Estrogen is a steroid hormone that controls the physiology, growth, and functioning of the female reproductive tissues. It is present in both males and females, but in much higher amounts in females. It is the primary hormone related with female reproductive health. However, the functions of Estrogen are not just limited to its reproductive action.
It also guides the functioning of critical body organs and body systems such as cardiovascular system, nervous system, metabolic functions, musculoskeletal system, and urinary system. It is naturally produced in a woman’s body during the regular menstrual cycle.
It can also be obtained via food products. Estrogen levels decline in female bodies during the natural aging process and during menopause. (both natural and artificially induced)
In modern times, we are often at risk of exposure to high Estrogen levels due to environmental pollutants, hormone fed meat and dairy, and from water sources, where it enters through the cycle of oral contraceptives.
Three types of Estrogen
The female sex hormone estrogen has three components:
- Estradiol—the most potent naturally occurring estrogen hormone. It is abundant in younger women as it is regularly produced during each menstrual cycle by the ovaries. Estradiol levels decline during menopause. However, it is still produced by the ovaries in much smaller amounts after menopause.
- Estriol—the primary estrogen produced by the placenta during pregnancy. It is the weakest of all three forms of Estrogen. It is present in maximum concentration during pregnancy.
- Estrone—the primary estrogen produced post menopause. Estrone is largely produced intracellularly by the peripheral tissues (all tissues other than the reproductive system tissues) through conversion of DHEA hormone, which is secreted by the Adrenal glands (80%) and the Ovaries (20%). It is most abundant in the body after menopause. It is less potent than Estradiol and more potent than Estriol.
Health Functions of Estrogen Hormone
Here are some of the functions of Estrogen for health of human body:
- Controls the functions of the nervous system, maintains body temperature, and improves the effects of endorphins (feel-good chemicals).
- It maintains the strength of bones and prevents bone loss.
- It improves skin quality and prevents aging (collagen levels).
- Controls the production of cholesterol in the liver.
- Controls hair growth and prevents hair loss/thinning.
- The influence of Estrogen causes the structural differences between the male and female bodies, for example, the pelvis in females is wider and they have more permanent hair on the head.
- Estrogen receptors have been found all over the cardiovascular system. A typical effect is a relaxation in arterial tone and a decrease in resistance.
- Estrogens promotes liver synthesis of thyroxine-binding globulin (TBG), hence increasing the activity and effectiveness of Thyroxine hormone or Thyroid function. With the onset of Menopause, this activity of Estrogen is highly diminished.
Estrogen Function in Women Health
Natural menopause is the consequence of the loss of ovarian function. This is the result of a long cascade of events that occur in the ovaries and in the brain. In menopause, estrogen secretion ends and sex steroids, necessary for the organism, continue to be produced locally.
- It helps to improve the development and upholding of the female characteristics in the human body.
- It acts as a chemical messenger that instructs specific tissues to act and grow accordingly in both males and females.
- Along with Progesterone, it is one of the most significant hormones for the health of women.
- It enhances vaginal acidity and reduces the risk of bacterial infections.
- It enhances the process of development and growth of female secondary sexual characteristics, such as breasts, pubic and armpit hair.
- It gives rise to a proper environment for the fertilization and implantation of the embryo. It also ensures required nutrition is provided to an early embryo.
Phytoestrogens are plant based Estrogen hormones. They can be derived from lentils, beans, seeds, fruits, and vegetables. They have similar structure and functioning to that of human Estrogen hormone but have much lower potency.
Phytoestrogens help to maintain the hormonal balance and keep your health in check. If your hormones are in a state of imbalance, it can have an effect on your mood, sleep, and ability to conceive, and you will be more prone to hormone-related medical conditions.
Some of the health risks include infertility, polycystic ovary syndrome, early-onset menopause, hirsutism (male-pattern hair growth), and cancer.