Women's Health: Estrogen and
What is Estrogen?
is a female steroid hormone that is produced primarily by the ovaries and
smaller amounts by the adrenal cortex, placenta and male testes. Estrogen
helps control and guide sexual development, including the physical
changes associated with puberty.
the course of ovulation in the monthly menstrual cycle, lactation
after pregnancy, aspects of mood, and the aging process.
estrogen changes naturally over the female lifespan, reaching adult levels
with the onset of puberty (menarche) and decreasing in middle age until the
onset of menopause. Estrogen deficiency can lead to lack of menstruation
(amenorrhea), persistent difficulties associated with menopause (such as
mood swings and vaginal dryness), and osteoporosis in older age. In cases of
estrogen deficiency, natural and synthetic estrogen preparations may be
also a component of many oral contraceptives. An overabundance of
estrogen in men causes development of female secondary sexual
characteristics (feminization), such as enlargement of breast tissue.
The sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone,
are secreted in short bursts -- pulses -- which vary from hour to hour and
even minute to minute. Hormone release varies between night and day and from
one stage of the menstrual cycle to another.
Estrogen is an class of related hormones that
includes estriol, estradiol, and estrone.
Estriol - is made from the placenta.
It’s produced during pregnancy.
Estradiol - is the primary sex
hormone of childbearing women. It is formed from developing ovarian
follicles. Estradiol is responsible for female characteristics and sexual
functioning. Also, estradiol is important to women's bone health. Estradiol
contributes to most gynecologic problems, including endometriosis and
fibroids and even female cancers.
Estrone - is widespread
throughout the body. It is the only estrogen present after menopause.
Estrogen levels fall at menopause. This is a natural transition for all
women between ages 40 and 55. The decline in estrogen can happen abruptly in
younger women whose ovaries are removed and this is called "surgical
Estrogen and Progesterone
Estrogen and progesterone
are two of the primary female sex hormones.
During a normal menstrual
cycle, they take turns driving the process of maturing and releasing an egg
and preparing the uterus for possible pregnancy: estrogen rises in the
first half of the cycle, peaks at ovulation, then falls in the second
half as progesterone rises. Progesterone is released by the rupturing
of the egg follicle during ovulation.
Testosterone too is
secreted in “surges” around the time of ovulation, perhaps as Mother
Nature’s way to increase our interest in sex, and again before menses. If
there is no pregnancy, you have a period and the whole cycle begins again.
When estrogen, progesterone
and testosterone are doing their jobs, they work well together. How much or
how little of each hormone is made at any one time relies on a complicated
feedback system between the brain: specifically the hypothalamus and the
pituitary gland, which release LH (luteinizing hormone) and FSH
(follicle stimulating hormone), the ovaries, and the adrenal glands.
Stress and diet affect that
feedback system and so directly impact your hormonal balance.
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