its concentration is highest in females of childbearing age. Doctors use this form of estrogen as a marker for ovary health.
- Estriol (E3): The placenta produces this type of estrogen, which reaches peak levels during pregnancy. The amount of estriol increases as the fetus grows.
Changes in estrogen levels can affect many areas of the body, including the reproductive system, skin, hair, bones, muscles, brain, and breast tissue. Fluctuations can also have these effects in males, as everyone has some breast tissue.
Estrogen levels can become high for several reasons, including:
- an overproduction of estrogen
- changes in how the body breaks estrogen down
- changes in how the body excretes estrogen
Any of the above might lead to a hormonal imbalance. In females, estrogen dominance happens when estrogen levels are high compared with progesterone, another female sex hormone.
Factors that may contribute to estrogen dominance include:
- Obesity: Having excess body weight can result in higher estrogen levels because fat tissue
- Stress: Stress increases cortisol levels. Consistently high levels of cortisol can deplete progesterone levels, with a knock-on effect on estrogen.
- Alcohol consumption: A high alcohol intake raises estradiol levels and makes it harder for the body to process estrogen.
- Dysbiosis: Intestinal dysbiosis is when there are too many harmful species of bacteria, or not enough beneficial species, in the large intestine. Some types of gut bacteria can reduce how well the body gets rid of excess estrogen, leading to higher levels in the body.
- Xenoestrogen exposure: These chemicals mimic estrogen if they enter the body. Examples include bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, which are present in some plastics. Phthalates are also present in some soaps, shampoos and other products.
- Medications: Some medications may elevate estrogen or suppress progesterone.
- Health conditions: Some health conditions have an association with or lead to estrogen dominance. These include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), uterine fibroids, endometriosis, and certain cancers. Insulin resistance also increases estrogen levels.
- Tumors: In rare cases, feminizing adrenocortical tumors or adrenal tumors
can secreteestrogen, leading to high estrogen levels in males and children. The main symptom is breast enlargement. They can be benign or malignant.
- Genetic conditions: Some genetic or inherited conditions, such as aromatase excess syndrome, can cause the body to produce more estrogen than usual. It can affect males or females.
In males, estrogen can also become high relative to the amount of testosterone in the body if testosterone levels become low.
In females, having too much estrogen may cause:
- weight gain, especially around the hips and waist
- heavy or light periods
- worse PMS than usual
- fibroids in the uterus
- fibrocystic breast lumps
- low sex drive
- low mood or anxiety
Additional possible symptoms
In males, having too much estrogen may cause:
According to a
If a person has consistently high estrogen for an extended period, this
Females with signs of estrogen dominance may not need tests to show their estrogen ratio is out of balance. This is because many of the recommendations for reducing estrogen levels are beneficial to overall health and unlikely to cause harm.
However, if a doctor suspects an underlying medical condition, they may do tests to determine whether there is an imbalance and confirm the root cause. Doctors also monitor estriol levels in high risk pregnancies.
In females, doctors can measure all three types of estrogen via blood testing. In males, they only measure estradiol and estrone.
Estrogen levels in females vary with age, menstruation, and pregnancy status.
The following chart, based on Mayo medical laboratories, shows the normal ranges of estrone and estradiol at different stages of life in pictograms per milliliter (pg/mL).
|Estrone (E1)||Estradiol (E2)|
|Before puberty||undetectable to 29 pg/ml||undetectable to 20 pg/ml|
|During puberty||20–200 pg/ml||undetectable to 350 pg/ml|
|Before menopause||17–200 pg/ml||15–350 pg/ml|
|After menopause||7–40 pg/ml||less than 10 pg/ml|
During childhood, estrogen levels in males are around the same as those of females, but they do not increase with puberty.
Usual levels are as follows:
|Estrone (E1)||Estradiol (E2)|
|Before puberty||undetectable to 16 pg/ml||undetectable to 13 pg/ml|
|During puberty||undetectable to 60 pg/ml||undetectable to 40 pg/ml|
|Age 18 years and over||10–60 pg/ml||10–40 pg/ml|
The treatment for high estrogen depends on the underlying cause.
For estrogen dominance that is not due to a specific medical condition, doctors may recommend lifestyle changes to reduce the levels.
People can try:
- eating a plant-based or anti-inflammatory diet
- eating more soy, flaxseed, and cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli and kale
- getting more omega-3 fatty acids in the diet or taking a supplement
- maintaining a moderate weight
- reducing stress
- limiting or stopping alcohol consumption
- avoiding xenoestrogens, such as BPA in plastics
- avoiding any natural or herbal remedies that may increase estrogen
If high estrogen may be due to a medication or supplement, a person can speak with their doctor about alternatives. It is important never to change the dosage of a medication or stop taking it without consulting a doctor first.
If a doctor believes it is important to lower estrogen levels — potentially to avoid long-term damage — they may
Doctors may also prescribe a synthetic form of luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone (LHRH) to
If there is a high risk of cancer due to the presence of estrogen, a doctor
Here are some questions people often ask about high estrogen levels.
What causes high estrogen levels in females?
Levels fluctuate over time and according to factors such as menstruation and pregnancy. However, various health conditions, obesity, alcohol consumption and other factors can also raise estrogen levels.
What causes high estrogen in males?
In males, it is natural for estrogen levels to rise at times, but some factors can make them unusually high. Certain genetic features, obesity, stress, and age can all cause levels to rise in comparison with testosterone.
Lifestyle remedies, such as weight management, dietary choices, and avoiding high stress levels may help reduce estrogen levels. In some cases, however, a doctor will also prescribe medication.
High estrogen levels can cause symptoms such as irregular or heavy periods, weight gain, fatigue, and fibroids in females. In males, they can cause breast tissue growth, erectile dysfunction, and infertility.
A doctor can diagnose high estrogen levels by taking a medical history and, in some cases, performing blood tests. The cause of high estrogen levels will determine the treatment options.
Lifestyle and dietary adjustments may help lower estrogen levels, but anyone with persistent or concerning symptoms should speak with a medical professional.