- estrogen are hormones that play several roles in our body; in women they help develop and maintain both the reproductive system and female physical characteristics such as breasts.
Estrogen contributes to cognitive health, bone health, cardiovascular system function and other essential body processes; however, most people only know it for its role alongside progesterone in female sexual and reproductive health.
The ovaries, adrenal glands and fatty tissues produce estrogen; both female and male bodies have estrogen, but women produce more.
Types of estrogen
There are several types:
- Estrone: this type of estrogen is present in the body after menopause; it is a weaker form of estrogen and the body can convert it to other forms as needed
- Estradiol: both men and women produce this hormone; is the most common female estrogen during the reproductive age. High levels of estradiol can cause acne, loss of sex drive, osteoporosis, and depression
- Estriol: Estriol levels increase during pregnancy, as they help the uterus grow and prepare the body for childbirth; estriol levels peak shortly before birth.
Estrogen allows the following organs to function:
- Ovaries: estrogen helps stimulate the growth of the egg follicle
- Vagina: estrogen keeps the vaginal wall thick and promotes lubrication
- Uterus: estrogen improves and maintains the mucous membrane that lines the uterus; it also regulates the flow and thickness of uterine mucus secretions
- Seno: The body uses estrogen to form breast tissue and to stop milk production after weaning.
Estrogen levels vary from person to person. They fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle and throughout the life of every woman; this fluctuation can sometimes cause mood swings and hot flashes.
Factors that can affect estrogen levels are:
- Late pregnancy and breastfeeding
- Old age
- Overweight and obesity
- Extreme diets or anorexia
- Very intense physical exercise
- Using some medications
- Congenital conditions (Turner syndrome, high blood pressure, diabetes, primary ovarian failure, inactive pituitary gland, polycystic ovary syndrome and ovarian tumors).
An estrogen imbalance leads to:
- Irregular or absent menstruation
- Light or heavy bleeding during menstruation
- Pronounced premenstrual symptoms
- Hot flashes
- Night sweats
- Non-cancerous nodules
- Mood changes
- Sleep disorders
- Weight gain
- Low sexual desire
Certain inherited conditions can lead to high estrogen levels in men, which can result in:
- Erectile dysfunction
Low levels in men, on the other hand, can cause:
- Localized abdominal fat
- Low libido.
Food sources of estrogen
Some foods contain phytoestrogens, substances of plant origin that resemble estrogen; several studies suggest that these foods can affect estrogen levels in the body, but there are still no reliable data. Foods that contain phytoestrogens are:
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