Have you ever heard of low estrogen levels and how it affects a woman’s body?
You often see a woman acting all crazy, being cranky, moody and grumpy or crying for no reason and easily label it as “Oh, I think it is that time of the month.” These words drive every woman mad.
What you do not realize is that a woman’s body is very complex in nature and she undergoes through multiple changes over a period of time. She begins with her menstrual cycle, followed by pregnancy and ends with menopause. Thus, it is all the hormones talking.
A woman has to keep track of her body as it goes through a storm of changes. The lookout for hormonal changes is real in order to make things better for us.
The most important is to notice the signs you are not producing enough estrogen in your body. This will alert you to know if there could be an imbalance with your hormones.
Firstly, do you know what is Estrogen? What does it do to a woman’s body? Why is estrogen so important for a woman?
Well, let’s start from the beginning with a basic question.
What is estrogen?
Estrogen is a hormone that is majorly responsible for sexual and reproductive growth and development in women. They are commonly known as female sex hormones.
Medically and chemically, Estrogen hormones belong to a group of similar hormones present in a woman’s body. They are estrone, estriol, and estradiol found mostly in women of reproductive age.
A woman possesses two main sex hormones – Estrogen and Progesterone. Progesterone controls and regulates mensuration and fertility in a woman’s body. However, Estrogen is highly responsible for female physical features and reproduction.
Ever wondered why is there excessive hair growth on your face or arms and legs? These are signs of low estrogen symptoms that also denote your estrogen levels are playing up.
Estrogen is a major part of a menstrual cycle and thus is common in hormonal birth control and hormone-replacement therapy. Some of the birth control methods contain synthetic estrogen. This works to keep the hormone levels consistent and thus, prevents ovulation.
Did you know?
Estrogen is not exclusive to female reproductive health only. It also plays a vital role in a man’s body. Just as testosterone is associated with masculinity and toughness, by surprise it is also present in a woman’s body. However, estrogen is found in higher quantities in women and smaller amounts in men.
Why is estrogen important for a woman?
A human body has a number of hormones that play a big role in the function of our body. It might be present in small amounts but it has the power to maintain our health and help us fight from infections.
For example, the thyroid gland might seem like a tiny gland but it emits hormones such as Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4), which controls our metabolism and keeps a check on our weight, body temperature, skin, hair and so on. The moment these hormones fluctuate our bodies goes for a toss.
The same goes for estrogen. Estrogen handles a number of other bodily tasks. For instance, it can affect your cholesterol levels, bone health, and the functioning of your brain. When you experience issues related to the above, these could call out for low estrogen symptoms as well.
Most importantly, Estrogen brings about the physical changes that turn a girl into a woman.
Estrogen hormone is responsible for a number of functions in our body. Such as:
- Sexual development of girls when they hit puberty.
- Development of female secondary sex characteristics, such as breasts, wider hips, pubic hair, and armpit hair.
- Controls the growth of the uterine lining during your menstrual cycle and at the beginning of a pregnancy.
- Controls your bone and cholesterol metabolism.
- Regulates your food intake, body weight, glucose metabolism, and insulin sensitivity.
- Controls your skin from acne breakouts, hair loss, skin lesions.
What are the causes of low estrogen levels?
When a woman reaches the stage of menopause, the body stops secreting estrogen hormones. However, it is not necessary that only a woman at the menopausal stage experiences low estrogen levels.
There are a number of health concerns that cause low estrogen levels in a woman’s body. Overall, estrogen hormone impacts not only physical functions of a body but emotional health as well.
The following are reasons for low estrogen levels in a woman’s body:
- A condition that damages the ovaries like hysterectomy, a surgery removing the uterus and ovaries completely.
- Excessive exercising
- Extreme dieting
- Family history of hormonal problems that cause conditions such as ovarian cysts
- Thyroid problems
- Premature ovarian failure
- Long-term kidney disorder
- Dysfunction of the pituitary gland
- Perimenopause (women over the age of 40 approaching menopause)
- Anorexia and other eating disorders
- Effects of chemotherapy
What are the symptoms of low estrogen?
Low estrogen symptoms are caused and visible by a number of factors. It can be due to drastic lifestyle changes, excessive workouts, and dieting, depreciating bone health. This can be even seen in women who are not yet close to their menopause clock.
Due to changes in lifestyle and climate, women of all ages also experience low estrogen levels.
I) Irregular periods
This is a very common low estrogen symptom that women face. Estrogen is responsible for maintaining your menstrual cycle. Hence, a decrease in estrogen levels could make your period light or even disappear.
Are you worried that why are your periods always late or sometimes even? Do you have a pregnancy scare?
Well, the reason could be an imbalance in your hormones because of various lifestyle changes. Menstruation is highly affected by the food we eat, the sedentary life we live and the amount of sleep we acquire.
However, the other reason is low estrogen levels in your body. How so? Because estrogen builds your uterine lining to thicken every month during your menstruation. This helps to flush all the blood out.
But, when your body produces low estrogen levels, the uterine lining does not become thick enough. This does not allow your body to have a full period and leads to missed or irregular periods.
2) Mood Swings
Feeling out of whack? Moody? Cranky? Angry? Well, it’s your hormones doing the talk. Since hormones control your menstrual cycle, it is obvious that it has a deeper impact on your mood cycle as well.
If you tend to experience a high and low graph on your mood cycle very often, then this could an alarming reason for low estrogen levels in your body.
Suddenly the highs and lows of life seem more dramatic and intense than normal. Low estrogen levels have a way of playing up with your mood swings. All these changes are due to either a spike or a drop in your estrogen levels. This is how your body reacts to low estrogen levels.
3) Hot flashes and night sweats
My mom has lately been sweating excessively, even if she is sitting in an air-conditioned room. For a while, both of us wondered why was this happening. We kept calling it hormonal imbalance but never gave it a deeper thought.
Until one day my mom’s colleague told her that he was approaching her menopause stage and these are referred to as hot flashes and night sweats.
Hot flashes and night sweats are very common low estrogen symptoms especially during perimenopause (a stage before you get to menopause).
This happens when estrogen muddles with your hypothalamus, a part of your brain that controls your body temperature. Not having enough estrogen in your body, tricks your brain to think that it is too hot. This opens up the blood vessels in your head and neck more than usual.
To get rid of the ‘heat’, your body lets go of the heat in a hot flash or night sweat. This causes serious disruptions in your day-to-day life especially your sleep pattern. Also, the reason is that your body temperature is on a rollercoaster.
4) Sex becomes painful and your libido is low
Not feeling the love lately? Do you not feel excited anymore? This could be the reason for low estrogen levels in your body.
Hormones have a major effect on your libido or sex drive. To add to it, low estrogen levels affect your vaginal lubrication. If your estrogen levels drop down to a low, it can cause vaginal dryness leading to painful sex.
Estrogen has a connection with serotonin, a hormone that denotes the desire and excitement you feel when you think about sex. Therefore, less estrogen and serotonin levels equal to a decrease in emotions of desire.
Low Estrogen can lead to the thinning of your vaginal walls, which contributes to pain during penetration.
This could affect your sex life with your partner deeply.
5) Depression and Anxiety
Estrogen plays a big part in producing and increasing levels of serotonin in the brain. Serotonin is a hormone that is responsible for the upliftment of your mood. Without this hormone, you tend to feel depressed, anxious and sad.
Ever wondered why our mood just drops down so low and we have no reason for this feeling? We feel sad and depressed about things that don’t matter in our lives. We begin to question ourselves and feel that we do not deserve any kind of love.
Well, ladies hold your horses because the main culprit is low estrogen. Yes, low levels of estrogen affect our mood drastically, risking our lives.
Normal levels of Estrogen helps your body to combat depression. But the moment the levels of estrogen decrease, the risk of suffering from depression increases.
Low estrogen symptoms can cause anxiety as well. Research has found that if you have low estrogen levels, you are more likely to feel the emotion of fear. Therefore, your sleep pattern is affected, your sex drive is low and you experience headaches very often.
6) Frequent Headaches
Do most of you suffer from headaches right before your periods start? Or do you experience chronic headaches in general?
The reason for these frequent headaches is due to low estrogen levels.
Frequent headaches are a very common estrogen symptom. This is caused due to the fluctuation of hormones in your body. Many women treat this as a casual headache or migraine. However, you should get your estrogen levels checked.
In fact, one of the treatments for headaches is using a low-dose estrogen patch prescribed by a doctor.
7) Having Trouble Sleeping and Feeling Fatigued
Low estrogen can deplete your sleep cycle because like we know, estrogen is connected to serotonin. Serotonin makes another hormone called melatonin, which is a sleep hormone. If you are running low on estrogen, serotonin and melatonin levels decrease leading to sleep disruptions. This could be another reason why you feel tired all the time.
Insufficient or disturbed sleep go hand in hand with fatigue. So, if you are awake all night staring at empty walls and feel exhausted the next day, you need to get your hormones checked.
8) Weak and Fragile Bones
Estrogen helps to keep the bones healthy and strong. As estrogen levels decrease, there is a decrease in your bone density as well. Your bones are likely to break or cause fracture more often. This is because estrogen works simultaneously with Vitamin D, Calcium and other minerals to keep your bones strong and sturdy.
Post-menopause, women are at a high risk of developing osteoporosis and bone fractures.
Since Low estrogen is responsible for irregular periods, it can prevent ovulation and risk the chance of getting pregnant. This can lead to a high risk of infertility.
Low estrogen symptoms cause the body to not be able to grow a thick uterine lining. Therefore, there will a deficiency in nourishment to grow a baby.
10) Increase in Weight
Low estrogen levels cause mood swings during a menstrual cycle. This causes women to crave comfort food which could be high in fat, sugar, salt, and calories. Low estrogen levels aggravate leptin, a hormone that inhibits hunger pangs.
Do your periods get you dreaming about hot chocolate sundaes, a big bag of chips, candies, and Netflix? Isn’t this the story of every girl comforting herself during her painful periods?
However, post-munching all that junk, you end up feeling worse and bloated. It leads to water retention, bloating and adds in a few pounds to your weight.
Estrogen regulates glucose and lipid metabolism of your body. It is also connected to your fat cells and therefore determines how you gain or lose weight. Even though weight gain is associated with high levels of estrogen, but not having enough also triggers the body to store more fat.
Research says that women approaching menopause are likely to become overweight. This can increase the risk of obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease.
Low estrogen makes it difficult for you to lose weight especially for women who suffer from thyroid problems. Keeping a balanced estrogen can help you to lose weight.
Low Estrogen Symptoms in Women in their 30’s
Women in their 30s also experience low estrogen. This condition is called Premature Menopause, where you go through menopause before time.
There are a number of conditions responsible for causing low estrogen levels in your 30s the most common being irregular periods, hot flashes, and night sweats.
However, for some women, having low estrogen could be genetic, thyroid disorder or ovarian cysts.
Low estrogen causes women to produce less amount of vaginal discharge and the vaginal lining becomes thinner. Therefore, it disrupts the pH level of the vagina causing vaginal yeast infections and UTI (Urinary tract infections) very often.
Women in their 30s experience feelings of depression, anxiety, irritability and impatience, and anger. They find it difficult to concentrate on their work, feel tired without doing anything physically, low sex drive, not able to focus and remember things. These are a few causes of low estrogen in women in their 30s.
How to Test for Low Estrogen?
An estrogen test quantifies the level of estrogen in your blood, saliva, or urine.
You could get tested at the doctor’s clinic or perform saliva tests at home using home-kits.
Besides the above, a diagnosis may involve other tests such as:
- Family history to assess for genetic causes of low estrogen.
- Evaluation of underlying causes such as thyroid disease or a pituitary disorder.
- Brain scan or DNA test to evaluate abnormalities of the endocrine system.
There are many types of estrogen present in your body. However, only three types are commonly tested:
- Estrone (E1) – the main female hormone produced by women of 50 years and older, mostly after menopause.
- Estradiol (E2) – the main female hormone produced by non-pregnant women.
- Estriol (E3) – a hormone that increases only during pregnancy.
Testing estrogen levels can impart important information about your menstrual cycle, your fertility, the health of your pregnancy, and other health conditions.
What is the normal range of estrogen levels?
For Menstruating women – The normal levels of Estradiol (E2) should be between 15 – 350 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL).
For Post-Menopausal women – The normal levels of Estradiol (E2) should be lower than 10 picograms per milliliter (pg/mL).
Ways to treat low estrogen
Most women with low estrogen levels opt for hormonal treatment which has an effective result. There are two ways to treat low estrogen levels:
- Estrogen Therapy
- Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
1. Estrogen Therapy
Estrogen therapy is considered the most consistent and effective therapy for menopausal women. It is used to bring relief to the symptoms of menopause such as vaginal dryness, hot flashes, sleep deprivation, and many others.
This therapy reduces cardiovascular disease, bone loss, and other hormonal imbalances.
Doctors recommend estrogen therapy using estrogen alone for those women who have had hysterectomy surgery. This is because estrogen alone can cause the risk of endometrial cancer (cancer of the lining of the uterus) in women who have a uterus.
Therefore, if you have gone through or know someone has undergone a hysterectomy, it is advised to go for estrogen therapy as it eliminates the risk of endometrial cancer.
For women with a uterus, combined hormone therapy is recommended which is a combination of estrogen and progesterone hormones that eliminated the increased risk of cancer. Progesterone is a hormone that protects the uterus by keeping the lining of the uterus from thickening, which is an effect caused by estrogen.
Different Types of Treatment for Estrogen Therapy
There are many ways and different forms in which estrogen therapy can be obtained such as
- Skin patches
- Vaginal suppositories
- Topical creams, gels, and sprays
However, the treatment depends on the severity of your condition, your symptoms, and overall health. Your doctor will prescribe the type of treatment suitable for you and explain the benefits and risks involved.
Data from multiple studies prove that estrogen therapy favorably reduces the extremity of hot flashes and night sweats by 65 to 90%.
Who should not opt for Estrogen therapy?
Estrogen therapy may not be appropriate or suitable for all women, especially for those women with breast cancer, heart disease, or blood clots. Remember there could be side effects of Estrogen Therapy like Headache, Nausea, Breast Pain, Blood clots in the lungs and veins, Uterine Cancer, Abnormal vaginal bleeding, Heart Disease, Breast Cancer or Stroke.
2. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is used to amplify your body’s natural hormone levels. Doctors recommend this therapy to relieve women from the symptoms of menopause and perimenopause.
Likewise, menopause is responsible for estrogen and progesterone levels to significantly drop and decrease. Thus, Hormone Replacement Therapy helps to elevate these levels to a normal range.
There are different types of HRT treatments depending on the dosage, and a combination of hormones. In most cases, doctors use a combination of estrogen and progesterone in the therapy prescribed. Doctors also use testosterone hormone in the therapy depending on how low the estrogen levels are.
Hormone Replacement Therapy is also used in men in Male Hormonal Therapy and for individuals who undergo a sex change.
Different Types of Treatment for Hormone Replacement Therapy
There are many ways and different forms in which hormone replacement therapy can be obtained such as,
- Inserted Pellets under the skin
- Vaginal suppositories
- Topical creams and gel
The dose given varies depending on the individual’s estrogen levels. There could be side effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy such as blood clot, heart stroke, breast cancer, breast tenderness, bloating, headaches, vaginal bleeding, leg cramps, indigestion or nausea.
Who should not opt for Hormone Replacement Therapy?
This treatment is not suitable for women who have a history of a stroke, heart attack, and high blood pressure. It is highly recommended to speak with your doctor to know if you are eligible to take this treatment or not.
There is also an increased risk of cardiovascular disease for women approaching menopause who undergo Hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
Natural Remedies to treat Low Estrogen levels
There are so many ingredients and food items that you find in your kitchen that can actually bring your hormonal balance back on track.
Therefore, eat foods that are rich in estrogen and naturally present. Such as,
- Fruits such as strawberries and peaches
- Flax seeds
- Sesame seeds
- Dry fruits
Also, make sure you are not exercising too much and eating enough to maintain healthy body weight. Most importantly cut out tobacco from your system.
A new study was found that women between the age of 18 and 44, who drink caffeine, have an increased level of estrogen in their bodies. However, this impact varies among different races of women. Among white women, there is a drop in their estrogen levels while among Asian women, there is a rise in their estrogen levels.
How interesting is that!
I hope now you understand how important it is to keep a check on your hormones for better and overall health. Low estrogen levels are not threatening in nature however, it can affect your body negatively, in a number of ways.
It interferes with your sexual development and decreases your sex drive. Therefore, leading to a high risk of obesity, heart disease, osteoporosis, and many other health-related issues. Low estrogen levels hampers are day-to-day activities to an extent that affects our personal and family relationships too.
Just imagine being irritated at your family or your partner for all the wrong reasons that they don’t understand. Or being a grump towards your colleagues and boss even though they haven’t said a thing to you. Moreover, your professional life is majorly affected as it is difficult for you to focus and concentrate with precise attention.
Therefore, my ladies, do not get so worked up if your estrogen levels are low, There are numerous treatments that can bring the levels to normal are very effective in nature.
If you experience some of the low estrogen symptoms mentioned above, then, most importantly speak with your doctor and get your estrogen levels tested.
Normalize your hormone levels, be pain-free and love and nourish the body you have.