What Is Estrogen?
The hormones in the human body are like a seesaw and need to be in constant balance for the body to work effectively. Any imbalance in the hormone levels will lead to the body experiencing several problems. Estrogen is known as the female hormone, but it is found in both males and females.
The male hormone is testosterone and also is both found in both males and females. However, estrogen is at higher levels in females than in males while testosterone is higher in males than in females. Estrogen is one of the two main female hormones. The other one is progesterone. Estrogen is the hormone responsible for the female features and sexual productivity in women.
Estrogen is not a single hormone but a name given to a group of hormones that are chemically similar. The three principal forms of estrogen found in the human body are the estrone, estradiol, and estriol, which are also referred to as hormone E1, E2, and E3 respectively.
There is another group of chemicals that are not hormones but occupy the estrogen receptor in the body. These are called the phytoestrogens and offer protection against the xeno-estrogens in the body. Of the three compounds that make estrogen, estradiol (E2) is the primary estrogen and is usually produced by the ovaries.
Estrone (E1) is formed from estradiol and is a weaker estrogen often found in women after menopause. Estriol, on the other hand, is found in the body in high amounts during the pregnancy period and is a breakdown of estradiol. Estriol is a weak estrogen that helps treat hot flashes, vaginal dryness, and night sweats. It is also known to have some anti-cancer effects.
Fertile women usually have a high level of estradiol, which is the predominant hormone. Its levels, however, drop after menopause below the estrone levels, which then become the dominant hormone.
How Does Estrogen Work In The Body?
Estrogen plays vital functions in both women and men. The role it plays in men is different from what it does in women.
The estrogen in women is produced mainly by the ovaries. However, it can also be produced by the adrenal glands and fats cells. The estrogen then moves throughout the body and acts everywhere. The estrogen in women is what brings out all those physical changes that occur during puberty.
At the onset of puberty (the age that the sex-secondary characteristics develop), estrogen plays a role in the development of breasts, armpit hair, and pubic hair. The growth of breasts in women is caused by the estrogen that is released from the ovaries. This is the same period that a girl starts to experience the menstrual cycle.
Estrogen is what controls the menstrual cycle, and it is important for childbearing. The hormone is what controls the growth of the uterine lining in the first cycle. When a woman’s egg is not fertilized, the levels of estrogen in the body decrease sharply, and menstruation occurs. When the egg is fertilized, estrogen works together with another female hormone called progesterone to stop the ovulation during the pregnancy period.
During the pregnancy period, the production of the hormone is taken by the placenta where the estriol hormone is produced. The estriol hormone helps control lactation and the changes that occur during pregnancy. So, how do estrogen and your menstrual cycle work? The amount of estrogen in the body changes throughout the menstrual cycle, with high levels being reported in the middle of the menstrual cycle and the lowest being reported during periods.
The estrogen hormones play several other vital roles in a woman, some of which are shared in men. Further roles of the estrogen hormone in women include:
- Protects the bone health in women
- Helps control the levels of cholesterol in the blood
- Estrogen works to affect your brain, bones, heart, skin, and other tissues in the body.
- The levels of estrogen in the body can affect a woman’s moods. Low estrogen levels in women lead to poor or reduced moods in women.
In bone formation, estrogen works with calcium and vitamin D to affect the breakdown and rebuild of bones in the body. At menopause level, the process of building bones will slow down as more bones are broken down than they are developed. This is the reason menopausal women are at a higher risk of suffering from osteoporosis than men of the same age.
The estrogen also plays an important role in blood clotting and maintaining the thickness and strength of the vaginal walls and the urethra lining. It also helps with the lubrication and a host of other health benefits. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, estrogen affects the mucous membrane, skin, hair, and pelvic muscles.
Men also produce estrogen as we mentioned earlier, but at a lower rate than women. The estrogen in men is released by the adrenal glands and by the testes. Estrogen in men is known to affect the sperm count. It also helps maintain a healthy libido. The estrogen produced for men is ideal for men’s fertility.
The chemical structure is estrogen and testosterone are related, and they are both called steroids. The estrogen produced in the testes plays an important role in the efferent ductules (tiny ducts attached to the testes that transport sperm to the epididymis). The epididymis is where the sperm is stored until ejaculation.
The ductules also absorb other fluids that accompany the sperms, helping keep the pressure in the testes as the right level. The specialized cells that line the ductules usually respond to estrogen, taking up the fluid and transferring it into the blood vessels in the ductile walls.
Estrogen has several other different roles in the reproductive system in men that have not yet been fully understood, as its main role is in the efferent ductules. Some research has pointed out that estrogen is important in the early stages in boys even before puberty, setting the stage for the normal production of sperm. Estrogen also acts directly in the maturation of sperm cells. Other roles of estrogen in men are the same as in women where it applies:
- Control cholesterol levels
- Control metabolism
- Help with bone strength
Sexual dysfunction might occur in men when there is an imbalance in the estrogen and testosterone levels. Poor levels of estrogen in men less than the required amount might lead to infertility. We have already seen how estrogen in men helps improve sperm count. On the other hand, men with excess estrogen may start developing breasts.
Uses And Benefits Of Estrogen
Much of what estrogen is used for in men and women have already been covered above. Estrogen can be produced artificially and help to regulate the functions of natural estrogen in individuals where there is a need for more of the steroid.
Estrogen found in birth control pills (together with the hormone progesterone) helps stop ovulation in the same way the body stops during pregnancy. The birth control pills do this by controlling the levels of estrogen and therefore preventing ovulation from taking place.
Estrogen can be used to reduce the symptoms of menopause and help women bear children after their 40s. This treatment is called Hormonal Replacement Therapy and includes a combination of estrogen and progesterone to help treat postmenopausal systems such as:
- Night sweats
- Sleeping problems
- Vaginal atrophy
- Inflammation of the vaginal walls due to decreased levels of estrogen
The hormone is also used to treat women who are transgender to achieve the desired feminine characteristics. These includes things like growth of breasts, inhibition of body hair growth that is usually found in men, and creating other changes that are important for transitioning from male to female. According to the University of California, hormonal administrations that use estrogen have been used for over 50 years to help treat gender dysphoria.
The role of estrogen in men has already been discussed where the estrogen helps improve the sperm count and in the maturation of sperm. Hormonal Replacement Therapy can also be used in men where a lack of estrogen causes various negative side effects.
Risks And Side Effects Of Estrogen Both In Men And Women
Hormonal imbalance has adverse effects on the body, both in men and women. While the estrogen hormone has been found to play vital roles in men and women, it possesses various risks when at low or high levels.
High levels of estrogen can occur naturally or be caused by medications. One common cause of estrogen levels becoming too high due to medication is during menopause treatment, where the estrogen levels can sometimes become problematic. In other cases, the body might secrete excess testosterone, which affects the amount of estrogen in the body.
Signs And Symptoms Of High Levels Of Estrogen Levels In Women
- Hair loss
- Weight gain
- Irregular menstrual periods
- Mood swings
- Difficulty with memory
- Trouble sleeping
- Fibrocystic development in the breasts
- Increased symptoms of premenstrual syndrome
- Swelling and tenderness in the breast
- Decreased sex drive
High Estrogen In Men
Although estrogen is usually in low amounts in men, significant changes might result in undesirable effects. Symptoms of high estrogen levels in men include:
This is the development of breasts in both men and women. The high levels of estrogen in men will lead to the development of bigger breast as the hormone works to create the female characteristics. A high estrogen level is the main cause of bigger breasts in men.
Erectile dysfunction is another effect caused by hormonal imbalance. The sexual functions in men might be impacted, leading to poor performance or an inability to perform.
We’ve already seen the role estrogen plays in the maturation of sperm and production of enough sperm in the body. When we have higher estrogen levels than usual, this can lead to fertility issues in men.
Other Effects Of Estrogen In Both Men And Women
Estrogen has been found to impact other hormones in the body. The presence of estrogen increases the cortisol and sex hormone binding globulin. It also increases melanin while reducing eumelanin.
Estrogen has also been found to play a role in the growth and maintenance of hormone-sensitive breast cancers. It also plays a vital role in women’s mental health, with low levels leading to poor moods in women. It maintains the skin by improving the collagen quality and content so skin thickness and blood flow are improved. Deficiencies of estrogen can lead to risks of heart diseases.
Estrogen is available in a generic form where it treats the various conditions discussed above. However, it also has various side effects which include:
- Stomach cramps
- Breast tenderness, pain, and swelling
- Weight changes
- Loss of the scalp hair
- Vaginal discharge or itching
- Changes in the menstrual cycle
These are not the only side effects, and you should consult with a doctor before taking any medications that contain estrogen. It is always advised that you get emergency help when faced with any allergic reactions. Some of the common allergic reactions that can be experienced include:
- Swelling of the face
- Difficulty breathing
- Swelling of the lips, tongue, and throat
These side effects are common and require immediate consultation with your doctor. However, other serious side effects will require you to stop using estrogen products immediately and consult your doctor. These include:
- A stabbing chest pain, wheezing, sudden coughing, rapid breathing, and a fast heart beat
- Unusual vaginal bleeding, especially after menopause
- A heavy feeling in the chest or pain that spreads to the arms and shoulders. This can be followed by feeling nauseated and sweating profusely.
- A lump in your breast
- Yellowing of the eyes and skin, known as jaundice
Some medical conditions can prevent you from taking the hormonal replacement therapy as the effects can be life-threatening. In most cases, the doctors weigh the benefits and see if they outweigh the risks. Common cases where HRT might not be used include a history of estrogen-sensitive cancer, embolism, or thrombosis.
In such cases, the patient might need some concurrent treatments, like anticoagulants in cases of thrombosis. In the case of cancer, the patient might need careful monitoring by an oncologist. Other contraindications in which the benefits of HRT might outweigh the risks but still require caution include:
- Risk factors for heart diseases, such as high cholesterol, smoking, obesity, and diabetes
- Gall bladder diseases
- Blood clotting and blood circulation conditions
- Liver and kidney diseases
The risks usually increase with an increase in dosages. Patients with greater risks of contraindications might start at low dosages and increase gradually.
Top Estrogen Products For Men And Women
If you’ve been told by your doctor that your estrogen levels are low, you can use various top products available in the market to boost its levels. However, before you even use these products, there are several estrogen rich foods that can be consumed by both and men and women. Estrogen foods are an ideal source of estrogen and will prevent cases of over-dosing. Such foods include:
- Dried fruits
- Sesame seeds
- Alfalfa sprouts
- Bran cereals
- Soy milk
In most cases, men will require products that reduce the high levels of estrogen in their bodies instead of increasing as their bodies require much less of the estrogen than women. Top products for men are anti-estrogen and include:
- Smoky mountains Naturals DIM +BioPerine extra strength formula
- The ANDRO SURGE estrogen blocker for men
- Arimistane top selling anti-estrogen for men
- Cycle support Irons-lab Nutrition
- EstroVoid XT Estrogen Blocker for Men
The number of top products for men is endless, but one has to check on how they have been reviewed and rated before making the decision to buy. It is always important to consult with your doctor on the ideal product for your needs.
The list of estrogen pills in the market for women is endless, and you should consult with your doctor on the right one before making the decision to buy. It is also good to see the side effects the estrogen pills have before using them. Some of the top products include:
- EstroLibrium estrogen pills for women
- Life Extension Natural Estrogen veg tabs
- ProEstro Estrogen Pills for women
- DIM 200mg Plus Bioperine Estrogen metabolism
- Nature’s Way DIM-plus Estrogen Metabolism Formula
All estrogen products should be taken according to the dosages and any side effects reported to your doctor.
Estrogen is a crucial hormone in women and men and plays a vital role in both. Its balance in the body is a central one, helping to create the female characteristic and helping men in the maturation of sperm and production of a high sperm count. Conditions that result from low estrogen can be treated, but only with the consultation of a doctor.
The side effects from estrogen range from minor to serious depending with the patient and amount of dosage. It is always recommended you take the exact dosage recommended by the doctors, as high or low amounts of estrogen have various effects in the body.