Everything You Should Know About Estrogen – Few People Do

You probably know estrogen by its traditional sexual definition: the female reproductive hormone. But, like women themselves, it is estrogen Much more. In fact, some experts consider estrogen to be the most important hormone in the human body regardless of your gender. Although it is true that the ovaries are responsible for a large percentage of women’s estrogen production during their reproductive years, everyone produces the hormone throughout their lives via the adrenal glands and fat cells.

“You can call estrogen the mother of all hormones, not even kidding,” says Mitchell Crenin, MD, a professor in the department of obstetrics and gynecology at UC Davis Health. It was the first hormone to develop in evolution. Every organ in the body has estrogen receptors.”

Aside from reproduction, estrogen plays an important role in many functions of the human body while receiving very little of the credit.

“You can call estrogen the mother of all hormones and you can’t even be kidding.”

“Estrogen helps with brain function,” says Sobolaxmi Trikodanathan, MD, an Endocrine Society spokesperson. “It’s also very important for bone and skin health, libido and libido, and is responsible for how different cholesterol is metabolised.”

Despite its importance, most of us know very little about estrogen. But this is about to change. Here’s everything you need to know about the mother of all hormones.

There are four types of natural estrogen

For starters, the estrogen produced in the body is not a single hormone but rather a group of four, each with its own characteristics.

  • Estron (E1) It is produced by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat cells and is one of two types of estrogen found in men. While E1 is found in women during their childbearing years, it really does become the star in menopause after estradiol levels drop (see more on this later).
  • Estradiol (E2) It is the strongest form of estrogen and is the predominant type of estrogen in your body during your childbearing years. “It helps bring about the physical changes that occur in girls during puberty, such as breast development, pubic hair growth, and the onset of menstruation,” says Dr. Trikodanathan. In combination with another sex hormone, progesterone, estradiol continues to play an important role in regulating your cycle, the thickening of the lining of the uterus, and the maturation of eggs for ovulation each month.
  • estriol (E3) It is only present in detectable amounts during pregnancy, when it is secreted by the placenta. Its role is to help the uterus expand and prepare the body for childbirth and breastfeeding.
  • sterol (E4) It is also found in women during pregnancy, although it is already produced by the fetal liver and then passed to the mother through the placenta. E4 was only discovered in 1965 and was largely ignored for 35 years. While researchers have yet to determine the exact role of esterol in fetal development, it appears to be important because the hormone increases steadily until birth and then breaks down almost immediately.

The role of hormones in preventing pregnancy

Estrogen is not actually what makes hormonal contraceptives effective. That’s the job of progestin, a synthetic form of progesterone, which essentially prevents pregnancy by thickening cervical mucus so sperm can’t get to an egg to fertilize it.

In fact, there are many contraceptives that contain only progestin. Most non-estrogen pills (called “mini-pills”) contain very little progestin and keep mucus thicker for just over 24 hours. If that’s all the progestin in your birth control pill, you’ll need to stick to taking your birth control at exactly the same time every day for it to be effective.

If it isn’t necessary to prevent pregnancy, why add estrogen to the pill?

For the vast majority of us, this is completely unrealistic. So to prolong the time between doses, contraceptive manufacturers (thankfully!) increase the amount of progestin in each dose to not only thicken cervical mucus but also prevent the ovaries from releasing an egg in the first place. It’s a kind of double protection, which is why most pills are still effective even if you miss a dose now and then. (Reminder: Take the missed pill as soon as you remember to ensure you continue to receive protection.)

At this point, you may be wondering: If it isn’t necessary to prevent pregnancy, why add estrogen to the birth control pill? The answer is that it balances the increase in progestin. Shutting the ovaries off to prevent ovulation means they don’t produce the same amount of estrogen. Also, having extra progestin in your system and a lack of estrogen can leave you feeling out of balance – which isn’t surprising, given the role of estrogen in bodily functions discussed earlier.

Dr. Trikodanathan says that when women have low estrogen levels due to menopause or other reasons, they can experience a range of symptoms. Common types include:

  • Your periods become lighter and infrequent to the point that they do not occur for a long time or stop completely.
  • Hot flashes or night sweats
  • Tenderness and dryness in the walls of the vagina
  • dry skin
  • decreased libido
  • Difficulty sleeping and insomnia – which can also be caused by hot flashes
  • mood changes

Are contraceptives that contain estrogen safe?

The good news is that whichever birth control pill you and your doctor decide on, hormonal contraceptives on the market today are highly effective and very safe, even when used long-term. A lot of that has to do with the amount of hormones now used in birth control pills.

“The estrogen content in oral contraceptives has reduced a lot,” says Dr. Trikodanathan. Most modern pills contain 10 to 20 mcg of synthetic estrogen, topping out at 35 mcg. Compare that to 50 to 80 micrograms in pills that were prescribed in the 1960s through the 1980s.

“All the pills we have today are really safe.”

This means that many of the risks associated with birth control pills in the past are much lower today. Contrary to what you may have heard, Extensive epidemiological research It did not indicate a significant increase in the lifetime risk of cancer for healthy women taking the pill. (However, Dr. Trikodanathan advises that women with a history of estrogen receptor-positive breast cancer should not take birth control pills that contain estrogen.) In fact, the birth control pill has been shown to reduce the risk of ovarian, endometrial, colorectal, and ovarian cancer, according to Mayo Clinic.

In the past, high-dose pills were also linked to blood clots. But this risk, too, was significantly reduced with the introduction of low-dose pills. Dr. Crenin agrees, “All the pills we have today are really, really safe.” “Even when it comes to blood clots, the overall risk from the currently available birth control is low – much lower than what we see in pregnancy and in the time frame immediately following pregnancy.”

The future of hormonal contraceptive pills

The hormonal birth control pill is safer than ever. However, researchers continue to develop better options for women. The latest development is the development of birth control pills containing esterol (E4). it’s a Equally effective It is used to prevent pregnancy and regulate the menstrual cycle as tablets containing synthetic estrogen, but the risk of blood clots and other complications appears to be lower compared to birth control pills containing estradiol.

“Estrol has a positive effect on the uterus to balance the effects of progestin so you have good control of your cycle,” says Dr. Crenin. “It has positive effects on the bones, positive effects on the brain with no effect on the liver, no effect on the kidneys, and most importantly, no effect on the breast.” E4 is also being studied for use in hormone therapy To treat menopausal symptoms.

Dr. says. “I think estrogen might be a game-changer. It’s almost like a designer drug except it’s natural estrogen.”