As women, our bodies depend on sufficient amounts of estrogen and progesterone hormones for physical and mental health. Estrogen is an essential hormone for the progression of puberty and the management of cholesterol and mood levels in women. It also promotes good bone health. Low estrogen levels can lead to serious health issues such as infertility. As such, it is important to recognize the symptoms of low estrogen and treat the underlying causes of this drop in hormone levels.
Importance of Estrogen Levels
Most of the estrogen in women is naturally produced in the ovaries, with a smaller amount coming from the adrenal glands and fat. Transported through our blood system, estrogen is the sex hormone responsible for the size of our hips, breasts, and body fat.
Estrogen levels can fluctuate during key periods of woman’s life such as puberty, menstruation, and menopause. In some women, there is an inadequate production of the three estrogen hormones estradiol, estriol, and estrone. When levels drop in women over 40 years of age, it may indicate the onset of menopause. Low levels in younger women may be caused by a serious health issue.
Low Estrogen Causes
As estrogen levels drop naturally during various times in a woman’s life, there is no need for concern unless low levels do not return to normal. Low levels can also be caused by:
- Eating disorders
- Ovarian cysts
- Excessive exercise
- Low ovary or pituitary gland function
- Chronic kidney disease
- Turner Syndrome
- Precursor to miscarriage
- Fertility medications
Symptoms of Low Estrogen
The signs and symptoms of low estrogen levels are important to note as they can indicate whether levels will naturally increase or if treatment is required.
- Mood swings
- Dry skin
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Irregular periods
- Breast tenderness
- Frequent urinary tract infections
- Painful sexual intercourse
- Lack of concentration
- Low bone density
Diagnosis of Low Estrogen
An early diagnosis gives you a better chance of preventing further complications and possible serious health diseases. For a proper diagnosis, your medical professional will assess any of the symptoms you are experiencing along with your medical and family history. This can help pinpoint possible causes. Key symptoms to discuss are insomnia, infrequent periods, night sweats, and hot flashes. Your estrogen levels can be measured with blood tests, and depending on the results, you may undergo a brain scan or DNA testing. These tests focus on your endocrine system.
Low Estrogen Treatment
Hormonal treatment is common for cases where low estrogen levels must be increased for proper health.
1. Estrogen Therapy
This form of therapy is generally used to boost levels in women between the ages of 25 and 50. Prescribed orally, vaginally, topically, or as an injection, supplements of estrogen can lower your risk for cardiovascular disease and bone loss. It may also alleviate some of the symptoms of menopause.
The length of this therapy is dependent on your levels and the cause of the fluctuation. Treatment usually lasts for one to two years as it may increase your risk of developing cancer. In certain cases, the estrogen therapy is extended but at lower doses.
2. Hormone Replacement Therapy
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) enhances the natural production of estrogen in your body. This is a common therapy recommended to women beginning menopausal changes as estrogen and progesterone levels decrease drastically at this time. As with estrogen, HRT is available by injection, topically, vaginally, and orally.
Doctors monitor this treatment closely as two types of hormones are involved in the adjustment. HRT may also increase your risk for blood clots, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and cancer.
Natural Ways to Increase Estrogen
You may decide to regulate your hormone levels with physician-assisted therapies, but there are also natural home remedies to help increase your estrogen levels.
1. Balanced Diet
Maintaining a well-balanced diet of nutritious foods can also help boost your estrogen levels. Foods such as soybeans, tofu, edamame, peas, bran, fruits, and vegetables are phytoestrogens. Eat foods rich in vitamin C, carotene, and B vitamins such as spinach, kale, corn, asparagus, beets, bananas, avocadoes, and seeds. Adding the herb chasteberry to your diet may also promote higher levels of estrogen production. Limit intake of carbohydrates, fats, processed sugar, and increase fiber intake.
Exercising regularly at a moderate level may increase your estrogen and other hormone levels naturally. Avoid excessive exercise as one drawback is its lowering effect on estrogen levels. Stick to 30 minutes each day for overall good health.
3. Tobacco Use
If you smoke, stop. Studies show using tobacco products hinders the endocrine system, thereby blocking natural production of estrogen.
Research suggests that drinking two cups of coffee each day can increase estrogen levels in Asian women of reproductive age, though it appeared to slightly lower estrogen levels in their white counterparts. The levels for black women of the same age were higher but statistically insignificant. If you try this method, it’s important to select organic beans and stick to only two cups per day.
Estrogen plays a major role in mental and physical body functions throughout our life. It is normal for our estrogen levels to fluctuate and even drop to low levels as our body enters natural processes such as menstruation and menopause. When levels are low outside of these times, we may need to take measurements to increase or supplement estrogen levels. There are hormone therapies as well as lifestyle changes and home remedies to help increase our estrogen levels.