Stop the bleeding!
October 19, 2010 1:29 PM   Subscribe

I need dietary and lifestyle hacks for increasing my blood estrogen levels.

I am having persistent spotting from birth control that's progestin only. Obviously my blood estrogen levels are too low at this point to keep my uterine lining intact for more than a few days. Yes I have seen a doctor about this and the options laid out to me were wait it out or switch my method again.
I am out of good birth control options at this point unless I can get the spotting to stop on its own, so I need to know what to eat and what to do to help. I know that the progestin is getting me stuck in this feedback loop and that the simplest thing is to stop taking the progestin and my estrogen levels will sort themselves out again, but then I am left with no acceptable birth control choice other than barriers or copper IUDs, and that does not appeal.

I tried some quick Pubmed searches but I am not seeing any strong suggestion that eating a particular thing or things will help the production and bioavailability of estrogen in my body. Grapefruit juice is mentioned as prolonging the half life of synthetic estradiol in the blood, but not sure if that applies to natural estrogens as well. Other foods I need to eat? What about small amounts of alcohol? Any other hacks so I can literally stop the bleeding?
posted by slow graffiti to Health & Fitness (11 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Tofu and soybean products are high in isoflavones that mimic estrogen in the body.
posted by lizbunny at 1:39 PM on October 19, 2010

Soya bean products and soya bean milk.
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:40 PM on October 19, 2010

heh, should have previewed :)
posted by The Lady is a designer at 1:41 PM on October 19, 2010

I understand what you are trying to do, but be very careful with soy products. They can have a detrimental effect on your thyroid which can cause (believe me!) problems a lot worse than spotting.
posted by misha at 3:02 PM on October 19, 2010

Response by poster: Well, I don't know about slathering myself with lavender and tea tree or eating nothing but tofu; I see nothing saying these have known effects on endometrial state. (gynomastia in boys =/= an effect on mature women)

The best I could find was an experiment that gave post-menopausal women a soy supplement, and while it did have some effects you might expect from an estrogen, it did not change endometrial thickness.
posted by slow graffiti at 3:46 PM on October 19, 2010

I think grapefruit (including juice) is meant to be avoided with the contraceptive pill. I'm not entirely sure why, or whether the same applies for a progesterone only pill. You might want to check with your pharmacist if you are thinking about increasing your grapefruit intake.
posted by lollusc at 6:11 PM on October 19, 2010

The key ingredients in soy etc with phytoestrogen activity are called isoflavones. A quick google search for that term plus endometrial thickness pulled up a few papers, including these two (1 2) indicating that isoflavones don't change endometrial thickness. Blood estrogen levels were increased, but not enough to influence endometrial proliferation. Keep in mind that they are looking for signs of increased thickness in postmenopausal women as that is a side effect of estrogen replacement therapy in that population, this may or may not affect the results.

Grapefruit contains compounds that interact with metabolism of certain drugs or other compounds in the intestine. They prevent the breakdown of the drug as it enters the body so more of it reaches the blood stream intact. This is an issue for orally adminstered estrodiol absorbed from the intestinal tract, but probably has little to no effect on the metabolism of naturally produced estrogen which comes from the ovaries.

Increased estrogen levels have side effects of their own, including increased incidence of certain types of cancer. You do not want to be artificially changing your hormone concentrations to the point they're having strong biological effects like influencing endometrial proliferation without it being under the control of a doctor. Just because food is 'natural' doesn't mean it's safe or a good idea. If your doctor thinks that increased estrogen is a good way to ameliorate the side effects you're having they can give you a controlled, measured dose that is appropriate to your medical history. If they think it's a bad idea for some reason then it's still a bad idea to do the same thing using some kind of dietary hack, assuming you can find one that works (which I'm betting you can't).
posted by shelleycat at 7:14 PM on October 19, 2010

(And it looks like we found the same soy articles. Isoflavones are very biologically active, if they don't raise estrogen levels enough I doubt any other food compounds will.)
posted by shelleycat at 7:15 PM on October 19, 2010

Your doctor, by the way, if she really feels you need to increase you estrogen levels, could easily prescribe a patch or gel, etc. that you could use (like the Vivelle patch and estradiol).

But there are serious risk for women who are not menopausal, chief among them being uterine cancer, clotting, heart problems, etc.

So I really think you need to re-think the "I just need more estrogen!" idea unless you have fully discussed this with your doctor.
posted by misha at 7:44 PM on October 19, 2010

I don't mean to derail, but after 10 years of hormonal birth control that never worked very well (it worked, but the side effects were always a problem) i did get a copper IUD and have been thrilled. So if you do end up having to go that route, don't panic. It does work very well.

You don't want to mess with your estrogen levels--this can lead to all kinds of stuff, like cancer and blood clots (which can lead to disability or amputation...not to be taken lightly).

Barring all that, load up on soy and hope for the best. Good luck. I hope you find something that works. If you don't, please know that the IUD can seem scary but is really a good option for many women.
posted by thinkingwoman at 8:00 PM on October 19, 2010

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