Have you ever wondered if smoking can cause estrogen levels to reduce in the body? For women in their midlife, lower estrogen levels can worsen menopause symptoms, making many women suffer from anxiety, mood swings, sleeplessness, skin issues, and hot flushes.
We have written this article to link smoking and estrogen levels and inform you nicotine can reduce estrogen levels and contribute to early-onset menopause. Let’s take a closer look.
What Is Estrogen?
Estrogen is a vital hormone that plays multiple roles in the body. In women, it can help to develop and maintain the reproductive system and female characteristics such as public hair and breasts. The hormone contributes to cognitive health, bone health, and the cardiovascular system, as well as other bodily processes. It is known for its role alongside progesterone in female sexual and reproductive health.
Estrogen helps to stimulate the growth of the egg follicle and in the vagina, estrogen helps to maintain the thickness of the vaginal wall, as well as promote natural lubrication. Estrogen can also enhance and maintain the mucous membrane and this lines the inside of the uterus.
It is important in regulating the flow and thickness of uterine mucus secretions. Finally, the body uses estrogen to form breast tissue. The hormone helps to stop the flow of milk after weaning.
The adrenal glands, the fat tissues, and the ovaries produce estrogen and both female and male bodies have the hormone. However, since females create more of it, when we look at how smoking can reduce levels in the body, we will focus on the female reproductive system as well as how it can encourage early onset menopause.
On the other hand, estrogen levels vary by individual, and it is not only smoking that causes levels to fluctuate. Levels fluctuate during the menstrual cycle and over a female’s lifetime and this fluctuation can produce side effects such as mood swings before menstruation or an increase in hot flushes whilst going through menopause.
Other factors that can influence estrogen levels include puberty, pregnancy or the end of a pregnancy, breastfeeding, old age, being overweight or obese, strenuous exercise, anorexia nervosa, congenital conditions, certain medications, high blood pressure, diabetes, primary ovarian insufficiency, polycystic ovary syndrome, an underactive pituitary gland, and tumors of the ovaries or the adrenal glands.
Smoking And Estrogen Levels
Regardless of estrogen levels, smoking is not a good decision when watching your health. There are 250 harmful chemicals in a cigarette and these can cause different types of cancer, emphysema, diabetes, heart disease, and other issues.
Current smokers against nonsmokers are known to have higher levels of both testosterone and estrogen. Studies have found that smoking can make your estrogen levels drop, especially in females. Lower levels of the hormone can consequently lead to dry skin, thinning hair, and memory problems.
With less estrogen, women might also have a much harder time trying to get pregnant and trying to have a healthy baby. Moreover, it can lead to early menopause, which can increase the risk of you developing diseases such as heart disease.
Therefore, if you are premenopausal, perimenopausal, or menopausal and you are a smoker, there are a few notes you should take down. As smoking nicotine is known to inhibit aromatase enzyme activity, this can catalyze the conversion of androgens to estrogens and reduce estrogen levels, leading to early-onset menopause.
As decreasing estrogen can worsen menopause symptoms, smoking can intensify the experience, making the midlife process a lot more intolerant and unpleasant. Although you can supplement estrogen levels with hormone replacement therapy (HRT), in smokers, it can increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. As a result, combining smoking with hormone replacement is not recommended by healthcare professionals.
Menopause Symptoms And Smoking
Menopause symptoms can be unpleasant and range from a dry vagina to insomnia and hot flushes. Smoking only makes these symptoms worse so let’s take a closer look.
Bringing On Menopause Earlier
If you are perimenopausal and you are still smoking, you can expect to hit menopause a full year earlier than nonsmokers. People who use tobacco are 43% more likely to have early menopause symptoms than those who do not use it.
This means you will have less time with the protective benefits of estrogen and this can lead to higher chances of developing osteoporosis bone issues, heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease, and obesity following the menopause period.
Bone Loss And Osteoporosis
Smokers are more at risk for fractures than nonsmokers of the same age. Bone density decreases a lot faster in women who smoke and this increases the risk of osteoporosis. This is down to the free radicals in cigarette smoke, which are molecules that attack vital organs, hormones, and cells that keep your bones healthy.
These cells include the cells that regenerate bone. Moreover, smoking reduces blood flow through the body and this can damage your nerves. When your feet and toes lose feeling, you are much more likely to fall on your weakened bones.
One of the most common side effects of menopause is the abundance of hot flushes you are about to experience. You might find your face turning red, your heart racing, and your clothes becoming drenched in sweat. They can be awful and they can make the midlife process 100 times trickier to handle.
What is more, is that smoking can make them even worse. Regular female smokers tend to suffer from a lot more frequent and severe hot flushes during menopause than women who don’t smoke. This increases again if you are African American or carry particular gene variants.
Dry Eye Disease
Just like your vagina, you might find your eyes becoming dry too during menopause. Your eyes need moisture and when sex hormones such as estrogen fall as a result of menopause and smoking, this can lead to Dry Eye Disease.
If you find yourself in this situation, be prepared to handle itchy, gritty, painful, and stingy eyes. Ouch. Furthermore, the particles in the smoke can make this condition worse and can further irritate your eyes.
As estrogen decreases during menopause, it further decelerates from smoking and so does the decrease of the production of lubricating fluid found in your vagina. Vaginal dryness can be a discomfort for many and makes activities like sex and exercise difficult or even agonizing.
You should find some feminine dryness remedies to tackle this. Less estrogen production equals less natural lubrication and this means you need to take action to avoid some very painful experiences.
There is also a link between second-hand smoke and the severity of menopause. If you do not smoke, but you are often exposed to other peoples’ smoke, all of the above symptoms and discomforts of menopause apply to you.
What About Quitting?
Quitting can seem like a scary task, yet if you want a few more years of the protective hormone, estrogen, it might be the way forward. Ways of quitting include:
Nicotine Replacement Therapy
This is one way of providing you with the nicotine but not the other harmful toxins in a cigarette through the form of gum, lozenges, patches, sprays, and inhalers. You will slowly decrease your nicotine consumption over time.
Menopause affects mental health in a lot of ways, and smoking on top of this can make it worse. Many women claim behavioral therapy can make a big difference when trying to tackle emotional issues alongside their tobacco issues. You could access behavioral therapy either in-person, through the web, or over the phone to fit your schedule.
With menopause, it is likely you are already experiencing more mood swings and are a lot more irritable than you are usually anyway, without the nicotine withdrawals. So you could talk to a healthcare professional about mood support.
With this, you might be given an antidepressant-like selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor and this works to balance the chemicals in the brain whilst you are adjusting to giving up smoking.
Cognitive-Behavioral Therapy And Other Methods
With this form of quitting, you can attempt to train your brain to break any habits that lead you to want to smoke. You could also train yourself to wake up without any cravings.
Hypnotherapy has also been used but studies have not confirmed whether it will work for nicotine addiction, despite some smokers swearing by it.
Finally, during menopause, you could try acupuncture as a clinically effective method. Most people report you never actually feel the needles in acupuncture so if it is the needle you are scared of, you have nothing to worry about.
We hope after reading this article you have learned a little more about smoking and estrogen levels and how by not giving up the cigarette, you are making what is already a very unpleasant menopause process, a lot more unpleasant.
Symptoms may become worse and you will no longer have the protective hormone in place that promotes lubrication and allows vital organs to keep functioning properly. If you are near menopausal age and still enjoy smoking, maybe try one of your methods of quitting. We promise it will be worth it!