Have you ever felt that you are being “hormonal?” Most of us females are aware of hormone fluctuations in our bodies because we are cyclical beings. Estrogen is the driving force behind our “hormonal” ups and downs. When we have a dip in our estrogen levels, we experience low estrogen symptoms that can affect multiple systems in our bodies. So, the next time you feel like you are “hormonal,” take a moment to yourself to consider where you are in your cycle and life.
What does estrogen do for women?
Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone that is essential for sexual and reproductive development. Although it is present in small amounts in men, estrogen is one of the key biochemical ingredients that makes us biologically female.
Estrogen is responsible for:
- Regulating food intake, body weight, insulin sensitivity, and glucose metabolism
- Aiding in bone and cholesterol metabolism
- Sexual development in girls when they reach puberty
- Growth of the uterine lining in the menstrual cycle and the start of pregnancy
- Breast development puberty and growth in pregnancy
- Developing secondary sex in puberty including wide hips, and pubic and armpit hair
- Stopping ovulation after egg fertilization alongside progesterone
What is estrogen?
From a biochemical lens, estrogens are a group of three chemically similar hormones: estrone, estradiol, and estriol. The ovaries are the main site for estrogen production, although fat cells and the adrenal gland can produce estrogens in small quantities. In pregnancy, estrogen (in the form of estriol) is produced by the placenta and is responsible for preparing the breasts for lactation.
Estrogen plays an important role in bone formation by directing vitamin D and calcium, (along with other hormones) to break down and rebuild bone. When estrogen levels decline around middle age in women, bone rebuilding begins to slow. Thus, postmenopausal women are more susceptible to osteoporosis than men. From your skin, hair, and muscles, to your blood clotting factors and vaginal lubrication, estrogen is one of the key players controlling the show in your body.
What can cause low estrogen in women?
When estrogen levels fall, many systems in your body are affected. For example, the following phases and conditions can lead to low estrogen symptoms in women:
- Hypogonadism (this is a condition marked by a decrease in ovarian function)
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS)
- Extreme exercise habits
- Pituitary gland dysfunction
- Liver disease
The dip in estrogen experienced after childbirth and in menopause is normal and expected. However, if you are experiencing “hormonal” issues unrelated to these stages or a normal menstrual cycle, you should meet with your doctor to discuss other possible causes of low estrogen in your body.
“From your skin, hair, and muscles, to your blood clotting factors and vaginal lubrication, estrogen is one of the key players controlling the show in your body.”
Low estrogen symptoms list
The following is a list of some common low estrogen symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Irregular or absent periods
- Breast tenderness
- Mood swings
- Depression and anxiety
- Difficulty concentrating
- Lack of vaginal lubrication (which leads to painful sex)
- Increased urinary tract infections (due to thinning skin and mucous membranes in the urethra and vagina)
- Headaches and migraines
- Bone fracture
Treating Low Estrogen Symptoms
The treatment of low estrogen in women depends on the cause. For women between ages 25-50, a medical doctor may prescribe a higher dose of estrogen. Many women are on long-term estrogen-replacement therapy if they have undergone a hysterectomy or are in perimenopause. Indeed, estrogen-replacement therapy may relieve some of the 34 symptoms of perimenopause. Estrogen replacement is only prescribed for a short duration of time in all other cases as some research has linked estrogen therapy with an increased risk for cancers.
Hormone therapy (HT) may also be recommended by your doctor if you are nearing menopause. This form of treatment seeks to mimic your body’s natural levels of estrogen and progesterone prior to menopause. Women can take HRT topically, orally, vaginally, or by injection.
When low estrogen symptoms are an expected part of a phase or cycle in life, you may find benefits in treating the low estrogen symptoms rather than the cause (hormones). For example, if you are suffering from vaginal dryness in menopause, finding a good lubricant may provide the most relief with the least amount of side effects.
If you have any of the above symptoms of low estrogen, meet with your doctor to discuss the causes and your options for treatment.
Disclaimer: This is not medical advice, does not take the place of medical advice from your physician, and is not intended to treat or cure any disease. Patients should see a qualified medical provider for assessment and treatment.