Estrogen is steroid hormones that are essential for the proper functioning of the body in women. It is secreted mainly by the ovaries, and regulates many physiological processes, including reproductive function.
Estrogen is involved in the development of secondary sex characteristics at puberty, such as breast development and the onset of menstruation. It also controls the menstrual cycle by regulating ovarian follicle maturation and ovulation and preparing the uterine lining for possible pregnancy.
But no The role of estrogen It does not stop at the reproductive system. These hormones affect bone health, heart health, brain health, and even affect body weight. Therefore, an imbalance in estrogen levels can have major repercussions.
Estrogen ensures the proper functioning of many systems and organs. Here are their main roles:
Roles in the female reproductive system
The most famous hormone estrogen is reproductive function. These hormones regulate the development of sexual characteristics at puberty, such as breast development, pelvic enlargement, and the appearance of the first menstrual period.
They then control and regulate the menstrual cycle throughout a woman's reproductive life:
- During the Follicular phaseEstrogen stimulates the growth and maturation of the ovarian follicle containing the egg.
- at the time ovulationThey lead to the release of the egg from the follicle.
- During the Luteal phaseThey prepare the uterine lining for potential pregnancy by stimulating blood vessels and the development of the uterine mucosa.
If pregnancy does not occur, estrogen participates in the menstrual cycle by causing the lining of the uterus to peel off.
Other roles in the body
In addition to reproductive function, estrogen acts on several systems with pleiotropic effects:
- Bone health : Estrogen promotes bone formation and limits bone resorption. Adequate levels help prevent postmenopausal osteoporosis.
- Cardiovascular health : They increase levels of HDL (good cholesterol) and lower LDL (bad cholesterol), reducing the risk of heart disease.
- Cognitive function : Estrogen appears to protect neurons and improve memory skills and brain function.
- Metabolism and body weight : They promote fat deposition in the hips and thighs and not in the abdominal area.
- Skin and connective tissue : They stimulate the production of collagen and elastin, keeping the skin soft and hydrated.
Estrogen levels and imbalances
Estrogen levels fluctuate throughout a woman's life, with physiological peaks and troughs depending on hormonal phases. But some factors can disrupt these natural changes and lead to harmful excesses or deficits.
Normal levels according to the stages of the cycle
In the follicular phaseThe level of estradiol (the main estrogen) rises gradually until ovulationWhere it reaches its maximum.
In the luteal phaseUnder the influence of progesterone, estrogen levels decrease slightly, while remaining at a level sufficient to prepare the uterine lining.
During pregnancyPlacental production of estrogen increases sharply, up to 100 times normal levels! This estrogen impregnation is essential for fetal growth and maternal physiological changes.
At menopauseDecreased ovarian production of estrogen leads to a sudden drop in its levels, causing menopausal symptoms.
Causes of imbalance
There are several factors that can disrupt estrogen balance:
- the pressure Chronic suppresses estrogen production and disrupts the menstrual cycle.
- some Endocrine disruptor Found in food and the environment mimic the action of estrogen in the body.
- the Ovarian depression Progressive as menopause approaches, causing noticeable fluctuations.
- Subordinate Hormonal treatments Such as birth control pills or in vitro fertilization treatment rates change dramatically.
Consequences of surplus or deficit
An excess or deficiency of estrogen, even if temporary, can cause unwanted effects:
- symptoms Mood disorders, anxiety, depression, insomnia, migraines, hot flashes, vaginal dryness, joint and muscle pain, weight gain, etc.
- Long-term risks : Infertility, osteoporosis, cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, accelerated cognitive decline, etc.
It is therefore essential to monitor your estrogen levels and consult if symptoms persist.
Estrogen and sports
Exercise modulates estrogen levels in different ways:
- Physical activity stimulates estrogen production by converting androgens to estrogens in adipose tissue.
- Conversely, some extreme endurance sports (marathons, triathlons) can inhibit ovarian function and reduce estrogen secretion.
- Exercise helps reduce body fat levels, but adipose tissue is an extra-ovarian source of estrogen. Too low fat mass disrupts levels.
It is recommended to practice 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity daily to stimulate estrogen production without inhibiting it.
The role of estrogen in men
Although estrogen is present at very low levels, it also plays a role in men:
- They participate in the development and maintenance of normal bone density.
- They contribute to regulating sperm production.
- They promote vasodilation in the coronary arteries and protect the cardiovascular system.
- It appears to improve some cognitive functions such as verbal or visual-spatial memory.
In men, excess estrogen (often of exogenous origin) can lead to gynecomastia, infertility, or an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Normal estrogen levels
Normal blood levels of estrogen are:
- In the slim :
- Follicular phase: 30 to 100 pg/ml
- Luteal phase: 30 to 400 pg/ml
- Estriol: <50 pg/ml
- in home Adult man :
- Estradiol: 10 to 50 pg/ml
- Estriol: <30 pg/ml
These rates fluctuate depending on the stages of the menstrual cycle in women. Hormonal dosage makes it possible to monitor these differences.
If symptoms appear indicating an imbalance in the estrogen hormone, it is recommended to consult a doctor to confirm the diagnosis via a blood test.
Your frequently asked questions
What are the different types of estrogen?
The main estrogens are estradiol, estriol, and estrone. Estradiol is the majority and most active estrogen in premenopausal women. Estriol predominates during pregnancy. Most estrone is produced after menopause.
What are estrogen-based hormonal treatments?
There are various estrogen-based hormone replacement therapies: low-dose topical treatments to treat genitourinary symptoms of menopause (vaginal dryness, recurrent cystitis, etc.) and systemic oral or transdermal treatments to relieve hot flashes and prevent bone demineralization.
Does estrogen increase the risk of breast cancer?
Taking estrogen for a long time, especially early puberty or late menopause, is a risk factor for breast cancer. But the causal relationship between hormonal treatments and breast cancer is still a matter of debate among scientists.
Can you measure estrogen yourself?
There are over-the-counter urine tests to measure estrogen levels qualitatively. But only a blood test allows the accurate and quantitative hormonal dose to be interpreted with the help of a health professional.
What are the side effects of hormonal treatments?
In addition to the risk of breast cancer, estrogen-based hormonal treatments can cause mild but unpleasant side effects: headache, breast tenderness, mood swings, weight gain, nausea, etc. These effects are often transient.
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What to remember
Estrogen is essential for many physiological functions in women, beyond reproduction. An excess or deficiency of these delicately balanced hormones can have significant health effects.
Fortunately, it is possible to take action to restore your hormonal balance. A healthy diet, stress management, regular physical activity, and herbal supplements can help regulate estrogen levels naturally. If symptoms persist, do not hesitate to consult a healthcare professional.
(Marks for translation) Functions of estrogen
Functions, impacts, risks and regulation