If you’re taking hormonal birth control or hormone replacement therapy, you need to know about the side effects of the most potent form of estrogen – estradiol.
Side effects from estradiol can be annoying, but are controllable if you understand how your hormones work. First, there are three types of estrogen your body makes – estradiol, estrone, and estriol. Estradiol is the main estrogen your ovaries make. It’s the most potent and most effective. Estradiol is short-acting so your fat cells convert into longer-acting estrone. Estrone is also the estrogen stored in your body fat. Estriol is the main estrogen of pregnancy although most women convert some of their estrone into the safer estriol.
So what are the main side effects of estradiol – both what your body makes naturally and if you take it? Synthetic estradiol is the estrogen used in hormonal forms of birth control including the pill, patch and vaginal ring. If you’re using hormone replacement therapy – either synthetic or bioidentical – estradiol is usually prescribed.
Anytime you take exogenous hormones – meaning not what your body naturally makes, but hormones you take – you may experience some side effects. And that’s true of all hormones. In fact, side effects can happen with any prescription or over the counter drug or even supplements.
Even your own endogenous estradiol – that which your body naturally makes – can cause side effects if it’s out of balance with your progesterone. Remember estrogen is the fertilizer growing lush healthy tissue. Progesterone is the gardener – turning off estrogens growth unwanted promoting effects – like tumors.
Because estrogen is a growth factor and estradiol is the most potent estrogen, it can cause unwanted side effects – if you take too much.
Everything is about moderation including taking hormones. And they all work together. Every hormone has a partner. Estrogen’s partner is progesterone. So they always should be taken together.
When you’re taking the birth control pill – you are not getting real progesterone. You’re taking a synthetic progestin which is derived from testosterone.
The six main side effects of estradiol are:
1. Dark Spots
Too much estradiol can cause dark splotches on your face called melasma. Estrogen stimulates melanin production. Melanin gives color to your skin. The more melanin you have, the darker your skin. Melasma is a common side effect of birth control pills. And can occur in pregnancy because of the naturally high estrogen levels. Stopping estrogen will help reduce further darkening of your skin, but it’ll take a couple of months to lighten. And you may need to use topical lightening agents like hydroquinolone to further reduce dark splotches caused by estradiol.
2. Water Retention
Too much estradiol can cause water retention and bloating Estrogen helps keep your cells and tissues well hydrated. But too much estrogen can cause water retention which makes you feel uncomfortably bloated. Some women prior to their periods will gain 5-10 pounds in water weight due to the imbalance of estradiol and progesterone. Perimenopausal and menopausal women can be sensitive to water retention too. Especially if they retained water easily in their youth. Lowering estradiol dose can help. Natural diuretics like uva ursi can also help reduce water retention.
3. Breast Pain
Too much estradiol can cause breast pain and swelling. Normal monthly estrogen surges stimulate breast tissue to prepare it for pregnancy and lactation. If you’re taking too much estradiol, it can aggravate preexisting fibrocystic breast condition and enlarge existing cysts. Reducing estradiol can help. So can DIM – a supplement derived from cruciferous vegetables that can help your body metabolize estrogen into less inflammatory forms.
4. Uterine Bleeding
Too much estradiol can cause uterine bleeding. Including changes in menstrual periods – making them heavier with clots – and even breakthrough bleeding – bleeding that occurs between your periods. Too much estrogen can also cause uterine fibroids. Again reducing estradiol can help. But more effective is to be sure you’re taking an adequate amount of progesterone to counterbalance estrogen.
Anxiety – too much estradiol can contribute to anxiety. That’s because estrogen stimulates your brain which is a good thing when you want to be creative, learn and remember. But when you’re not getting enough progesterone to make counterbalancing calming GABA – estrogen can make you too stimulated contributing to anxiety. So be sure you’re getting enough progesterone to keep you calm. And you can learn how to make your own GABA with my CALM meditation. You can access the GABA inducing meditation by signing up for our Hormone Reboot Training below.
6. Blood Clots
The most dangerous side effect of taking too much estradiol is blood clots. Oral estradiol can increase the risk of blood clots. In fact, taking any steroid hormone by mouth – estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA or cortisol – can increase your risk of blood clots. That’s because oral steroid hormones interfere with your liver’s clotting cascade. Dangerous blood clots in your legs called venous thrombosis can break off and get in your lungs causing a dangerous pulmonary embolism, or in your coronary arteries causing a heart attack, or even in your brain causing a stroke.
If you have a family history of blood clots and especially if you’ve ever had a blood clot, then you are not a candidate for oral estrogen therapy especially in birth control form as estradiol has to be high dose to prevent pregnancy. Talk to your health care provider to see if you might use estrogen transdermally or intravaginally.
Estradiol is very beneficial hormone keeping your tissues lush and healthy. But when you take what your body should be making, it’s hard to mitigate the effects of estradiol. So if you’re struggling with side effects of estradiol, please consider supporting your hypothalamus. Your hypothalamus controls all of your hormones as well as your body’s sensitivity to hormones. When your hypothalamus is functioning optimally, your hormones are in better balance. And you metabolize them much more safely which helps mitigate side effects. I created Genesis Gold® to provide your hypothalamus with the phytonutrients it needs to do the best job at keeping your hormones balanced and you healthy.
You’ll learn more about how to support your hypothalamus naturally in our Hormone Reboot Training – where you’ll also learn about how to balance all your hormones naturally. Estrogen side effects are something we talk about a lot in my Hormone Support Group, which is FREE to join by the way when you sign up for our Hormone Reboot Training.
Genesis Gold® helps support a healthy immune response by keeping your Hormones in Harmony®, balancing your brain chemistry, and optimizing your immune function. Get yours today!