They are a group of sex hormones that promote the development and maintenance of female characteristics in the human body.
They play an essential role in the growth and development of secondary female sexual characteristics, such as breasts, pubic and underarm hair, and regulating the menstrual cycle and reproductive system.
During the menstrual cycle, estrogen produces an adequate environment for the fertilization, implantation, and nutrition of an early embryo.
An imbalance of these hormones can lead to various health problems and unwanted physical changes. This article from the MNT Knowledge Center will explain what estrogen is, how it works in the body, its range of medical uses, and the effects of estrogen imbalance.
Fast facts about estrogen
The ovaries are the central place for the production of estrogen.
Estrogen influences structural differences between the male and female bodies, such as women with a wider pelvis and more permanent hair on the head.
Synthetic estrogen has a variety of uses in medicine, including birth control and controlling the effects of menopause.
Estrogen is involved in the development of a variety of health problems.
What is estrogen?
Estrogen is a vital hormone in female development. Hormones are chemical messengers that tell specific tissues to behave in certain ways.
The ovaries begin to release estrogen hormones during puberty according to each monthly menstrual cycle. The estrogen level suddenly increases in the middle of the process, which triggers the release of an egg. This level then decreases rapidly after ovulation.
Estrogens generally travel through the bloodstream in fluids, interact with cells in various tissues in the body and deliver a message or instruction.
It is one of the most important hormones for women and progesterone. Progesterone helps maintain pregnancies and implant an egg in the uterus.
Related hormones in the estrogen family include:
Estrone (E1): this is a weak form of estrogen and the only type found in women after menopause. Small amounts of estrone are present in most body tissues, mainly fat and muscle. The body can convert estrone to estradiol and estradiol to estrone.
Estradiol (E2): this is the most vital type of estrogen. Estradiol is a steroid produced by the ovaries. It is believed to contribute to gynecological problems, such as endometriosis, fibroids, and cancers in women, particularly endometrial cancer.
Estriol (E3): This is the weakest estrogen and is a waste product that occurs after the body uses estradiol. Pregnancy is the only time in which significant amounts of estriol are produced. Estriol can not be converted to estradiol or estrone.
Estrogen is crucial for the reproductive function and cycle of a woman.
In women, estrogen affects the following areas of the body:
Ovaries: Estrogen helps stimulate the growth of an egg follicle.
Vagina: also stimulates the growth of the vagina to its adult size, the thickening of the vaginal wall, and an increase in vaginal acidity that reduces bacterial infections. It also helps to lubricate the vagina.
Fallopian tubes: Estrogen is responsible for the growth of a thick, muscular wall in the fallopian lines and the contractions that carry the ovum and sperm cells.
Uterus: estrogen enhances and maintains the mucous membrane that lines the uterus. It increases the size of the endometrium and improves blood flow, protein content, and enzymatic activity.
Estrogen also stimulates the muscles of the uterus to develop and contract. The contractions help during the birth of a baby and the placenta and also help the wall of the uterus to eliminate dead tissue during menstruation.
It is believed that estrogen regulates the flow and thickness of uterine mucous secretions. This improves the movement of sperm to an egg and allows fertilization.
Estrogen forms unique relationships with other hormones in the breast. They are responsible for the growth of the breasts during adolescence, the pigmentation of the nipples, and, finally, stopping the milk flow when a baby is no longer breastfeeding.
Estrogen is responsible for the differences between male and female bodies. For example, in a female body:
- Estrogen causes the bones to be smaller and shorter, the pelvis wider, and the shoulders narrower.
- It increases fat storage around the hips and thighs, which means that the body is more curved and contoured.
- Estrogen helps slow down the growth of females during puberty and increases insulin sensitivity. Insulin influences the amount of body fat and lean muscle a person can develop.
- It makes body hair thinner and less pronounced while making the hair on a woman’s head more permanent.
- Estrogen causes the voice box to be smaller and the vocal cords shorter, giving the females a sharper voice than the males.
- Estrogens suppress the activity of glands in the skin that produce oily substances. This reduces the likelihood of acne in women.
Other areas in which estrogen has an impact include:
The brain: can help maintain body temperature, regulate the part of the brain related to sexual development and improve the effects of chemicals that “make the brain feel good.”
The skin: estrogens improve the thickness and quality of the skin and the collagen content that prevents aging.
Bones: Estrogen helps preserve bone strength and prevent bone loss.
The liver and the heart: the hormone regulates the production of cholesterol in the liver, which helps protect the heart and arteries.
Some foods contain phytoestrogens, which can affect estrogen levels in the body.
- Cruciferous vegetables.
- Soy and some foods that contain soy protein are the most concentrated source.
- Seeds and grains
Some scientists believe that phytoestrogens are endocrine disruptors. They seem to have dual functions at times, capable of increasing and decreasing estrogen activity.
It is a common misconception that phytoestrogens can adversely affect health. Still, some research confirms that foods that contain phytoestrogens mentioned above can reduce cancer risk, reduce hot flashes, improve other menopausal symptoms, and provide other health benefits.
The effects of soy phytoestrogens depend on the type of soybean studied at the time, which has led to inconsistent results. The soy protein isolate will have a different impact than whole soy foods.
Synthetic estrogen, bioidentical estrogen, and estrogens derived from pregnant mares are used for various medical purposes.
The most common estrogen uses are contraceptive pills, hormone replacement therapy (HRT), and bioidentical hormone replacement therapy (HBOT) for menopause.
Pill of the day after:
The contraceptive pill is the method of birth control most commonly used in the United States. Estrogen is included in combined oral contraceptive pills along with the hormone progestin.
Many women take low-dose birth control pills containing 20 to 50 micrograms (mcg) of estrogen.
Estrogen in the combined pill sends comments to the brain. This feedback causes a variety of effects on the body, including:
- Stop the pituitary gland, so it does not secrete follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH).
- Stop the production of luteinizing hormone (HL).
- Prevent ovulation
- It supports the uterus lining to prevent intermenstrual bleeding that can sometimes cause spotting between periods.
Some doctors may prescribe contraceptives for alternative uses, which include:
- Regulating the menstrual cycle.
- Relieving severe cramping and heavy bleeding.
- Reduce the risk of ovarian cancer and the development of ovarian cysts.
- Protection against ectopic pregnancy.
- Decrease in perimenopausal symptoms.
- Helping reduce the severity of acne-related to hormones.
Taking a contraceptive pill carries several risks, such as:
- Heart attack.
- Blood clots.
- Pulmonary embolism .
- Nausea and vomiting.
- Irregular bleeding
- Weight changes
- Sensitivity and swelling in the breasts.
- Long-term use can also lead to an increased risk of breast cancer.
Hormone replacement therapy:
Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) aims to relieve some symptoms of menopause by making female hormone levels return to normal. The treatment can be provided as estrogen alone or a combination of estrogen and progestin.
For women who still have a uterus, the hormone progestin is used along with estrogen to prevent overgrowth of the uterus lining, which can lead to endometrial cancer. HRT is available in the form of a pill, nasal spray, patch, skin gel, injection, vaginal cream, or ring.
HRT can help relieve symptoms of menopause, such as:
- Hot flushes.
- Vaginal dryness
- Painful copulation.
- Humor changes.
- Sleep disorders.
- Anxiety .
- Decrease in sexual desire
The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) UU Recommends that HRT be used in the lowest doses for the shortest time necessary to achieve the treatment objectives.
This may help to avoid some of the uncomfortable side effects, such as:
- Chest pain.
- Humor changes.
- Retention of liquid.
Women who use or are considering hormone therapy after menopause should discuss the possible health benefits and risks with their doctors.
Hormone therapy is also used to help transgender people transition between sexes, and estrogen is often prescribed to help transgender women who seek to develop female secondary sex characteristics.