Estriol, estradiol, and estrone refer to the naturally-occurring forms of estrogen in women. Estradiol, which is the most potent of the three, is the most important form of estrogen from menarche to menopause, with the exception of pregnancy, where estriol plays a vital role. After menopause, estrone becomes the most important form of estrogen. Estradiol is mainly responsible for the development of breasts and reproductive organs, fat distribution in the hips, legs, and breasts, etc. Estrogen and progesterone are sex hormones that are secreted by the ovaries during the stages of a female reproductive cycle. In fact, all the major bodily changes that occur in women during the reproductive years can be attributed to these female sex hormones. These hormones help prepare the body for pregnancy. Estrogen is responsible for the thickening of the endometrium, which refers to the uterine lining that ruptures when the egg doesn't fertilize with a sperm. With the cessation of menstruation, the level of estrogen decreases. Low estrogen is fairly common among women who are nearing menopause.
Contributing Factors for Low Levels of Estrogen
Menopause refers to the cessation of the menstrual cycle. Women enter menopause when one year passes by after the last period. It usually occurs around the age of 50 years. It is one of the common reasons behind a decrease in the level of estrogen. Once a woman approaches menopause, the ovaries stop producing eggs. The production of sex hormones decreases. At times, women might enter menopause earlier than usual. When menopause occurs before the age of 40 years, it is called premature menopause. Women are likely to have low levels of estrogen during this time.
Low levels of estrogen could be observed in women who are affected by medical conditions that have an adverse effect on the ovarian function. Estrogen levels could dip in case of women affected by polycystic ovarian syndrome. This disorder is characterized by the development of multiple cysts on the ovaries. This affects the process of ovulation, which may make such women susceptible to infertility.
Estrogen levels could also be observed in women who have undergone a hysterectomy, which refers to the surgical removal of the uterus. Under such circumstances, hormone replacement therapy is recommended.
The levels of estrogen could also fall in case of women who follow a vigorous exercise regimen. Also, low body weight could be a contributing factor. Contraceptive pills also eventually lead to estrogen deficiency. Turner's syndrome, pituitary gland disorders, or thyroid disorders can also cause a drop in the levels of this hormone.
A decrease in the level of estrogen due to menopause could cause symptoms such as:
- Hot flashes
- Dry skin
- Joint pain
- Memory-related problems (forgetfulness or brain fog)
- Difficulty in concentrating
- Night sweats
- Low libido
- Disturbed sleep
- Weight gain
- Back pain
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal infections
- Rapid pulse rate
Hormone replacement therapy is often recommended for alleviating the symptoms associated with the low levels of estrogen. Estrogen therapy is suggested for postmenopausal women who have undergone hysterectomy. In case of women who have a uterus, the use of estrogen and progestin supplements is recommended. Since hormone therapy is known to cause untoward effects, women should consult their healthcare provider about the risks involved.
It is believed that following a low fat diet can prove beneficial. Also, including the sources of estrogen in one's diet could help. Carrots, dates, parsley, plums, cherries, wheat, beet, eggs, sprouts, red beans, papaya, apples, soybean, yam, flax seeds etc. are some of the sources of estrogen. One can also consult a herbalist about some herbs that are believed to stimulate the glands to secrete estrogen.
Disclaimer: The information provided in this article is solely for educating the reader. It is not intended to be a substitute for the advice of a medical expert.