What is Estrogen?
Estrogen refers to any one hormone in a specific chemically similar group called the estrogenic hormones. This group consists of estradiol, estrone and estriol. While it is largely considered a female hormone, estrogen is also produced in males, though in smaller quantities. In women, estrogen is synthesized primarily by the ovaries, but can also be produced by the adrenal glands and fat tissue. While in men, estrogen is mainly produced by the testes, adrenal and pituitary gland.
What does Estrogen do?
The main role of estrogenic hormones in the female body is to stimulate the growth and development of sexual characteristics and reproduction. Essentially, natural estrogen is responsible for the changes in breasts during adolescence and pregnancy including the development of milk ducts for lactation, and for the growth of the uterine lining in the first part of the menstrual cycle. It also serves to regulate several metabolic processes including cholesterol levels and bone growth.
During puberty, estrogen helps facilitate many of the physical changes men experience, such as chest and facial hair growth, muscle development and deepening of the voice.
Estrogen improves bone density and reduces the risk of osteoporosis for both women and men. Estrogen helps prepare a woman's body for pregnancy and in males, estrogen assists in the growth and maturity of sperm. In addition to reproductive function, estrogen also boosts libido and sexual desire.
It's important for women and men alike to balance estrogen levels to avoid health challenges, such as osteoporosis, obesity and diabetes. If you think that you may be experiencing symptoms of an estrogen imbalance, simple blood work can determine your hormone levels and help you decide if estrogen therapy is the right option for you.