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Is Your IBS Due to Low Estrogen?

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Can Low Estrogen Cause IBS?

Estrogen levels can decrease due to several factors, such as hormone suppressants or in the case of surgical ovarian removal (oophorectomy). However, the most common factor behind estrogen decrease is menopause, the end of childbearing years. Until menses cease altogether, estrogen and other ovarian hormones fluctuate convulsively during the perimenopausal 3-4 years prior.

Low estrogen can result in many symptoms that affect the quality of life, such as hot flashes or genital dryness. Among them is the confusing, frustrating condition known as Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS).

As the symptoms of IBS are similar to other, more serious diseases, treatment can provide relief as well as rule out conditions that would require more urgent care.

Estrogen Loss and Gastrointestinal Tract

Estrogen serves an important role in the body beyond sexual function. It also regulates bone density, brain activity, cholesterol processing, electrolyte balance, skin, and the cardiovascular and nervous systems. Each of the affected systems contain estrogen receptors, which bind themselves to the hormone. When the hormone levels decrease, the receptors are unable to bring the hormones into the system, affecting its function.

During perimenopause, estrogen and progesterone withdraw spasmodically, leading to peaks and valleys in hormone levels. The fluctuation of these hormones also leads to symptoms such as belching, flatulence, an enlarged lower abdomen and altered bowel function.

IBS is more prevalent in women than men. Studies have directly connected estrogen loss to various gastrointestinal conditions (cit. Chen, Gong, Yang, Shang, Du, Liao, Xie, Chen, Xu), and other studies have identified tissue-specific estrogen receptors throughout the gastrointestinal tract.

“I don’t remember stomach or digestive issues being a thing for me until the kids were grown,” said Elizabeth, 52. “I was always regular, ate right for the most part, especially as I got older. Then the pain and spasms began and my bathroom habits changed considerably.”

Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) is one of the most commonly diagnosed gastrointestinal diseases. However, it is not one that can be isolated and cured. It is actually a cluster of symptoms that occur at the same time. It is defined as “the presence of abdominal pain or discomfort with altered bowel habits". 

As it has no one direct cause, it has no one direct treatment. However, symptoms can be managed and improve quality of life.

Treatment of IBS

You have options to take control of your symptom relief. With proper care, consultation and discipline, you can reduce or even prevent IBS flareups.


  • Hormone replacement therapy: A systemic high-dose of the hormone that is absorbed throughout the entire body, restoring the estrogen no longer being naturally produced.
  • Adjusting/taking birth control pills: If you are still having periods, these can help stabilize your hormone levels.


A holistic approach includes both functional and internal methods so you can take direct control over your IBS symptoms.

Supplements can relieve IBS symptoms:

  • Probiotics have been proven effective in the treatment of IBS. They promote natural gut health and strengthen the intestines.
  • Fiber is available in soluble (softens stool) or insoluble (adds bulk to move stool easier) forms.

Lifestyle Adjustments:

  • Change your diet: Avoid caffeine, alcohol, fried foods, fizzy beverages or processed/recooked food.
  • Exercise: Sweat relieves fluid retention and helps the digestive system work properly.
  • Stay hydrated: Drinking water keeps the gastrointestinal tract moving.
  • Eat smarter: This includes incorporating fiber directly into your diet, such as oats, legumes, bran, nuts or seeds. Also, smaller portions for easier digestion.
  • Quit smoking/chewing gum: Lungs and teeth will benefit, but you will also stop swallowing air. Air leads to gas and bloating, which exacerbate symptoms.

When to See a Doctor

One of the other effects of estrogen loss is heightened visceral sensitivity, which can cause aggravation of symptoms. Since IBS symptoms overlap with other more serious conditions, it is important to understand if yours are treatable or if you require further examination.

Elizabeth recalls her initial fear when her IBS started. “Without a history of these symptoms, I didn’t know what to think and of course, my mind went to places I didn’t like,” she said. “Once I knew I could manage the symptoms I started to feel more in control of myself again, and relieved that it wasn’t something far worse”

If your symptoms don’t respond to treatment, or if gastrointestinal distress remains a consistent source of discomfort and impacts quality of life, you should see a doctor to eliminate other conditions.

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