We hear a lot about too much estrogen, but too low of estrogen is also problematic. Low estrogen is basically the hallmark of menopause, but it can happen at any point in time in a woman’s life. I’ve seen in practice many young women borderline low to lower than normal estrogen, and it seems to be more common than we think or talk about. Common causes of low estrogen can include menopause, PCOS, low body fat, eating disorders, and excessive exercise.
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Below lists signs and symptoms of low estrogen:
1. Weight gain
Estrogen plays a complicated role in the regulation of body fat, but two main roles include promoting a decrease in fat absorption within a cell, and to help stimulate the breakdown of fat. You can read more about this here and here. Estrogen declines as women age, which is one of the reasons it becomes harder to lose fat with age and also a factor as to why women tend to gain weight during menopause.
2. Vaginal dryness
Estrogen is the hormone that helps keep the integrity of the walls of the vagina and keeps the vagina lubricated. The fall in estrogen causes the vaginal walls to become drier and thinner, leading to the feeling of vaginal dryness and irritation.
3. Recurrent UTIs
Estrogen is responsible for keeping the integrity of vaginal walls. When estrogen levels drop, vaginal walls become thinner and the vaginal area becomes more susceptible to bacteria and other pathogens to invade the area.
4. Painful sex
This is most commonly due to the lack of vaginal lubrication and thinning of the vaginal walls, which decline when estrogen declines.
If you are feeling extra anxious lately or sad and down for no apparent reason, this could be a sign of low estrogen. Estrogen helps with the formation of serotonin, which is the main neurotransmitter involved with regulating mood.
Insomnia or difficulty with falling and staying asleep may be a sign of low estrogen. Estrogen helps with the formation of serotonin, and serotonin is needed for the formation of melatonin. Melatonin is a prime hormone that helps us to sleep. If there is less serotonin being produced then this can lead to less melatonin from being produced as well, leading to sleep disturbances. Read more about this here
7. Irregular or missed periods
Estrogen is a prime hormone in your menstrual cycle, if it is too low then other hormones are not stimulated enough to trigger ovulation. Delayed ovulation leads to an irregular cycle and missed periods.
Main take aways..
If you are having one or more of the above symptoms, it very well could be due to low estrogen. The next time you see your healthcare provider, ask about getting your hormones checked to see if estrogen could be part of the problem.
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About the author: Sarah-Kate is an Ivy League trained Board-Certified Family Nurse Practitioner with an expertise in women’s health and preventative healthcare. She considers nutrition and exercise to be the basis of well-being and is a strong advocate for daily physical activity and maintaining a healthy diet.