The hormone estrogen plays a major role in your health and well-being, especially once you start menstruating. And while an estrogen decline is normal leading up to menopause and beyond, severely low levels can cause a range of bothersome effects.
Thankfully, you don’t have to attempt to grin and bear low estrogen levels. At BodyLogicMD in Glastonbury, Connecticut, board-certified OB/GYN and integrative medicine specialist Dr. Anita Petruzzelli expertly addresses women’s health issues such as hormone imbalance and can address related symptoms.
What causes low estrogen
If you menstruate, your estrogen levels naturally rise and fall throughout each month, starting during puberty. Estrogen plays a key role in your ability to get pregnant, and your levels decline as you approach menopause, when your periods and fertility end.
In addition, you may experience an estrogen drop due to:
- Autoimmune disease
- Cancer treatments, such as chemotherapy
- Eating disorders and overexercise
- Genetic conditions, such as Turner syndrome
You might also experience menopause early following a hysterectomy, a procedure doctors sometimes use to treat endometriosis, large fibroids, and uterine cancer.
Common signs of low estrogen
Low estrogen affects people differently, but here are some of the common signs to look out for:
1. Emotional and cognitive changes
Estrogen affects far more than your physical or sexual health. As your levels decline, you might notice increased irritability, moodiness, and cognitive issues, like foggy thinking. If you have a history of depression, you could experience flare-ups of depressive symptoms.
Low estrogen and related symptoms can also impact your sleep. And if you’re lacking Zzzs, your mood and mental acuity can suffer further.
2. Painful sex
Reduced estrogen can cause dry skin, including in your sensitive vaginal tissues. As a result, you may experience vaginal atrophy, in which tissues become especially dry, painful, or itchy. Once that happens, penetrative sex can become quite uncomfortable.
And because low estrogen also helps your body produce natural lubrication, increased dryness can exacerbate vaginal dryness and cause even more pain during sex.
3. Reduced libido
When your estrogen levels drop, your interest in sex may lower along with it. That can occur as a symptom of its own or in response to other low estrogen symptoms, such as blah moods and vaginal dryness.
If low libido leads to a mismatch with your partner, you may face intimacy problems. Feeling self-conscious or anxious is also common when reduced sex drive sets in. Anxiety as a mood shift due to estrogen changes can also make sex less appealing.
4. Hot flashes and night sweats
Imbalanced estrogen levels can make it difficult for your body to regulate its temperature. This commonly leads to hot flashes, where you suddenly feel flushed, overheated, and drenched in sweat. Hot flashes that happen at night — and may lead you to sweat through your pajamas or sheets — are known as night sweats.
Each episode lasts between 30 seconds and five minutes, on average. Brief as they are, they can be quite frustrating, especially when they disrupt your sleep.
5. Unintentional weight gain
Estrogen helps regulate your metabolism, or the rate at which your body turns food into energy. So when your estrogen levels diminish, you may notice an increase in your overall body weight. In particular, excess fat may accumulate in your abdomen.
Hormone-related belly fat tends to be stubborn, so you may struggle with trimming down your waistline through lifestyle changes alone.
What to do about low estrogen
By reviewing your medical history, symptoms, and lab work, Dr. Petruzzelli can determine whether a hormone balance is at play. If it is, she may recommend bioidentical hormone replacement therapy to restore normal estrogen levels in your body.
She may also recommend related treatments, such as dietary changes, increased exercise, and stress management. These steps can address hormone-related issues as well as any imbalances she detects in your cholesterol or blood sugar levels. Ask about our integrative weight loss program.
To learn more about low estrogen or to get the symptom relief you need, call BodyLogicMD or request an appointment with Dr. Petruzzelli through our website.