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Low Estrogen: Strategies and Support

Jun 10, 2024 | Blog, Hormone Health

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 profoundly impact 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 protect reproductive health and bone density and lower 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 in reproductive organs and 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 helps keep bones strong, low levels can also decrease 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.
    • Smoking. 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. If prescribed correctly, it will help you feel better and be good for you, too!  However, synthetic hormones, oral estrogen, and supratherapeutic dosing carry with it risks and should be avoided.  

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 and help regulate hormone production. To boost your omega-3 consumption, look for foods like avocados, fatty fish, and nuts. 

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

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.  
    • DHEA, or dehydroepiandrosterone. This is a natural hormone that the body can convert to estrogen. One study suggests that DHEA might offer comparable benefits to estrogen.
    • Boron. 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. It also helps to metabolize estrogen down a more favorable pathway. 
    • 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, consider activities when you feel at ease and try to incorporate more of those into your life. 

Sleep is also crucial for balanced hormones. However, low estrogen levels can make sleeping difficult, so you may need to adjust 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! 

 

 

Sources

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https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2352647519300012?via%3Dihub

De Souza MJ, West SL, Jamal SA, Hawker GA, Gundberg CM, Williams NI. The presence of both an energy deficiency and estrogen deficiency exacerbate alterations of bone metabolism in exercising women. Bone. 2008 Jul;43(1):140-148. doi: 10.1016/j.bone.2008.03.013. Epub 2008 Apr 8. PMID: 18486582.

Assad S, Khan HH, Ghazanfar H, Khan ZH, Mansoor S, Rahman MA, Khan GH, Zafar B, Tariq U, Malik SA. Role of Sex Hormone Levels and Psychological Stress in the Pathogenesis of Autoimmune Diseases. Cureus. 2017 Jun 5;9(6):e1315. doi: 10.7759/cureus.1315. PMID: 28690949; PMCID: PMC5498122.

Chen MN, Lin CC, Liu CF. Efficacy of phytoestrogens for menopausal symptoms: a meta-analysis and systematic review. Climacteric. 2015 Apr;18(2):260-9. doi: 10.3109/13697137.2014.966241. Epub 2014 Dec 1. PMID: 25263312; PMCID: PMC4389700

Gangula PR, Dong YL, Al-Hendy A, Richard-Davis G, Montgomery-Rice V, Haddad G, Millis R, Nicholas SB, Moseberry D. Protective cardiovascular and renal actions of vitamin D and estrogen. Front Biosci (Schol Ed). 2013 Jan 1;5(1):134-48. doi: 10.2741/s362. PMID: 23277041; PMCID: PMC3673780.

Nielsen FH, Hunt CD, Mullen LM, Hunt JR. Effect of dietary boron on mineral, estrogen, and testosterone metabolism in postmenopausal women. FASEB J. 1987 Nov;1(5):394-7. PMID: 3678698.

Leach MJ, Moore V. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga spp.) for menopausal symptoms. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;2012(9):CD007244. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007244.pub2. PMID: 22972105; PMCID: PMC6599854.

Leach MJ, Moore V. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga spp.) for menopausal symptoms. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;2012(9):CD007244. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007244.pub2. PMID: 22972105; PMCID: PMC6599854.

Leach MJ, Moore V. Black cohosh (Cimicifuga spp.) for menopausal symptoms. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2012 Sep 12;2012(9):CD007244. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD007244.pub2. PMID: 22972105; PMCID: PMC6599854.

Gentry-Maharaj A, Karpinskyj C, Glazer C, Burnell M, Ryan A, Fraser L, Lanceley A, Jacobs I, Hunter MS, Menon U. Use and perceived efficacy of complementary and alternative medicines after discontinuation of hormone therapy: a nested United Kingdom Collaborative Trial of Ovarian Cancer Screening cohort study. Menopause. 2015 Apr;22(4):384-90. doi: 10.1097/GME.0000000000000330. PMID: 25290539; PMCID: PMC4470524.

Biegon A, Kim SW, Logan J, Hooker JM, Muench L, Fowler JS. Nicotine blocks brain estrogen synthase (aromatase): in vivo positron emission tomography studies in female baboons. Biol Psychiatry. 2010 Apr 15;67(8):774-7. doi: 10.1016/j.biopsych.2010.01.004. Epub 2010 Feb 25. PMID: 20188349; PMCID: PMC2904480.

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