You’ve probably heard of the sex hormone estrogen. It’s one of the main distinguishing factors between men and women. One that sets women apart and is the building blocks that complete the female character. Estrogen is a hormone that works diligently throughout a women’s life. Men carry a certain amount of estrogen themselves but naturally females have more. The hormone is primarily active in health and reproductive development for females but the role of estrogen can expand to beyond that in multiple aspects of a womans life.
But what does having low estrogen really mean, and how does one identify the condition? Do I really need a female hormone test? Here’s a quick guide to everything you need to know.
Why are Estrogen Levels Important?
Like any hormone, estrogen is a small chemical molecule maintaining and regulating several bodily functions which are responsible for:
- Physical changes in the body in puberty
- Menstrual cycle
- Glucose and cholesterol metabolism
- Weight gain and loss
- Sexual drive
Why do Our Estrogen Levels Decline?
If all females naturally produce the estrogen hormone, what causes the levels to deviate from normal? Surely there must be some trigger?
Well, there is. Several factors play a role in impacting the amount of estrogen production. Some of which include:
- Anorexia and other eating disorders
- Trauma to the ovaries
- Kidney disease
- Polycystic ovarian syndrome and cysts
Giveaway Signs of Low Estrogen
An inconsistent menstrual cycle is a blaring indication that your estrogen levels are persistently low. Since this hormone plays a vital role in regulating the growth of the uterine lining, abnormally low amounts are bound to disrupt your period cycle.
Irregular Sleep Cycle
This will probably come as a surprise to some, but estrogen controls the sleep cycle as well. It’s correlated to melatonin, the sleep hormone. Low estrogen levels ultimately mean low levels of melatonin and hence frequent sleepless nights.
Although experiencing mood swings during your period is normal, having them consistently may be a telltale sign that your estrogen levels are below standard. This is because estrogen is directly linked to serotonin production, the happy hormone.
Besides maintaining the menstrual cycle, estrogen also regulates the hypothalamus, the brain centre that maintains our body temperature. As a result, decreased estrogen levels can cause sweat and hot flashes bursts. If you have any or all of the above symptoms, do consider getting a female hormone test done.
How It’s Treated
The standard treatment for the ailment is hormonal therapy. However, this is often advised against women with or at high risk of breast cancer and heart disease. Two main types of hormonal options include:
This type of treatment only focuses on elevating estrogenic levels. Although long-term therapy is required to bring the levels back to normal, it’s not recommended to take this therapy for longer than two years.
The dose recommendation depends on the severity of the condition. Estrogen can be administered in different ways:
Hormone Replacement Therapy
This therapy includes bringing up progesterone levels as well. In addition, it involves taking medication to restore the lost estrogen in your body. The duration of the therapy depends on the severity and other underlying conditions.
Bonus Estrogen Facts
Estrogen is a reproductive hormone
The female reproductive hormone estrogen increases progressively during pregnancy. Estrogen is a major contributor to maternal hyperlipidemia. Estrogen increases the production of light VLDLs and decreases hepatic lipase activity in the liver, which inhibits clearance of circulating triglyceride-rich lipoproteins. In addition, estrogen increases the plasma HDL-cholesterol, which lowers total and LDL cholesterol.
It affects sex drive
A woman’s libido depends on the balance of the three main hormones: Estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These hormones are associated with the menstrual cycle and the production of sperm. Both men and women produce some amount of these hormones. When estrogen levels are low, women may experience a reduction in sex drive. Other factors may affect a woman’s libido.
It affects energy production
As a female reproductive hormone, estrogen plays an important role in energy production and metabolism. In animal models, reduction of estrogen causes obesity. It invokes biological responses through the estrogen receptor, either the ERa or ERb isoform. The receptor binds to DNA-encoded estrogen response elements and regulates target gene transcription. Some of these pathways involve nonclassical signaling, which does not involve binding to estrogen receptors. Several knockout mice, including Erb-null and ERa knockout mice, exhibit altered energy balance, metabolic syndrome, and altered glucose homeostasis.
It affects endometrial cancer
This article discusses how estrogen affects endometrial cancer. Type 1 is a non-estrogen-dependent type of endometrial cancer, while type 2 is a hormone-dependent cancer. However, the pathogenesis of both types may be similar. This article will discuss the importance of knowing more about the role of estrogen in the development of endometrial cancer. In addition, it will cover a common treatment for endometrial cancer – hormone replacement therapy.
Hormones play a critical role in our lives. But before you can know there’s a hormonal imbalance in your body, it’s essential to know what signs to look for. First, however, please note that symptoms tend to vary in intensity from female to female. In some cases, a female hormone test may be inevitable.