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Is Estrogen the Enemy? What You Don't Know May Surprise You

Here's a fun fact that may blow some of your minds: your body is producing estrogen right now as you read this. Yes, you. It doesn't matter whether you're a man or a woman, young or old, there is estrogen floating around in your system right now. And it's doing some very important things to keep you healthy and happy. But what, exactly, is it doing? How important is it? And how does estrogen help you live a happier, healthier life? We're about to satisfy your curiosity on these questions and more. So if you want to learn more about estrogen, we invite you to continue on this deep dive with us.

What Is Estrogen?

Estrogen

Most people know of estrogen as the female sex hormone. Some people may even associate estrogen so strongly with women that they think only women produce it. Men produce it too - but in smaller quantities and in ways that have a much less obvious effect on their physical and mental health. The higher levels of estrogen in women are responsible for secondary sex characteristics like breast growth and preferential fat accumulation in the hips and thighs, among other things. Estrogen is also responsible for the maturation of woman's reproductive organs and for their continued healthy function during her reproductive years.

Estrogen isn't some single, solitary molecule, either. There are actually three different types of endogenous estrogens called estradiol, estriol, and oestrone. Estradiol is not only the most abundant but also the most powerful of the three. Estrogen isn't just limited to human beings, either. Pretty much every mammal alive produces estrogen. It's even produced by certain insects.

Estrogen Fun Facts

That little insects also produce estrogen" tidbit isn't the only fun fact you can quote if you want to show off your smarts at your next cocktail party. There are plenty of other surprising and interesting facts about estrogen that most people aren't aware of. Such as:

  1. Estrogen and female sexuality: many people blame testosterone for men's insatiable sex drive (and sometimes on his bad sexual behaviors). Well, high levels of estrogen in women can do a very similar thing. So if you're female and you're not having the sex life you want to have, you might want to check with your doctor and make sure your hormones are healthy.
  2. Estrogen and eyesight: if you've been having problems with blurry vision, dry eye, or vision changes lately, this could be traced back to your estrogen levels, too. Having healthy estrogen levels can reduce the frequency and the likelihood of these vision problems, as well as lower your glaucoma risk.
  3. Estrogen and intelligence: outside of getting a good night's sleep, estrogen is one of the most factors at play when it comes to your brain health. Your blood flow, your neuronal efficiency, and the rate at which your brain stem cells generate new neurons are regulated and enhanced buy healthy estrogen levels.
  4. Estrogen and heart health: speaking of estrogen and blood flow, it's no coincidence that men have higher instances of heart disease than women. It has to do, in part, with the fact that they don't have as much estrogen as women. Lower estrogen levels not only compromise the blood flow and the efficiency of the cardiovascular system, but they can also contribute to arteriosclerosis, high cholesterol, elevated triglycerides, and hardening of the arteries.

Real vs. Synthetic Estrogen

There are two different times in a woman's life where she may have to take a synthetic form of estrogen for the sake of her health and wellness. The first time is during her reproductive years when she will likely be using some form of hormonal birth control to regulate her cycle, prevent unwanted pregnancies, alleviate symptoms of hormone imbalances, or some mix of all three. Most women tolerate these synthetic estrogens very well and they can be up to 99% effective at preventing unwanted pregnancy if used correctly. But there are risks and side effects with every synthetic estrogen medication, so you need to be under a doctor's care if you are using one.

The other point in a woman's life when she may need synthetic estrogen is after menopause. Once a woman exits the reproductive phase of her life and stops menstruating on a monthly basis, the female body starts to produce significantly less estrogen. Side effects include hot flashes, a drastic drop in bone density, sagging skin, mood swings, and more. It's not uncommon for a peri- or a postmenopausal woman to be prescribed estrogen replacement therapy if the symptoms are severe. When administered under a doctor's care, it's perfectly safe and healthy. But there are some synthetic estrogens that you should watch out for if you want to maintain ideal health and wellness.

Non-Essential Estrogens: Xenoestrogen and Phytoestrogen

In everyday language, most people associate the word "essential" with "important" and the phrase "non-essential" with irrelevance. But in the context of medical science, saying something is essential or non-essential helps clarify whether or not the body can produce it on its own. In the case of xenoestrogens and phytoestrogens, these are non-essential forms of estrogen that your body does not make naturally. You either ingest them from the food you eat or you absorb them through chemical exposure.

The most dangerous of these two are the xenoestrogens. You can find them in higher concentrations in cheap plastics and manufactured pesticides. In men, they can encourage a feminization of their secondary sex characteristics and have a negative effect on their emotional wellness. Their negative health effects in women are much more insidious because they are much less obvious.

Phytoestrogens, on the other hand, come from food; specifically, plants. Soy products contain a ton of phytoestrogens, as well as certain tubers and exotic fruits. Getting too much phytoestrogen has been linked (correlatively, at least) to higher rates of female cancers such as ovarian cancer and breast cancer. In rare cases, however, conflicting studies suggest the exact opposite. If you're concerned about your breast cancer risk - or any other type of estrogen-related cancer, for that matter - try to moderate your phytoestrogen intake. Don't overdo it on the soybeans, soy sauce, or tofu, and try your best to follow a healthy, balanced diet in the process.

Clearly, there's a lot more to estrogen than meets the eye. But the more research you do and the more you learn about it, the healthier and the happier of a life you can lead. Who knew estrogen played such an important role in the human body's overall health and wellness? Well, you do, now! If you enjoyed this article, please keep checking back to QuickVita for more!