Lets talk about estrogen.
This is going to be the first in a series of 3 blog posts aiming to demystify the hormone estrogen. The first post will tackle understanding the normal physiology of estrogen within the body. The second post will explore the world of estrogen dominance, something that is very common within society. Finally a peek into the changes that can take place when estrogen becomes deficient, an example of this is the life stage menopause.
Let’s get started.
There are a number of different types of estrogen within the body. The primary estrogen found in women is estradiol, which is produced by the ovaries starting in puberty. The second type is estrone which is produced by the ovaries as well as fat cells of the body, and becomes more predominant in post menopausal years. The final and weakest for of estrogen is estriol produced by the placenta during pregnancy or as a byproduct of estradiol and estrone as result of liver metabolism.
These various types estrogen function within the tissues of the body.
Uterus – estrogen promotes thickening of the lining monthly to prepare for pregnancy as well as increasing cervical mucous production, which fluctuates throughout a women’s monthly cycle
Ovary – estrogen stimulates the growth of the follicle that contains the ovum to be released with ovulation
Breast – estrogen stimulates growth of the mammery glands and ducts, there is a higher concentration of estrogen receptors in the breast tissue in the follicular (first half) of the menstrual cycle and decrease after ovulation.
Liver – estrogen is responsible for a decrease in serum total cholesterol, as well as low density lipoprotien (bad cholesterol). There is also an increase concentration of high density lipoprotien (good cholesterol), as well as increased production of clotting factors in the blood, and the body’s ability to bind thyroid hormone when estrogen is in balance
Central Nervous System – estrogen is neuroprotective, meaning there is lower risk of cognitive decline when estrogen is in balance
Bone – in young adult years estrogen promotes maturation of bone, and continues to maintain balance bone formation until menopause
A quick note on the physiology of estrogen in men, since the bulk of estrogen effects are in women. Estrogen is actually made from the circulating testosterone in the body by an enzyme called aromatase. As men age, they tend to make increasing levels of estrogen with decreased production of testosterone. As with women balance is the key with any hormones in the body.