One of the most annoying things in the world is dealing with vagina problems. For me, my vagina is the sole epicenter of my comfort/discomfort level and sometimes my mood. Anything can make your vagina become dry, which can lead to infections and a whole bunch of other fun stuff. One of those causes is low estrogen.

Swimming in some sketchy water, using un-lubricated condoms, bacterial vaginosis, taking emergency contraception, birth control pills, using cardboard tampon applicators (please God no), and a few other things can make your vagina dry, which leads to itchiness and other forms of irritation. It is not a good time. Another cause has nothing to do with those things (minus the hormonal stuff mentioned above): Low Estrogen (dun dun DUNNNNN!)

Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone all shift levels during the month for a cis woman. Usually they regulate normally and don’t give you any issues, but eating unhealthy foods, taking birth control, and menopause can all cause an unnatural shift in your hormone levels.
You’ll notice in this chart by Hormonology that estrogen fluctuates the most, leaving the most room for error (also that little testosterone peak during ovulation is why you get so horny two weeks before your period ūüėČ ) In the third week of your period, your estrogen starts to drop, which could lead to irritable mood commonly associated with PMS. Anyway, so that’s the normal stuff.

When you have abnormally low estrogen, you can experience a range of symptoms, including: lack of vaginal lubrication, thinning of the urethra (increase in UTIs), irregular periods, mood swings, hot flashes, breast tenderness, headaches, depression, trouble concentrating, and fatigue.
Many factors can decrease your estrogen production. The most common is menopause. However, young people can experience low estrogen as well, with causes such as excessive exercise (gymnasts suffer from this), eating disorders (anorexia), a low-functioning pituitary gland, ovarian failure (eek!), Turner syndrome, thyroid disorders, chemotherapy, and chronic kidney disease.

There’s a lot, but thankfully there are things you can do. Estrogen levels should come back on their own and if they don’t by your next period, you should definitely make an appointment with your doctor. Don’t worry. It could be nothing, but also don’t wait if you have these symptoms for a prolonged period of time (again, I’m not a doctor – this is all up to you). Until then, here are 6 foods that can increase your estrogen levels:

1 – Soy

Soy is one of the main foods I stay away from¬†because it increases your estrogen levels. If you’re a male, this can significantly mess up your body. Regardless of your gender, you don’t want to mess with your hormones¬†too much. If you need to eat soy, the healthiest way to do it is natto, which are fermented soy beans. You can find natto in your local Asian market, local co-op, or maybe Whole Foods someday.

2 – Flax Seeds

Flax seeds have some really awesome omega-3 fatty acids and fiber. It also contains lignans, which have antioxidants and estrogen properties. You can find flax seeds just about anywhere, but it’s probably cheapest to buy it in bulk at your local co-op or a Wegmans if you’re lucky enough to live near one.

3 – Fruits

Certain fruits such as strawberries, peaches, oranges, and apricots can increase your estrogen levels.

4 – Olives

Olives, olive oil, olives in a can – whatever will help you increase that estrogen.

5 – Vegetables

Certain vegetables like yams, carrots, alfalfa sprouts, kale, and celery are high in estrogen.

6 – Chickpeas

Get some hummus. Get some olive oil. Dip some strawberries and carrots in there. Go all out. This is great for your bodyyyy!

That’s all. There are a few more foods that will help increase that estrogen. If you have a dry vagina or headaches or whatever else comes with low estrogen, I hope everything works itself out soon. I’ve been there. It sucks.

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Featured Photo Credit: Photo by Sam Manns on Unsplash