Estrogen is the primary female hormone that plays a vital role in supporting the development and maintenance of the female sex characteristics of the body in both men and women, which includes breasts growth, fertility, armpit, and pubic hair. More than its functions to the reproductive system, estrogen affects the brain by regulating body temperature and enhancing the ‘feel-good’ chemicals in the brain, namely endorphin, oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine. It also prevents aging by improving the collagen content of the skin that enhances its quality and thickness. The hormone promotes bone strength and prevents bone loss. Moreover, estrogen prohibits the development of cardiovascular diseases like stroke and heart attack by controlling cholesterol production in the liver.
Women have higher amounts of estrogen produced in the ovaries that have a significant function in their reproductive health and menstrual cycle. On the other hand, men have low levels of estrogen that are made in their adrenal glands and testes. There are three forms of estrogen naturally found in the body:
Estrone (E1) – This steroidal hormone only produced during the menopausal stage. It is less potent than the other forms of estrogen and only present in most muscles and fats in small amounts. This functions in converting other forms of estrogen for
Estradiol (E2) – This is the primary female sex hormone responsible for regulating the menstrual cycle and developing reproductive tissues during puberty such as the mammary gland, uterus, and vagina. Abnormal levels of Estradiol leads to several gynecological illnesses like endometriosis, fibroids, and endometrial cancer.
Estriol (E) – This form of estrogen is mostly detected during pregnancy and considered to be the weakest type. More than as a natural hormone, estriol is used for menopausal hormone therapy.
These three forms of endogenous estrogens have significant roles in the body, especially for women from puberty, menstruation, and menopausal stages
How the changes in the levels of Estrogen affects us?
Similar with other types of hormones, estrogen levels continuously fluctuates all throughout the stages of development from childhood to adulthood, particularly among women as estrogen is a major hormone that contributes to most female body parts and functions.
Estrogen levels can be too low or too high depending on how much the ovaries produce it, which can be influenced by several daily activities, lifestyle, diet, medication, and even other kinds of sickness. Abnormal levels of estrogen can cause moderate to severe symptoms, manifested in a variety of ways.
Symptoms and Complications of High Estrogen
Women who have high levels of estrogen can experience bloating, fatigue, insomniac episodes, light spotting, irregular periods, heavy bleeding, severe PMS, extreme mood swings, depression and anxiety, hair loss, headaches, noncancerous breast lumps, uterine fibroids, low sex drive, and issues with memory.
Those who are vulnerable to an increased in estrogen levels are the ones taking hormonal contraceptives, drinking certain antibiotics, and consuming herbal medicines. Obesity, liver disease, and tumors in the ovary can also contribute to acquiring this condition. Complications such as blood clots, heart attack, stroke, thyroid illnesses, ovarian, and breast cancer may develop once high estrogen levels perpetuate to be untreated.
Symptoms and Complications of Low Estrogen
Typically women who have low estrogen levels experience irregular or absent menstruation, mood swings, hot flashes, breasts tenderness, migraines, fatigue, urinary tract infection (UTI), depression, and problems with concentration. Bones can easily be fractured or broken due to a decrease in bone density.
Low levels of estrogen can be attributed to malnutrition due to anorexia or other eating disorder, Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS), menopause, low-functioning pituitary gland, chronic kidney disease, a genetic or autoimmune condition that causes premature ovarian failure. Excessive exercises and extreme physical workouts can also be a big factor in the decline of estrogen production.
How are estrogen-related symptoms treated?
Common treatment options for patients involves medication through Hormone Replacement Therapy (HRT), surgery, and a complete lifestyle and dietary change. It is also important for women who are experiencing symptoms of abnormal levels of estrogen to stay active and to maintain the ideal body weight through consuming foods high in fiber and estrogen like cruciferous vegetables, soy and nuts that are abundant in isoflavones that boost estrogen, and fruits with phytoestrogen like peaches and strawberries.
Another known treatment is taking DIM supplements that support the balance of good and bad estrogens in the body, alleviating the symptoms of estrogen dominance. Unbalanced estrogen levels mainly happen as women starts to enter perimenopause or the stage nearing the cessation of their menstrual cycle, during this time an array of symptoms may manifest as early as 10 years before menopause. The ideal way is to begin preparing for the physical, mental and emotional transitions through keeping oneself healthy, strong and active.