Parkinson’s and Estrogen: The Afternoon Slump.

I was talking to a PD group up in Syracuse last October and got talking to a good friend of mine, who has PD, about her afternoons. She told me that every day her energy and mood dip hard at the same time. Whenever anyone has a slump in the afternoon, I think about what they had for lunch. Was there enough protein? In this case, my friend has a great diet. So, I started to think about the fact that she’s a woman, and as such, has estrogen that cycles throughout the day. Moreover, I started thinking about Parkinson’s and estrogen.

Estrogen is an every day thing.

Estrogen levels are critical to how a woman experiences life. Not only do estrogen levels regulate the expression of other hormones, estrogen is responsive to many hormones. As a result, a variety of bodily functions vary throughout the day based on estrogen levels. For example, estrogen is involved in regulating energy balance, body temperature, and stress.[1] 

Parkinson’s and Estrogen – it’s a good thing! 

With respect to Parkinson’s Disease (PD), estrogen is neuroprotective. It prevents the degradation of dopaminergic neurons, and is therefore protective for PD progression.[2,3] We know this because prevalence of PD is higher in men, than in women; and post-menopausal estrogen deficiency causes a worsening of PD symptoms. In fact, women experiencing these symptoms can alleviate some of them by taking estrogen.[4] In fact, it’s likely the estrogen receptors rather than the estrogen that is protective. 

We all know that women cycle monthly. Did you know that they also cycle daily? Now of course, everyone cycles daily. It’s called a circadian rhythm – and we think about it as how we go to sleep at night and wake in the morning. But most people don’t realize that estrogen also cycles in a circadian rhythm, peaking in the morning and then decreasing throughout the rest of the day.[5]

Listen to your body!

Since estrogen cycles daily in addition to monthly and across the lifetime, women who are in touch with their bodies may notice circadian symptoms across the day. As estrogen levels drop in the afternoon, PD symptoms may increase.   

Could estrogen be used therapeutically?  

So far, estrogen therapies have not shown success for Parkinson’s.2 Phytoestrogens, estrogens that are produced by plants, have been shown to bind to estrogen receptors, and can be protective for some diseases, such as cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Multiple studies have shown that soy can be neuroprotective.[6,7] While no clinical trials have been done, one animal study of the soy based protein, genistein, showed memory improvement, but didn’t change motor deficits.[7]

Should people with Parkinson’s try soy? Maybe, but stay away from genetically modified soy. The pesticide, glyphosate, is commonly used with genetically modified soy. Because glyphosate can deplete manganese and is directly neurotoxic, it’s a good idea for people with Parkinson’s to stay away from glyphosate based pesticides (like Round-up).[8] Organic soy and genestein supplements wouldn’t have these issues. 


So, tofu for lunch! Raise those afternoon estrogen levels.  




  1. Eichling PS, Sahni J. Menopause related sleep disorders. J Clin Sleep Med JCSM Off Publ Am Acad Sleep Med. 2005;1(3):291-300.
  2. Chakrabarti M, Haque A, Banik NL, Nagarkatti P, Nagarkatti M, Ray SK. Estrogen receptor agonists for attenuation of neuroinflammation and neurodegeneration. Brain Res Bull. 2014;109:22-31. doi:10.1016/j.brainresbull.2014.09.004
  3. Mitra S, Chakrabarti N, Dutta SS, et al. Gender-specific brain regional variation of neurons, endogenous estrogen, neuroinflammation and glial cells during rotenone-induced mouse model of Parkinson’s disease. Neuroscience. 2015;292:46-70. doi:10.1016/j.neuroscience.2014.12.052
  4. Vegeto E, Benedusi V, Maggi A. Estrogen anti-inflammatory activity in brain: a therapeutic opportunity for menopause and neurodegenerative diseases. Front Neuroendocrinol. 2008;29(4):507-519. doi:10.1016/j.yfrne.2008.04.001
  5. Shechter A, Boivin DB. Sleep, Hormones, and Circadian Rhythms throughout the Menstrual Cycle in Healthy Women and Women with Premenstrual Dysphoric Disorder.International Journal of Endocrinology.doi:10.1155/2010/259345
  6. Liu L-X, Chen W-F, Xie J-X, Wong M-S. Neuroprotective effects of genistein on dopaminergic neurons in the mice model of Parkinson’s disease.Neurosci Res. 2008;60(2):156-161. doi:10.1016/j.neures.2007.10.005
  7. Arbabi E, Hamidi G, Talaei SA, Salami M. Estrogen agonist genistein differentially influences the cognitive and motor disorders in an ovariectomized animal model of Parkinsonism. Iran J Basic Med Sci. 2016;19(12):1285-1290. doi:10.22038/ijbms.2016.7911
  8. Samsel A, Seneff S. Glyphosate, pathways to modern diseases III: Manganese, neurological diseases, and associated pathologies. Surg Neurol Int. 2015;6. doi:10.4103/2152-7806.153876