Most men assume that their testosterone levels have a large impact on their health—and they’re right. Testosterone is critical for male health, and you may experience a wide range of symptoms if testosterone levels are depleted. But what most men may not know is that their estrogen levels can also be an important contributor to their overall health.
Men make estrogen in their testes, brain, skin, and bones. To produce estrogen, these organs chemically convert testosterone into estrogens using an enzyme called aromatase. Because a supply of testosterone is necessary for this conversion, low levels of testosterone can lead to even lower levels of estradiol and other estrogens. While low testosterone may happen at any age, testosterone levels steadily drop as you age, making it more likely that you will have correspondingly low estrogen levels.
While it’s unclear whether low estrogen in men is always harmful, there are a number of symptoms that may be associated with lower estrogen than normal in certain narrow populations of men. Because men rely heavily on testosterone, estrogen appears to have only a niche role in male health, which means that there isn’t a single symptomatic profile of low estrogen levels in men. Nonetheless, estrogen deficiency may still be harmful to men in a number of ways, potentially compromising bone health, behavioral health, and sexual desire.
Low Estrogen in Men May Cause Poor Bone Health
Testosterone is a major determinant of bone health in men, and it frequently gets all of the clinical attention. However, estrogens are critical for bone health in both sexes, especially during youth, when the rate of bone growth is high. Without estrogen, your bones can’t properly close their growth plates, which means that your bones can’t stop their growth and consolidate their gains by becoming more dense. If these growth plates aren’t arrested due to lack of estrogen, your bones may become excessively long and insufficiently thick, which can cause a plethora of mobility problems in adulthood.
In adulthood, however, estrogen deficiency can silently affect male bones for years before the impact is noticeable. Because growth plates are already stopped in adult men, estrogen’s role is to help bones become more dense. Men who don’t have the estrogen necessary to enable bone health may experience deviant bone growth, much slower healing of fractures, and have a higher risk for osteoporosis, especially if they were also deficient during their youth.
In a retrospective study of a group of 1,185 adult men, men with clinically low estrogen levels had a bone mineral density of 0.93 grams per square centimeter, whereas men with normal estrogen levels had a bone mineral density of 1.02 grams per square centimeter. While the men with lower bone mineral density did not report any negative symptoms, the risk is that in the absence of estrogen, their bones could slowly become weaker and less dense without betraying any specific symptoms which a man might notice.
The Impact of Estrogen on Behavioral Regulation
While estrogen has significant benefits for physical health, it is also necessary for behavioral health. In men and women alike, estrogen is implicated in social behavior, bonding, and more—but the relationship between having low levels of estrogen and having difficulty with these behaviors or performing them at the right frequency remains ambiguous.
Currently, there is a small amount of preliminary evidence derived from experiments with laboratory animals which suggests that males who are deficient in testosterone experience higher rates of compulsive behavior. But because this phenomenon has not yet been studied using human males, you probably can’t consider compulsive behavior to be a symptom of low estrogen in men. Other evidence suggests that estrogen is necessary to regulate social and sexual behaviors like aggression and copulation. But again, the relationship between low levels of estrogen in human males and these behaviors is unclear; most of the scientific research on estrogen and behavior regulation in males occurred in laboratory animals which means that it can’t be generalized to human behavior. Future research may clarify the behavioral effects of low estrogen in men, but the existing evidence offers intriguing glimpses into the possibilities.
The Relationship Between Estrogen and Sex Drive in Men
Hormones like estrogen are critical for regulating sexual desire in both men and women. Some men may experience low libido if their estrogen levels are too low—but only if their testosterone levels are also lower than they should be. Researchers have found that in men with diminished testosterone levels, low levels of estrogen may contribute to low libido in some cases. Under normal circumstances, however, low levels of estrogen did not have this effect. If you’re currently diagnosed with low testosterone levels and your sex drive remains low despite testosterone treatment, it may be worth investigating whether correcting your low estrogen levels is helpful.
Getting the Right Care to Protect Your Health
If you’re worried about low estrogen levels, you may want to find a practitioner who can test them. When you work with a qualified practitioner to test your hormone levels, you’ll gain greater insight into any symptoms you are experiencing and how to best address them and improve overall health. Depending on your needs, this may include using testosterone therapy to boost your testosterone levels and encourage estrogen production. These hormone replacement strategies may be combined with lifestyle changes to enhance physical and emotional well-being.
You deserve to feel your best, now and in the future. By reaching out to the right healthcare practitioner, you can ensure you have the supports you need to make that a reality.
BodyLogicMD can help you get started on testing your estrogen levels and improving your hormonal health. The practitioners within the BodyLogicMD network are among the top medical professionals in the nation and specially certified in treating hormone imbalances in men so that you can live the life you deserve. If you are experiencing low estrogen or low testosterone, they will work with you to craft a customized treatment plan designed to fit your lifestyle and help you reach optimal wellness. Contact a local practitioner to schedule your first appointment or take the BodyLogicMD Hormone Balance Quiz today.
Disclaimer: These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration. All content on this website is for informational purposes only. The content is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent diseases.
Charlotte is a patient care coordinator specializing in bioidentical hormone replacement therapy. She is committed to helping patients who struggle with the symptoms of hormonal change and imbalance explore their treatment options and develop effective strategies to optimize wellness.