You Might Be Low in This Hormone and Not Even Know It

Health-wise, the last year and a half of college did a bit of a number on me. And no, it had nothing to do with too many shots of Fireball or sleepless nights spent cramming at the library. Between a minor heartbreak (is that an oxymoron?), an over-booked class schedule, the emotional come-down after a blissful semester abroad in Ireland, and a few other emotional stressors, by the time I packed my car up that spring, it would be an understatement to say I was feeling worse for the wear.

Physically, I didn't feel like myself, and although I had seen multiple doctors, no one seemed all that concerned—except me. I know my body. I know when something is wrong, and I began to feel frustrated when I wasn't making any headway—instead, I felt like I was doing a perpetual doggy paddle. Finally, roughly one year later, I finally got some answers. The cause, you ask? Estrogen levels that were far from normal.

Despite the fact that I was exercising regularly, eating a healthy diet (for the most part), excelling in my classes, keeping alcohol to a minimum, and abiding by a no-coffee policy, I felt exhausted (like, I-can't-drag-myself-out-of-bed exhausted) and was uncharacteristically moody. I was also having horrible night sweats (to the point where 2 a.m. showers had become routine), and my period had gone AWOL.

Exasperated and tired of treading water, a few months after graduating, I finally made an appointment with a doctor who specialized in functional medicine. Interestingly, five minutes into the consultation, she had a very strong inkling what the problem was. "Your estrogen levels are low," she told me. "I'll run some tests, but I can already tell you exactly what they're going to say." And, not surprisingly, she was completely correct. Slightly taken aback and knowing nothing about normal levels of estrogen levels, I internalized her parting advice, bought a few supplements she recommended and went on my merry way. In hindsight, however, I wish I had asked so many more questions.

Because as it turns out, low estrogen levels are much more common in young women than one might think, and the symptoms can be easily misunderstood, ignored, or even misdiagnosed. To try to get a more comprehensive understanding of estrogen, what's normal and what's not, I reached out to two different experts: Denise Pate, MD, Internal Medicine Doctor at Medical Offices of Manhattan and Lara Briden, ND, author of Period Repair Manual Second Edition: Natural Treatment for Better Hormones and Better Periods.

Keep reading to learn more about low estrogen levels.