In this article, we will discuss estrogen types, levels, functions, sources, uses, and supplements. Estrogen is a hormone that has various important roles in women’s bodies. It helps to progress and keep both the reproductive system and female characteristics, for example, pubic hair and breasts.
This hormone also contributes to the function of the cardiovascular system, bone health, cognitive health, and other bodily processes. Estrogen combined with progesterone is widely known for its role in a woman’s reproductive and sexual health.
Types of Estrogen
There are three types of estrogen such as Estriol, Estradiol, and Estrone.
Levels of estriol grow during pregnancy, which helps the uterus grow and prepares the body for childbearing. Top levels of estriol are reached right before delivery.
Estradiol is the most common type of estrogen in women during their reproductive years, then this type of estrogen slowly decreases. However, both males and females produce estradiol.
Is important to maintain normal levels of estradiol because high levels may lead to depression, acne, osteoporosis, and other health conditions whilst low levels may increase risks of cardiovascular disease and inexplicable weight gain.
This form is a weaker form of estrogen and upon necessity – the body can convert this type to another form of estrogen. Additionally, this estrogen type is formed after menopause only.
Levels of Estrogen
Levels of estrogen are different from one person to another. They also vary a lot during the menstrual cycle of a female and her entire life. This estrogen level variation explains mood changes before menstruation and hot flashes during menopause.
The following factors may affect estrogen levels:
- Poor diet
- Overweight and obesity
- Strenuous exercise and training
- Pregnancy and breastfeeding
- High blood pressure (Hypertension)
- Tumors of the ovaries and adrenal glands
- Some congenital conditions such as Turner’s syndrome.
Estrogen helps the following organs to properly function:
Ovaries: This hormone helps to stimulate the growth of the egg follicle.
Vagina: Estrogen helps maintain the thickness of the vaginal wall. It also promotes lubrication.
Uterus: This hormone improves and maintains the mucous membrane that is lining the uterus. In addition, estrogen regulates the flow and thickness of uterine mucus secretion.
Breasts: In the development of the breast tissue the body is using estrogen. It also helps stop the flux of milk after weaning.
Estrogen Sources and Uses
The doctor may prescribe different supplements or drugs if a person has a low level of estrogen. Here are some examples of estrogen products:
- Synthetic estrogen
- Bioidentical estrogen
An estrogen therapy prescribed by a doctor can help manage menopause symptoms as part of hormone therapy, usually called by many people hormone replacement therapy (HRT). The treatment may constitute exclusively of estrogen (estrogen replacement therapy or ERT) or it may be a mixture of estrogen and progestin (a man-made version of progesterone). Hormone treatment can be administered in different methods such as a skin gel, injection, vaginal cream, ring, pill, or nasal spray.
HRT can help a person with the following symptoms:
- Hot flashes
- Decreased sexual desire
- Mood changes
- Sleep disorders
- Painful intercourse
- Vaginal dryness
This treatment also can help reduce the risk of osteoporosis which is important because when women enter menopause, the risks of osteoporosis increase.
Check some examples of adverse effects of Hormone Replacement Therapy:
- Vaginal bleeding
- Fluid retention, leading to swelling (inflammation)
- Breast soreness
- Leg cramps
Except for helping with menopause, estrogen therapy can also manage:
- Some types of acne
- Ovarian issues
- Some cases of prostate cancer
- Primary ovarian insufficiency
Elevated levels of estrogen can increase the risk of different types of breast cancer. Some estrogen treatments are decreasing the action of this hormone to either stop or slow down the development of breast cancer.
Hormonal therapy is not suitable for everyone. For example, a person with a family history of thyroid issues or breast cancer is unlikely to be prescribed hormones. It is advised to talk with your healthcare professional if you have any questions.
Gender Transition to Female
The person assigned male at birth who wishes to transition to female can ask for help from a physician. Healthcare providers may prescribe estrogen as a part of therapy. This person may also need anti-androgenic compounds.
This hormone also would be helpful for a person to develop female secondary sexual characteristics, like growing breasts, and reduce male pattern hair loss.
A healthcare professional can suggest an individual the best course of treatment specifically for their needs.
Birth control pills include either progestin combined with synthetic estrogen or progestin solely. There are some types of birth control pills that prevent unwanted pregnancy by stopping ovulation. Those pills make sure that the hormone levels are not fluctuating throughout the month.
Additionally, birth control medications are thickening the mucus in the cervix and this way is harder for sperm to reach the egg. Other uses of birth control pills are to reduce the severity of hormone-related acne and decrease premenstrual symptoms.
Using birth control pills may increase the risk of:
- Nausea and vomiting
- Blood clots
- Heart attack
- Irregular bleeding
- Weight changes
- Breast tenderness and swelling
- Pulmonary embolism
For those women who smoke or are over the age of 35 years, oral birth control is offering higher risks. Moreover, long-term use may increase the risks of breast cancer.
Food Natural Source of Estrogen
Some foods contain plant-based substances that are similar to estrogen (phytoestrogens). Some studies prove that these foods may affect levels of estrogen in the body. However, there is not enough evidence to confirm this.
Some examples of foods that contain phytoestrogens are:
- Seeds and grains
- Cruciferous vegetables
- Soy and some foods containing soy protein
Some people think that food containing phytoestrogens can help to remedy the effects of menopause such as hot flashes, but this does not have scientific support.
Phytoestrogens can be found in different supplements and herbs that work in a similar way as estrogen does. Is believed that such supplements and herbs may help treat symptoms of menopause and regulate estrogen.
Some examples of herbs that contain phytoestrogens:
- Black cohosh
- Red clover
- Soy isoflavones
Yet, it is unclear exactly how these drugs, herbs, and supplements affect estrogen and estrogen-related activity in the human body, and there is not enough evidence to attest that they are effective and safe, especially if used in the long term. Many researchers are trying to make more studies about these herbs and supplements.
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not regulate nonmedicinal supplements and herbals, that’s why is impossible to know what is exactly in the specific supplement or herbal compound. In any case, is recommended to consult a doctor before using any supplements or medications.