Our bodies create the hormone estrogen mainly in the adrenal glands and the ovaries. In women, estrogen plays a key role in sexual development. In both women and men, it improves the function of the brain and strengthens bones. Estrogen levels fluctuate naturally and due to diet, stress, and age factors. Like most things in life, however, too much or too little estrogen can cause problems.
Anything in our bodies that behaves like estrogen can be called estrogenic. Although our bodies produce 25 different types of estrogen, the three most prominent, classified as steroid hormones, are estradiol, estrone and estriol. Estradiol is present in men and is the most common form of estrogen in women who are neither pregnant nor menopausal. Estrone, produced during menopause, is also present in men, while estriol is the dominant estrogen of pregnancy.
Estrogen is used by our hearts, brains, bones, and blood vessels. In women, it has an effect on the regulation of menstrual periods and plays a key role in preparing the uterus for pregnancy. According to a study by researchers at the Department of Veterinary Biosciences, University of Illinois, there are very high concentrations of estrogen in a man's semen. They believe that estrogen regulates certain functions of the male reproductive system, especially in the maturation of sperm.
The fluctuation of hormone levels can effect your physical well-being. When a woman's hormones are in balance, estrogen has many positive effects including burning fat and improving memory. When levels fall too low, such as during menopause, symptoms include vaginal dryness, hot flashes, weight gain and night sweats. In men, according to a study published in the journal Atherosclerosis, researchers have discovered a link between high estrogen levels and increased levels of bad cholesterol. These findings suggest that fluctuating levels of estrogen are risk factors for heart disease in men. Both men and women with low levels of estrogen are at risk for osteoporosis, a disorder characterized by the thinning of bones and loss of bone density. Other effects of an imbalance in estrogen levels include blood clotting disorders, liver cancer, high blood pressure, glucose intolerance and high blood levels of calcium.
Certain medications and drugs, chronic alcoholism and certain health conditions can result in increased estrogen levels in both men and women. Whether the imbalance is due to a woman's monthly menstrual cycle, menopause, glandular problems or thyroid problems, getting the hormones back into balance can be the key to feeling better. Treatment options include synthetic hormone replacement drugs, bioidentical hormones, dietary changes and natural remedies that incorporate the use of herbs.
Although certain estrogen replacement drugs help protect bone density in menopausal women, they are also tied to an increased risk of heart attacks, stroke, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. Many women are choosing to use bioidentical estrogen products or dietary measures instead, the safety of which have not yet been determined.