What is Estrogen? What does it do?
Hormone supplements are a billion dollar industry. The hormones that are naturally produced in the human body play such a huge role in everyday quality of life that millions of people with hormone deficiency take a ‘supplement cocktail’, to keep their hormones at perfect level.
So what is estrogen and what is it doing for people? On this article we will discuss estrogen, what it is and why the body needs it, and whether or not you could benefit from the use of an estrogen supplement.
So What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is a hormone responsible for sexual reproduction in women, although it is present in men in small amounts as well. Hormones are chemical messengers that tell certain tissues in the body how to behave. And estrogen tells a woman’s body to develop breasts and rounder curves, influence menstruation and other secondary functions that go hand in hand with puberty.
Estrogen is produced by the ovaries in conjunction with menstrual cycle. It is also found in the adrenal cortex, albeit in trace amounts. Once secreted by the ovaries, estrogen travels through the bloodstream and is absorbed by the target cells in the breasts, uterus, bones and other areas: it’s done by estrogen receptor within the cell. This receptor can then initiate changes within the body.
When doctors and scientists refer to estrogen, they are actually referring to three different hormones that make up the estrogen family: estrone, estradiol, and estriol.
- Estrone: the weakest of the three estrogens, estrone is produced by the body during menopause and is believed to help ease the transition into post-menopause. It is also the only naturally occurring estrogen after menopause.
- Estradiol: the most potent of the three estrogen hormones, it has the widest range of estrogenic effects on the body. It is responsible for the main reproductive functions in the body including menstruation, growth of pubic, underarm hair and breast development.
- Estriol: this chemical is actually a waste byproduct of the metabolism of estradiol. Once the estradiol is used up, the remaining estrol in the blood can still have effects on the body. It is produced by the body during pregnancy.
Although estrogen is considered the female reproductive hormone it is important to remember it also plays an important role in the reproductive processes in men as well.
Studies have shown that estrogen plays a role in the maturation of sperm and is vital for healthy sperm count in adult men. So just how does estrogen affect your body? We are going to discuss precisely how estrogen affects the body structure, skin, reproductive system, and brain.
Despite being a reproductive hormone, estrogen plays a surprisingly large role in the development of the body structure. It slows down the rate of growth, leading to shorter bones. It also leads to widened pelvis so that the body is better equipped for child birth. Estrogen also affects the voice box, making it smaller and higher pitched. Body hair is made finer and less pronounced than in men, primarily influenced by estrogen.
The presence of estrogen in the body reduces the hormones that trigger the production of sebum, increases collagen levels, and increases blood flow within the skin, making skin firm and relatively free of acne.
Female Reproductive System
There isn’t an element of the female reproductive system that estrogen doesn’t affect. Estrogen helps stimulate the development of egg follicles in the ovaries.
Additionally, it plays a role in the acidity of the vagina that prevents bacterial infection. In the uterus estrogen causes the growth of the endometrium, or uterine lining that is shed monthly during menstruation. It also stimulates mammary growth in women.
One of the most important roles estrogen has is its role in the brain. Estrogen is responsible for body temperature regulation and produces endorphins in the brain. Most importantly, estrogen protects brain cells and nerves from damage and encourages regrowth. There is evidence that estrogen in the brain can also hold off memory loss.
It is clear that estrogen not only plays a role in sex and beauty, but in age as well. Estrogen is consisted as the youth hormone because it plays an active role in the appearance of features that many believe are indicators of youth.
Essentially estrogen pills are youthfulness wrapped up in a bottle. It just could be one of the reasons that many people are looking to get their hands on their own prescription of little while hormone pills. Unfortunately, for them estrogen is too potent to be used for vanity.
Only people with low estrogen can truly need this drug. But how do you know if you are normal or experiencing low estrogen levels? Here are some of the potent signs of estrogen deficiency in women.
Estrogen deficiency in women
Having low estrogen can be a symptom of a bigger disease that could be potentially disastrous, meaning that discovering low estrogen early on can identify more serious conditions like hypogonadism.
The problem is that most people don’t know how to recognize the symptoms of low estrogen levels. Luckily, there are clear-cut symptoms and signs. Once you recognize the symptoms of low estrogen you can talk to your doctor.
Ideally, you may have low estrogen levels if you notice these symptoms:
- Mood Swings
- Hot flashes
- Changes in sexual activity and desire.
- High cholesterol
If you are experiencing these symptoms, you can be a candidate for estrogen supplements. But which one is right for you?
Types of Estrogen Supplements
There are as many types of estrogen supplements as there are reasons to take them!
Let’s talk about each of the different types of estrogen supplements and what they are commonly used for:
- Birth control: birth control is a hormone therapy designed to prevent pregnancy. Taken orally, through the skin in patch form, or inserted into the vaginal canal in a slow release medical device, the birth control contains a combination of estrogen and progesterone that delays ovulation in the same way your body would during pregnancy. That is, when your body detects a pregnancy it sends a signal to the ovaries to stop maturing eggs for fertilization. Birth control simulates this hormonal environment with a nearly 100% effectiveness. Blood clots and other complications can result from birth control use, so make sure you have consulted your doctor before taking any birth control pill.
- Hormone replacement therapy: designed to elevate abnormally low levels of estrogen, hormone replacement therapy (or HRT) is best suited for women going through menopause. Women who have had a hysterectomy may also be prescribed HRT to prevent early menopause as well. HRT can be prescribed in pill form but it can also be given as an injection or a topical cream.
- Osteoporosis Prophylaxis: osteoporosis is a disease that is characterized by a weakening of bones due to lose of bone density. This can be treated with estrogen because the hormone is proven to stimulate the growth of bone cells, replacing some of the lost density.
Three ways to Naturally Boost Your Estrogen Hormone Levels
So you have low estrogen levels? Supplementation isn’t your only option! Pills can be costly and worse, the pharmaceuticals can have moderate to severe adverse affects.
Many individuals will benefit from medical hormone supplements, but if you are a person who prefers natural remedies, the good news is there are still ways to boost your estrogen levels naturally.
Here are three important tips to boosting your estrogen levels.
- Quit smoking: smoking is not only bad for your lungs and heart, it can disrupt your endocrine system (the system responsible for creating hormones, including estrogen). Smoking tobacco is extremely bad for your health because tobacco smoke contains toxic levels of tar as well as thousands of carcinogenic compounds. Some of these carcinogens are linked to abnormal decrease in estrogen levels in women. There are also secondary side effects (insomnia, weight loss, weight gain) of cigarette smoking than can affect your estrogen as well. Cigarettes are an estrogen blocking double whammy.
Smoking cessation week can be key to raising your estrogen levels, especially if you’re into the habit of heavy smoking. The more cigarettes you smoke, the lower your estrogen levels will be. On the up side, women who quit smoking have been found to experience virtually immediate elevations in estrogen levels. There are several resources available to help you quit smoking, both online and in your doctor’s office. Most health insurance policies will offer you a support system and monetary incentive for quitting cigarettes. It has never been easier to quit!
- Work out regularly: there are tons of scientific evidence to support that there is a link between an active lifestyle and a balanced endocrine system. Women who work out moderately for a few days a week have healthy levels of estrogen and other hormones when compared to women who work out once a week or less. This is just another way of saying that a daily workout can help you look good AND feel good!
Whether you lift weights, work with a personal trainer, go to yoga, or run 5 miles doesn’t matter. As long as you are giving your muscles and cardiovascular system enough work out you are good to go!
- Eat foods High in Soy: soy is a food that can naturally boost estrogen levels when consumed properly. Soy products are derived from Soybeans and contain high levels of phytoestrogens. They can mimic the effects of regular estrogen and encourage more natural estrogen production. Foods that contain soy include edamame, tofu, and soy milk.
Phytoestrogens in Food
Phytoestrogens are chemicals that mimic the nature of in the body. While this may seem like a poor substitute for the real deal it is more potent than you would think. They are so effective at mimicking estrogen so much so men are discouraged from consuming food with high amounts of phytoestrogens (like soy). Men who overindulge in these foods will begin to see its effect on their bodies, like men who consume estrogen begin growing breasts.
These chemicals are helpful for the alleviation of menopause symptoms, but keep in mind that phytoestrogens can hinder your ability to conceive. This is because phytoestrogens aren’t exactly estrogen. Rather, they mimic the effects estrogen has on body structure, while taking up the only available space on cell receptors for real estrogen required for fertility.
If you are planning on conceiving, put down the soymilk!
Adding in one or two servings of phytoestrogens a day can help alleviate the worst symptoms of menopause without pharmaceuticals.
- legumes: peas, soybeans, pinto and lima beans
- fruits: prunes, cranberries, apricots
- herbs: black cohosh, sage, oregano, licorice,
- whole grains
- vegetables: broccoli and cauliflower
Aside from these foods you can also buy herbal supplements. Like their pharmaceutical counterpart, herbal estrogen introduces new estrogen into your bloodstream. While they are herbal they still contain chemicals derived from nature and can still be potent and dangerous when not taken correctly. Please see your doctor before starting with any new hormone supplements.