Estrogen is a hormone most commonly associated with women, although men may produce small quantities. Declining estrogen can give rise to a variety of health concerns and symptoms.
While estrogen is mainly associated during puberty and the reproductive cycle with female development, it affects everything from bone health to emotional well-being.
There are many theories why low levels of oestrogen can occur in women of all ages.
Important facts about low estrogen:
- Estrogen is largely produced by the ovaries.
- When estrogen levels are low, it can have several effects on the body.
- Women who have eating disorders, such as anorexia, are at a higher risk of having low estrogen levels.
Causes of low estrogen
The estrogen levels are variable for several reasons. Any disease affecting or harming the ovaries may cause a decrease in the body’s estrogen levels.
Gender is the most important risk factor for low estrogen levels. With women aging and entering menopause, falling estrogen levels is common.
In addition, levels of oestrogen begin to decline several years before menopause (a process called perimenopause) occurs.
There are some other reasons why estrogen levels can also decrease, including:
- premature ovarian failure
- congenital conditions, such as Turner syndrome
- thyroid disorders
- excessive exercise
- being severely underweight
- low-functioning pituitary gland
Having a family history of hormonal issues may also raise the likelihood that a woman may experience low oestrogen.
Effects of low estrogen
Estrogen is an important hormone so that the results can be very large.
Low-oestrogen symptoms may include:
- Irregular periods: Estrogen is one of the main hormones driving the menstrual cycle. Low estrogen may lead to missed or irregular periods.
- Infertility: Low estrogen levels can prevent ovulation and make getting pregnant difficult, leading to infertility.
- Weak bones: Estrogen helps keep the bones healthful and strong. As estrogen levels decrease, bone loss may occur. For example, women who are post-menopausal are at an increased risk of developing osteoporosis and bone fractures.
- Painful intercourse: Estrogen can affect vaginal lubrication. If levels become too low, vaginal dryness can occur, which often leads to painful sex.
- Hot flashes: Hot flashes often happen during menopause due to low estrogen levels.
- Depression: Estrogen is thought to increase serotonin, which is a chemical in the brain that boosts mood. Estrogen deficiency may cause a decline in serotonin that contributes to mood swings or depression.
- Increase in urinary tract infections: Increased urinary tract infections may occur due to the thinning of the tissue in the urethra, which can develop with decreased estrogen.
Effect on weight
Hormones can play a role in weight control, including estrogen, and how much fat the body stores are. Low estrogen levels can contribute to weight gain, for example during perimenopause and menopause.
The areas where women store fat, during menopause, may also change. Fat is usually contained in women’s hips and thighs. Yet it changes as the levels of estrogen go down. The decrease in oestrogen at midlife is associated with an increase in abdominal fat, according to the Journal of Climacteric.
While weight gain is normal due to low levels of estrogen, it need not be unavoidable. Eating a balanced diet and daily exercise will help women reduce their odds of gaining weight.
A low-estrogen diagnosis also starts with a physical examination, medical history and a symptom review. Low oestrogen Telltale signs include hot flashes and missed periods. But some of these symptoms can also arise from other conditions, including thyroid problems.
A doctor can do a blood test to check the hormone levels to determine the cause of low estrogen. The doctor can also prescribe further testing to rule out any disorders that can cause low-estrogen-like symptoms.
Not all women need low oestrogen care. But if signs of low estrogen are humiliating, treatment may be recommended. Treatment is individualized based on low oestrogen prevalence and current symptoms.
Hormone replacement therapy
Doctors usually recommend hormone-replacement therapy ( HRT) for low levels of estrogen.
There are different forms of HRT available. Doctors often recommend a combination of hormone therapy which includes estrogen and progesterone.
For certain women experiencing symptoms, the combination of hormones can be helpful in controlling oestrogen levels.
Doctors prefer to prescribe combination HRT for women who reach menopause or experience signs of postmenopause. HRT side effects can include bloating, headaches and bleeding in the vagina.
Women can take HRT orally, topically, vaginally or insert pellets under the skin. In certain cases , women may get an injection. The dose administered varies by person. Doctors typically recommend the lowest dosage that helps relieve symptoms.
Not all women are willing to use HRT. Of instance, HRT may not be suitable for women who have a history of stroke , heart attack, or high blood pressure. Any woman who is considering HRT needs to speak to her doctor about the risks versus the benefits.
Doctors also recommend only estrogen to treat certain patients with an estrogen deficiency; for example, people who have lost their ovaries. A doctor will also prescribe estrogen therapy to treat bothersome menopause symptoms.
There do not appear to be several scientifically validated approaches to use natural therapies to increase the estrogen levels. But a few changes in lifestyle and diet can benefit.
Maintaining a healthy weight
Since being extremely underweight may cause decreased levels of estrogen, it can help to maintain a healthy weight.
Heavy rates of exercise can also contribute to a reduction in the development of estrogen; therefore, reducing exercise will help to raise levels of estrogen.
Several studies have been carried out on the benefits of soy for treating symptoms of low estrogen. Conflicting research is being carried out on the effects of soy to improve estrogen levels. This small research, however, suggested that soy isoflavones could improve menopausal symptoms caused by decreasing levels of estrogen.
Increasing soy can not be appropriate for all women. A woman will converse with her doctor before adding more soy or taking a soy supplement.
Low levels of estrogen can cause a number of health problems and affect the wellbeing of a woman. Any woman who has low oestrogen symptoms will speak to her doctor.
Treatments for low oestrogen symptoms perform well in certain cases. While outlooks vary from cause to cause, HRT is often helpful.
It’s also important to note that the amount of time a woman has to take HRT varies depending on her situation.