Do you think you have low estrogen levels? You might if you’re approaching the middle years of life and your body is changing, you think you’re losing your mind (in addition to your car keys), you have low energy, and just don’t feel like yourself.
Symptoms of low estrogen levels are many and can make life less than enjoyable for most women (and for their husbands or boyfriends). Estrogen is more than sex hormone and affects every organ system of the body, so estrogen deficiency can negatively impact a woman’s health in many ways.
Now women have another hormone called progesterone. Both estrogen and progesterone decline with age, but there is usually a bigger and faster decline in progesterone. This means there is more estrogen relative to progesterone even though estrogen is low. This is called “estrogen dominance”. Estrogen dominance can also occur when estrogen levels are too high, which can happen if women are receiving excessive amounts of estrogen replacement. The key to proper health is to have estrogen and progesterone in balance with one another.
Women with estrogen dominance can experience symptoms from both a deficiency in estrogen as well as a deficiency in progesterone relative.
Symptoms of Low Estrogen Levels
The classic symptoms of low estrogen include:
- vaginal dryness
- hot flashes
- night sweats
- painful intercourse
- memory difficulty
- urinary tract infections
- dry/thinning skin
Low estrogen levels adversely affect the health and integrity of the mucosal lining of the vagina (lining becomes thinner) leading to painful intercourse and predisposing to infections. Low estrogen levels lead to decreased bone density leading to osteoporosis, a major problem in women and one that is undertreated.
First, you don’t necessarily need to be treated for low estrogen, but do you want to live with these symptoms? Low estrogen symptoms are best treated with bio-identical estrogens, or hormones identical in chemical structure to what the body naturally makes.
Low Progesterone Symptoms
Now if a woman is low in estrogen, but even lower in progesterone (estrogen dominance) she may experience some of the following symptoms as well:
- painful and/or lumpy breasts
- weight gain
- cyclical headaches
Symptoms of low progesterone in women with estrogen dominance are best treated with bio-identical progesterone.
If you suffer from any of the symptoms related to low estrogen you should be evaluated by a physician. You will need to be examined and have your hormone levels measured usually through blood work (some doctors prefer saliva testing for hormones), and you will need to have other disorders ruled out that might cause similar symptoms.
Though other treatments (like antidepressants and herbal remedies) have been used successfully to treat symptoms of low estrogen/progesterone, hormone replacement therapies remain the most effective treatments for symptoms of low hormones. The main goal of hormone replacement is to improve quality of life, but there’s growing evidence that risk for chronic disease is reduced through hormone replacement therapy.