Almost everybody knows that there are 2 sex hormones: estrogen and testosterone. Most people think estrogen is exclusive to women, and testosterone is exclusive to men.
But that’s actually not true! While women have mostly estrogen, and men mostly have testosterone, all of us actually have both. As you might’ve already guessed, the human body is more complicated than most people think.
So are you now wondering: what is the function of estrogen? Then keep reading. We’ll answer that question and more so you understand more about your body.
What Is Estrogen?
First of all, what is estrogen exactly? As we’ve mentioned above already, it’s a hormone; more specifically, a sex hormone that belongs to a group called estrogenic hormones. Other ones in this category include estriol, estradiol, and estrone, which might sound familiar to you if you use hormonal birth control.
For females, estrogen is made in the ovaries. A small amount can also be produced by both their adrenal glands and fat tissue.
In men, estrogen is made in the testes, as well as the adrenal glands and pituitary gland.
What Is the Function of Estrogen?
So what is estrogen used for?
In females, this hormone helps produce all the secondary sex characteristics you see in puberty. For example, there’s breast enlargement, widening of the hips, and growth of body hair (mainly armpit and pubic).
Once puberty is finished, estrogen is then responsible for keeping your menstrual cycle steady. This includes controlling your uterine lining, which is then shed every month if the egg you release isn’t fertilized. Essentially, you have a period because your estrogen levels drop sharply.
On the other hand, if your egg does get fertilized, the estrogen still plays a huge role in your body. Together with progesterone, estrogen stops you from ovulating for the rest of your pregnancy. And once you give birth, this hormone is in control of lactation.
In males, estrogen is also responsible for some secondary sex characteristics. They include muscle development, deepening of the voice, and hair growth on the face and chest.
Other things that estrogen is responsible for or at least linked to are:
- Bone health
- Blood clotting
- Vaginal wall and urethral lining health
- Vaginal lubrication
Research shows that estrogen can have an effect on things like hair, skin, and mucous membranes as well.
What Happens if You Don’t Produce Enough Estrogen?
For women young women, they might have low estrogen as a result of things like eating disorders, issues with their pituitary glands, Turner syndrome, chronic kidney disease, or even excessive exercise. For women who are over 40, the perimenopausal phase (which is right before menopause) causes their estrogen levels to drop as well.
In general, if you have low estrogen levels, it can cause you to have irregular periods (or late onset for young women), painful intercourse, and depression. You might also experience weakened bones and infertility.
For women who are perimenopausal or menopausal, they can experience hot flashes and some weight gain. Not only that, but their fat distribution will change too. This is because estrogen causes fat to be stored in the hips and thighs, which means after menopause, there will be more abdominal fat.
For men, low estrogen might happen if they have autoimmune or genetic disorders. Other causes include infection of the sexual organs, undescended testicles, exposure to radiation, obesity, and lack of nutrition.
Unlike with women, low levels of estrogen in men usually don’t have too many symptoms. You might experience fatigue, anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction.
To fix these issues, you can either have estrogen therapy or hormone replacement therapy (HRT).
What Happens if You Have Too Much Estrogen?
Excessive estrogen is more worrying than a lack of it. It can put you at a higher risk for breast, ovarian, and endometrial cancer. Not only that, but you may have a higher risk of blood clots and stroke too.
Symptoms of high estrogen in women include swelling in the breasts, bloating, decreased libido, mood swings, weight gain, trouble sleeping, fatigue,n headaches, worsened PMS, and anxiety/panic attacks.
For men, too much estrogen will cause noticeable issues. Most notably, you might suffer from infertility, erectile dysfunction (ED), and gynecomastia (enlarged breasts).
To fight the effects of breast cancer, you can take medications like Anastrozole to help decrease the amount of estrogen made in the body. Not only can this help stop or slow the growth of breast cancer cells, but this can also decrease the chances of getting it in the first place.
Medications like Anastrozole can also be taken by men who have excessive estrogen production. By suppressing their estrogen production, men can get the symptoms under control and regain their fertility and libido. They’ll also regain confidence in their bodies, as the enlarged breasts should decrease as well.
How to Find Out if You Have Low or High Estrogen
If you suspect that your estrogen levels are too low or high, the best thing to do is to see your doctor. You can discuss your symptoms with them and they’ll order a blood test to check your estrogen levels.
If you do indeed have abnormal levels, your doctor can then recommend the best course of action to level out your estrogen again.
Now You Know the Function of Estrogen and More
So what is the function of estrogen? It’s a complicated hormone responsible for a number of things, from secondary sex characteristics and your menstrual cycle, to bone health and muscle development in men.
In any case, an imbalance can cause you to not feel well or even develop worrying health conditions. So it’s very important to see your doctor regularly and have tests done if you’re concerned about your estrogen levels. Not only can fixing issues early on help you feel more comfortable, but it might even save your life.
If you found this article on estrogen function informative, then browse the rest of our blog for more helpful articles.