Low estrogen in men sounds like a joke, right? Well, it could have more of an impact than you might think. While estrogen is typically associated with females, it plays a significant role in men's health. Men with low estrogen levels can experience various symptoms impacting overall health and wellness.
As men age, hormone production slows, affecting estrogen and testosterone levels. Because the two of them have such a close relationship, the benefits of optimizing both hormones shouldn't be overlooked. Symptoms of low estrogen and low testosterone have many similarities. From low energy and weight gain to low libido, here are the top ten to look out for.
The Role of Estrogen in Men
Estrogen is a sex hormone found in females and males. The ovaries, adrenal glands, testes and fat cells produce it. In women, estrogen is the primary hormone that kick-starts puberty and ovulation, but it's also vital for the male reproductive system. (1) There are three main estrogen types, each affecting the body differently. (2)
3 Main Types of Estrogen
- Estrone (E1): Comes mainly from body fat, the ovaries and the placenta. This type of estrogen is the weakest of the three.
- Estradiol (E2): Is produced primarily in the ovaries in women and testes in men from testosterone and the adrenal glands. But it's important to note that testosterone converts into estradiol via aromatase conversion from visceral fat. This is why it's common for overweight people to have low testosterone.
- Estriol (E3): Estriol levels only rise during pregnancy. Made primarily in the placenta after conception, this hormone helps keep your uterus and unborn baby healthy.
- Bone health
- Muscle mass
- Nervous system
- Skin health
- Heart health
Since estrogen plays a significant role in men's health, converting testosterone into estrogen facilitates the positive effects of testosterone on the body. So, blocking it with estrogen blockers or being deficient can reduce the benefits of stronger bones, better mood and improved sexual health and increase adverse effects such as erectile dysfunction.
Causes of Low Estrogen in Men
Firstly, As men age, their testosterone levels naturally decline, affecting the balance between testosterone and estrogen. This decline in testosterone can lead to a relative decrease in estrogen levels.
Certain medications cause lower estrogen, such as aromatase inhibitors commonly used to treat prostate cancer. Also, aromatase inhibitors like Anastrolzoe® are common in men wishing to increase testosterone levels by blocking the conversion into estrogen.
Read more on the dangers of blocking estrogen and the truth about Anastrozole here.
Hormonal Disorders and Low Testosterone
Conditions that disrupt the normal functioning of the endocrine system, such as hypogonadism or testicular failure, can lead to decreased estrogen production in men. Age, genetic factors, injury, infection, or autoimmune diseases can cause these hormonal disorders. Because testosterone is a precursor to estrogen, it's common for low T to affect testosterone levels.
Chronic Liver Disease
The liver plays a crucial role in estrogen metabolism. Liver diseases, such as cirrhosis or hepatitis, can impair the liver's ability to metabolize estrogen effectively. As a result, estrogen levels may decrease in men with chronic liver disease.
Certain Medical Treatments
Some medical treatments, such as radiation therapy or chemotherapy, can damage the testes or disrupt the endocrine system, reducing estrogen production.
Severe malnutrition or eating disorders can impact hormone production and disrupt the body's balance of estrogen and testosterone. Inadequate nutrition can affect the synthesis and availability of hormones, including estrogen.
Finally, Prolonged and excessive stress can disrupt the hormonal balance in the body, affecting the production of testosterone and the regulation of estrogen. Chronic stress can impair the function of the hypothalamic-pituitary-gonadal (HPG) axis, which plays a role in hormone regulation.
It's important to note that the causes of low estrogen in men can vary, and in many cases, multiple factors may contribute. If you suspect low estrogen levels, it is crucial to consult a healthcare professional to evaluate your symptoms, conduct appropriate tests, and determine the underlying cause.
The Role of Estradiol
According to studies (5)(6), estradiol is essential for modulating libido, erectile function, and sperm production. Estrogen receptors and aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen, are abundant in the brain, penis, and testis, organs vital for sexual function.
Men produce estradiol in two ways. The first is from testosterone, which is good. The other is through fat, which is bad. Estradiol from fat can drop your testosterone levels. That is why many obese men suffer from low T. In this case, it's not the estradiol causing the problems but the fat.
The Connection Between Low Estrogen in Men, Testosterone and Thyroid Hormones
The thyroid gland is a small butterfly-shaped gland that sits just below your Adam's apple and, while it's small, plays a significant role in health. It regulates metabolism and energy production, controls muscle, brain, and heart function, as well as the sex hormones, including testosterone levels.
When your thyroid isn't functioning as it should, it can significantly impact bodily functions. That's why having too much (hyperthyroidism) or too little thyroid hormone (hypothyroidism) can impact how you feel and your testosterone levels which can be responsible for issues such as decreased sex drive, sperm production and erectile dysfunction. (7) (8)
Although hypothyroidism is well-known in women, it also affects men. Hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland doesn't release enough of thyroid hormones T3 and T4 and has symptoms similar to low testosterone.
While low testosterone is well-known in men over 35, what's not such common knowledge is that many men also have thyroid problems, which can lead to an imbalance in the body and interfere with testosterone production.
For men, one symptom of hypothyroidism is that you produce less sex hormone-binding globulin' (SHBG), which binds to and transports testosterone, estrogen and dihydrotestosterone (DHT) around the body and controls the volume of testosterone that your body can use. (9) When this happens, you will likely suffer from many symptoms that hormone replacement therapy and lifestyle improvements can help.
Low Estrogen and Thyroid
There is a solid link between low estrogen and thyroid function in men.
In men, low estrogen levels can potentially impact thyroid function. Estrogen plays a role in maintaining the sensitivity of the thyroid gland to the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) released by the pituitary gland. When estrogen levels are low, the thyroid gland may become less responsive to TSH, leading to a decrease in thyroid hormone production.
Additionally, low estrogen levels can affect the conversion of the inactive thyroid hormone (T4) to the active form (T3). Estrogen helps facilitate this conversion, and when estrogen levels are low, the conversion slows, resulting in reduced levels of active thyroid hormone available to the body.
These interactions between estrogen and thyroid hormones highlight the importance of maintaining a balance in hormone levels for optimal thyroid function. If there are concerns about low estrogen or thyroid-related symptoms in men, it's best to consult a healthcare professional for appropriate evaluation and management.
Low Estrogen in Men And The 10 Crucial Symptoms to Watch Out For
Erectile dysfunction (ED) is a common symptom of low estrogen in men and those on estrogen blockers. Studies show that estrogen helps maintain healthy blood flow and nerve function, which are vital for achieving and maintaining an erection. (10)
Many men don't realize that estrogen plays a role in regulating libido in men, and when estrogen levels are low, it can decrease sexual desire and erectile dysfunction. (11) Estrogen helps maintain healthy blood flow and promotes sexual function, so a decrease in estrogen levels can significantly impact a man's sexual health. Another common side effect of estrogen-blocking medications is decreased libido.
Fatigue and Low Energy Levels
Fatigue and low energy levels can be associated with low estrogen levels in men. Research has shown that estrogen plays a role in maintaining energy levels and overall vitality.
Estrogen influences mood regulation in men. Low estrogen levels can contribute to mood swings, irritability, and depression.
Loss of Muscle Mass and Strength
Estrogen is involved in maintaining muscle mass and strength in men. Low estrogen levels can lead to muscle loss and reduced physical performance. (12)
Increased Body Fat
Osteoporosis and Bone Loss
Estrogen is essential for maintaining bone health in men. Low estrogen levels can increase the risk of osteoporosis and bone loss, which is a risk factor for low testosterone and the using estrogen blockers.
Hot flashes, commonly associated with women during menopause, can also occur in men with low estrogen levels. These sudden feelings of heat and sweating can be disruptive and uncomfortable.
Estrogen is involved in cognitive function in both men and women. Low estrogen levels can lead to cognitive changes such as memory problems, difficulty concentrating, decreased mental clarity and in the long-term Alzheimer's disease. (14)
Gynecomastia can cause breast tenderness, swelling, or even enlargement in men. While estrogen is typically associated with female characteristics, a hormonal imbalance that leads to low estrogen levels in men can disrupt the balance between estrogen and testosterone, developing gynecomastia. (15)
Conclusion: Is Low Estrogen in Men Really an Issue?
Low estrogen levels in men can significantly impact their health and well-being. It is essential to be aware of the symptoms associated with low estrogen levels and seek medical attention if they persist. Diagnosing and addressing low estrogen levels in men may involve hormone replacement therapy or other appropriate interventions.