The Bottom Line On Low Estrogen
Symptoms of low estrogen are becoming increasingly common in young, pre-menopausal women.
Everything from night sweats, depression, vaginal dryness, headaches, and irregular periods can be traced back to low estrogen.
And because estrogen is responsible for far more than just regulating our periods and enabling us to get pregnant, it makes sense that the symptoms of low estrogen would be far-reaching.
Overcoming low estrogen and reducing your symptoms is possible.
Working with a qualified practitioner who can help you determine your estrogen levels and how to correct hormonal imbalances is key to getting the best results.
You can also work on other lifestyle factors such as reducing your intense training, eating more, managing your stress, and upping your carb and/or fat intake.
All of these seemingly simple changes can be the building blocks for reversing low estrogen and fully healing your hormones.
After reading this post, do you think low estrogen could be a cause of your symptoms? What are some lifestyle changes you plan to make to reduce some stress in your life? Let me know in the comments!
Why Choose Amen Clinics For Treating Hormonal Imbalances
At Amen Clinics we are experts in the brain-body connection. We have functional medicine physicians and nutritionists on staff who specialize in hormones and the regulation of body and brain function. Some hormonal imbalances, such as abnormal cortisol levels, can alter brain function and can impair memory and cause brain fog. Other hormonal imbalances can negatively affect mood and energy levels. Our specialists are trained in optimizing hormone levels to get you back to feeling like yourself again.
What Medications Treat Low Estrogen
Hormone replacement therapy is a common treatment for low estrogen, especially during menopause and postmenopause. With HT, you take synthetic forms of estrogen and/or the hormone progesterone to boost your levels. There are two types of HT, estrogen therapy and estrogen progesterone/progestin hormone therapy . Providers prescribe the lowest doses possible to treat your symptoms while preventing side effects.
The only FDA-approved reasons for body-wide hormone replacement therapy are low bone mineral density and hot flash treatment, typically in the form of pills or patches. Vaginal estrogen in the form of rings, creams, and vaginal inserts are formulated to treat vaginal dryness and painful intercourse. Sometimes “body wide” estrogen can affect the vaginal tissue. Sometimes it doesnt. Vice versa, vaginal estrogen is not approved for the treatment of hot flashes.
Its not unusual to need vaginal estrogen in addition to body-wide estrogen if youre experiencing hot flashes and painful sex.
Youll take estrogen supplements only, with no progesterone. Your provider will only prescribe this therapy if you no longer have a uterus .
Estrogen progesterone/progestin hormone therapy
HRT isnt without risks. Research has shown that long-term use of combination therapy may increase your risk of breast cancer, blood clots, heart attacks and stroke.
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How To Increase Your Estrogen Levels
If youre experiencing symptoms of low estrogen, you may be looking for ways to increase the levels in your body.
Your doctor may prescribe hormone replacement therapy . If you take HRT that includes estrogen, it will increase the levels of the hormone in your body.
Researchers have found that HRT can be used in a safe way by most women.
There are studies looking into the possibility of changing what you eat, adding more of certain plant foods and vitamins to your diet, and trying herbal remedies to increase your estrogen levels. We discuss how strong this evidence is below.
Low Estrogen Symptom #: Night Sweats
Night sweats are a classic symptom of perimenopause and menopause. And is one that so many women dread, for good reason.
Waking up at night drenched in sweat for seemingly no reason is never a fun experience. And is thankfully one that, if youre not in the throes of menopause, can usually be resolved!
These periods of intense sweating are related to a drop in estrogen levels, and your bodys attempt to regulate what it senses as being too hot.
Sweating at night can be traced back to estrogens effects on your perception of body temperature.
Your body has a range of temperatures at which it can comfortably maintain its own core temperature. This is known as the thermoneutral zone and is regulated by the hypothalamus in the brain.
When the brain senses that your body is outside that thermoneutral zone, it relies on other means to maintain its internal temperature. One of those being reducing its temperature by drenching you in sweat!
At this point, you may be wondering how any of this is related to low estrogen.
Estrogen has binding sites in the brain, and when your estrogen is low, those receptor sites become increasingly sensitive. This increased sensitivity results in a narrowing of the thermoneutral zone. This can trick the body into thinking its too hot when it actually isnt.
Low estrogen levels actually make our bodies think that theyre warmer than they actually are. This is why you can wake up sweating for seemingly no apparent reason.
Estrogen and Blood Vessels
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What To Do For Postmenopausal Women At Age 60
An improved diet rich in phytoestrogens and the three macronutrients lean protein, complex carbs, and healthy fats is key for postmenopausal nutrition. Also, aging women should aim for regular, weight-bearing exercise to encourage optimal muscle mass and weight as well as practicing wholesome habits for endocrine health. Alternative medicine.
How Doctors Treat Hormonal Imbalances
There isnt one best medication for low estrogen. What works for you will depend on a few different factorsincluding the underlying cause of your hormonal imbalances, if other hormones are affected, and your specific personal and family medical history. Your doctor may ask you to come back a few times to test your blood and fine-tune your treatment.
Dr. Ayazo explains that your physician will look at all of these different factors to find a treatment that works best for you. Some possible options include:
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When To See A Doctor
If you notice signs and symptoms of low estrogen, you should contact your doctor to discuss whats happening. You can discuss with your doctor if there are blood tests recommended to check your overall health. Make sure you are up to date on your Pap smear test, which checks for cervical cancer.
- Youve missed a period or more: This could be a sign of pregnancy or the result of certain medications, an underlying illness, or perimenopause.
- Youve not had a period for a year and start bleeding or spotting: In women who have gone through menopause, spotting or light bleeding could be caused by endometrial cancer or other serious health problems.
- You are 16 or older and have not started menstruating: This could be a sign of delayed puberty due to hormonal imbalance.
- You think you may have an eating disorder: Eating disorders can wreak havoc on your physical and mental health. They can cause deficiencies that can compromise estrogen production.
- You are feeling overwhelming sadness or having suicidal thoughts: Reach out to a mental health professional to get the help and support you deserve, and talk to your doctor about possible treatment options.
What Can I Do To Help With These Weird Sensations
As usual, there are lifestyle changes to try first:
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Hormones And The Brain
That’s not to say estrogen isn’t a major player in regulating moods. Estrogen acts everywhere in the body, including the parts of the brain that control emotion.
Some of estrogen’s effects include:
- Increasing serotonin, and the number of serotonin receptors in the brain.
- Modifying the production and the effects of endorphins, the “feel-good” chemicals in the brain.
- Protecting nerves from damage, and possibly stimulating nerve growth.
What these effects mean in an individual woman is impossible to predict. Estrogen’s actions are too complex for researchers to understand fully. As an example, despite estrogen’s apparently positive effects on the brain, many women’s moods improve after menopause, when estrogen levels are very low.
Some experts believe that some women are more vulnerable to the menstrual cycle’s normal changes in estrogen. They suggest it’s the roller coaster of hormones during the reproductive years that create mood disturbances.
What Are Hormones Responsible For
Think of hormones as your bodys chemical general managers. They actually tell your organs and tissues what tasks to perform and when. Hormones rule your:
- Reproductive system
- Organ performance
Its normal for hormones to fluctuate sometimes, like when youre pregnant, but at other times, imbalance-related symptoms are unwelcome.
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Symptoms Of Estrogen Dominance
Are you a Candidate for Natural Progesterone?
Estrogen is the dominant hormone for the first week or so after menstruation , stimulating the build up of tissue and blood in the uterus as the ovarian follicles simultaneously begin their development of the egg. Levels peak and then taper off just as the follicle matures and just before ovulation.
Progesterone is a major reproductive hormone during the latter two weeks of the menstrual cycle. It keeps the inner lining of the uterus ready to receive a fertilized ovum, and later provides the nurturing for the development of the embryo. If the egg is not fertilized, progesterone levels drop dramatically causing the uterus to shed its lining and a menstruation flow results.
The diagram below demonstrates what actually happens to a womens body during her 28 cycle and where progesterone fits into that picture.
Symptoms of estrogen dominance
If you experience any of the following symptoms associated with estrogen dominance, or are being treated for any of the medical conditions listed, supplementing with natural progesterone cream may help:
- Acceleration of the aging process
- Adrenal exhaustion
- Loss of short term memory
- Alienation and loss of confidence
- Androgen side effects: facial hair, increased body hair
- Increased thickening and blacking of limb hair
Atypical periods alternating from shorter or extending to longer, cycles become erratic, can alternate from heavier to lighter, or can be a combination of both heaving clotting
What Is Estrogen Pellet Therapy
Estrogen pellet therapy is a type of bio-identical hormone therapy designed to correct hormonal imbalances in women. With this unique hormone treatment, pellets the size of a grain of rice are inserted under the skin in the hip or buttock with a long, hollow needle. These pellets are slowly absorbed into the body, releasing a continuous flow of estrogen until they disintegrate completely.
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Who Will Experience Significant Symptoms Of Menopause
Just because there are many symptoms of menopause doesn’t mean you will have all of them! The experience of menopause is unique to each woman, in much the same way that puberty is unique.
Some women will experience a range of symptoms that affect their lifestyles, while others may sail through perimenopause and into postmenopause without a blip.
So, what percentage of women experience no significant symptoms of menopause? According to Jean Hailes, an Australian non-profit that researches women’s health issues, around:
- 20% of women will have no menopause symptoms
- 60% experience will experience mild to moderate menopause symptoms
- 20% will experience severe menopause symptoms that impact their daily life
Stop Overtraining And Undereating
You probably know how passionate I am about helping women heal their bodies from overtraining and undereating!
And unfortunately, hormonal imbalances, including low estrogen, are just another symptom of this all too common phenomenon.
Training too hard and for too long is a huge stressor on our bodies.
And when you combine overtraining with not consuming enough calories, hormone imbalances are bound to show up.
Stress and the inflammatory cytokines produced from constant, strenuous exercise actually down-regulate your sex hormones. This can lead to symptoms of low estrogen, along with a variety of other hormonal imbalances.
If you think you might be overtraining, heres an article I wrote on some of the classic signs to watch out for.
And if you need help shifting your mindset and routine from a pattern of overtraining and undereating to one that is more health promoting, Im here to help!
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Irregular Periods Or Anovulation
Estrogen plays a vital role in ovulation.
Its actually your rising estrogen levels that trigger Luteinizing Hormone to be secreted from the pituitary gland, causing an egg to be released from the follicle .
If your levels of estrogen dont rise enough during the follicular phase of your cycle, it can cause a delay in ovulation or prevent it completely.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalances
There are many potential causes of hormonal imbalances in both men and women. The most common causes are imbalances due to diet, life stressors, environment, age, or lifestyle. Women are more likely to experience imbalances in estrogen, progesterone, and thyroid. In men, low testosterone levels are common. Both women and men can have imbalances in other neurohormones, such as insulin , cortisol , and DHEA .
Consequences of untreated hormone imbalances:
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Hormonal Imbalanced Brains Work Differently
Hormonal imbalances can affect brain function in numerous ways. For example, hypothyroidism decreases brain activity, chronic stress produces more white matter and fewer neurons , estrogen imbalances negatively impact activity in the hippocampus , and progesterone issues can affect production of the neurotransmitter GABA.
How Can I Prevent Low Estrogen Levels
You cant avoid drops in estrogen associated with getting older. You can put healthy habits into place that lead to overall balance in your life including more balanced hormones. These changes dont always require hormone therapy. For instance, exercising in moderation and meditation can help with sleep disturbances and fatigue associated with low estrogen. Getting enough calories and the right kinds of nutrients can improve every aspect of your health. Using a lubricant can make sex more pleasurable.
Depending on whats causing your low levels and the severity of your symptoms, you may need medicine to help. Speak with your provider about your options.
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Low Estrogen Symptom #: Depression/anxiety
Those mood changes you experience around the start of your period are NOT all in your head!
PMS is a real thing. And lower levels of estrogen during that phase of your cycle are to blame.
But if you have low baseline levels of estrogen, the common symptoms of PMS like depression and anxiety could be a constant reality.
Estrogen is a regulator of neurotransmitters that affect our mood. Serotonin, dopamine, and epinephrine are all controlled to some degree by estrogen.
Low levels of estrogen also mean low levels of these feel-good hormones. Leading to potential feelings of anxiety and depression.
Estradiol is the one specific form of estrogen that is the most supportive of normal serotonin levels. When estradiol plummets, specifically like right after childbirth or during menopause, our serotonin levels can struggle to adjust. This can leave us feeling depressed or anxious.
This interaction between estradiol and serotonin is the main reason why postpartum and menopause-related depression is so common.
These are the two most common times in a womans life where her estradiol drops significantly, leaving her susceptible to mood-related symptoms. But even if youre not postpartum or menopausal, your estrogen levels can be in the tank for other reasons.
These consistently low estrogen levels can affect your mood stabilizing hormones, resulting in symptoms like anxiety and depression.
Estrogen and Trauma
What Causes Low Estrogen
Low estrogen can affect anyone, no matter their age, body type, or lifestyle. However, things like excessive exercise, eating disorders, autoimmune diseases, and severely low body fat can trigger low estrogen. Low estrogen is also commonly caused by ovary-related reasons. This makes sense, as ovaries are responsible for producing most of your bodys estrogen, per John Hopkins Medicine. Clinically, low estrogen can be attributed to menopause and ovaries damaged or removed by surgery, radiation, or chemotherapy, Arumala explains. Premature ovarian insufficiency can also cause low estrogen, and this happens when women hit menopause before the age of 40.
Other factors include low-functioning or underactive pituitary glands, which is responsible for releasing hormones. Turner syndrome can also impact estrogen levels along with chronic kidney disease. Your kidneys help produce hormones, and it could lead to low estrogen levels when they’re not functioning at full capacity.
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