Understanding and Addressing Low Estrogen Levels

The hormone estrogen plays an important role in many aspects of your health, from energy levels to cholesterol, mood to bone strength, and much more. Because of its broad range of functions in your body, declining estrogen levels can have a profound impact on your overall well-being. Unfortunately, estrogen levels are sensitive to change, particularly as we age.

Knowing the symptoms and causes of low estrogen can help you protect your reproductive health and bone density, as well as lowering the future risk of conditions like osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease.

 

Health Implications of Low Estrogen

Before menopause, most of the estrogen in your body is estradiol or E2. After menopause, the primary form of estrogen is estrone, or E1, which is less potent than estradiol.

Estrogen is made in your ovaries. It’s also secreted by your adrenal glands and by body fat. As it circulates through your body, estrogen binds to estrogen receptors found in reproductive organs,  as well as your brain, bones, cardiovascular system, and fat tissue.

When estrogen levels drop, the shift can be felt throughout your body. Common symptoms of low estrogen include:

  • Night sweats
  • Low libido
  • Insomnia
  • Vaginal dryness
  • Fatigue
  • Depression
  • “Brain fog” or fuzzy thinking
  • Painful intercourse
  • Mood changes
  • Increased appearance of wrinkles and delicate skin

Because estrogen plays a role in keeping your bones strong, low levels can also lead to a decrease in bone density.

You may also experience an increase in LDL cholesterol, which is the “bad” cholesterol, and a decrease in HDL, or “good cholesterol.” This can raise the risk of cardiovascular disease.

 

Causes of Low Estrogen

For many women, the ovaries’ production of estrogen typically starts to slow down around the age of 40, triggering the perimenopause stage. This decline doesn’t always happen in a predictable pattern, leading to a “rollercoaster” feeling for some women in the perimenopausal years.

However, women of any age can experience low estrogen. Contributing factors include:

  • Extreme calorie restriction. Females who don’t consume an adequate number of calories risk the disruption of estrogen production.
  • Poor diet. The quality of those calories is also important as we need certain essential nutrients for optimum hormonal balance.
  • Over-exercising. Although regular activity is important for hormonal health, overdoing it can have the opposite effect.
  • High stress levels. Chronic stress affects your body’s delicate hormonal balance. When you produce excess levels of stress hormones like cortisol, the production of reproductive hormones like estrogen can slow.
  • Alcohol use. Too much alcohol taxes your liver, which in turn affects the liver’s ability to metabolize estrogen.
  • Nicotine has been proven to slow estrogen production in your brain.

Determining the cause of low estrogen requires a comprehensive medical history, often involving diagnostic tests to determine hormone imbalance.

 

How to Combat Low Estrogen

Many strategies can work to treat low estrogen, including lifestyle modifications, dietary adjustments, and supplements. Here are some common treatments.

1 – Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) is often recommended for women close to menopause or in perimenopause. It can be administered through topical application, oral medication, vaginal creams, or injections. It’s important to work closely with a healthcare provider since HRT can carry health risks for some women, and dosage and delivery vary a lot based on your medical history.

2 – Dietary changes

A balanced diet of whole foods will help maintain a healthy weight with balanced hormone levels.

In particular, they include phytoestrogens, compounds in plants that mimic estrogen in the body. Studies show that phytoestrogens ease symptoms of low estrogen, like hot flashes, and even support bone health. Good sources of phytoestrogens include lentils, flaxseeds, chickpeas, plums, pears, and cabbage.

Omega-3 fatty acids reduce inflammation in the body, which helps regulate hormone production. Look for foods like avocados, fatty fish, and nuts to boost your omega-3 consumption.

Foods high in magnesium also support hormone production, including estrogen. Many people are unknowingly low in magnesium, so look for whole grains, seeds like pumpkin and flax, and legumes.

3 – Supplement support

As always, work closely with a healthcare practitioner to determine the right supplements and levels for you. Some supplements that support estrogen levels include:

  • Vitamin D. This vitamin plays a role in estrogen synthesis, but it’s often difficult to get enough through diet and sunlight exposure alone, particularly in the winter.
  • Research shows that boron strengthens estrogen receptors in your body.
  • Black cohosh. This herb has been used for centuries to treat menopausal symptoms and now scientists are discovering that it may stimulate estrogen receptors.
  • DIM (Diindolylmethane). Found in cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli and Brussels sprouts, DIM supports symptoms of low estrogen and may help stimulate estrogen production.
  • Evening primrose oil. A time-honored treatment for menstrual problems, evening primrose oil can also ease symptoms of low estrogen.
  • Maca root. Maca root may stimulate estrogen production and has been shown to improve menopausal symptoms.

4 – Lifestyle changes

Reducing stress is an important part of supporting estrogen production. Look for stress-reducing activities like yoga and meditation. If those aren’t for you, think about activities when you feel at ease and try to incorporate more of those into your life.

Sleep is also crucial for balanced hormones. Low estrogen levels can make it difficult to sleep, however, so you may need to make some adjustments to your routine. Practice good sleep hygiene: sleep in a cool dark room, avoid screens before bedtime and keep a regular schedule (yes, even on weekends).

 

Fluctuating estrogen levels are often part of aging, but these changes don’t have to slow you down. We can work together to identify the cause of low estrogen and minimize the impact!

 

 

 

 

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