Our darling diva hormone. She’s the main female hormone responsible for our dominant female traits such as hips, breasts and overall voluptuousness. In fact, estrogen consists of 3 subtypes … estrone, estradiol and estriol. Estrone is produced mostly in body fat which is one reason why anorexic women stop menstruating and get premature osteoporosis and is the only form of estrogen produced after menopause. Estriol is a somewhat weaker estrogen which is dominant during pregnancy and seems to have a protective effect against breast cancer. Estradiol is the main form of estrogen produced during childbearing years.
Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat tissue. It circulates in the bloodstream and binds to estrogen receptors on cells in targeted tissue affecting not only breasts and uterus, but also the brain, bone, liver, heart and other tissues. This may explain why many women during menopause experience a major change in personality and have increased heart disease and osteoporosis.
Estrogen elevates HDL (the good cholesterol) and has a beneficial effect on blood vessel walls, helps to prevent osteoporosis by inhibiting the activity of bone cells known as osteoclasts, which are involved in the recycling and breakdown of old bone. It reduces hot flashes, prevents vaginal thinning and dryness and enhances the collagen layer of the skin, which improves elasticity and helps to prevent wrinkles.
At puberty, estrogen increases the chemical oxytocin (the love hormone) and dopamine (the neurotransmitter of pleasure and satisfaction).
Estrogen buffers our mood and keeps us focused. Sometimes referred to as nature’s Prozac, estrogen moderates seratonin levels (another neurotransmitter) so it’s more readily available. Seratonin regulates mood, sleep and appetite. It’s also the gatekeeper of all other neurotransmitters in your brain.
Ever wonder about why your biological clock starts ticking faster when you get into mid-30s? That’s estrogen which is responsible for your libido and generally makes you obsessed with babies until about 45 when levels start to drop off.
The Progesterone and estrogen balance under normal circumstances are locked in a tango of sorts. Estrogen is the female (flirtatious and curvy), progesterone is the male (less dramatic and supportive). If the flirtatious one takes too much control there is chaos and lack of structure and her partner gets overwhelmed and gives in and that is where your imbalance comes into play.
Balance is of utmost importance. Estrogen stimulates the lining of the uterus to grow; progesterone stops the growth, stabilizes and releases it during menstruation. Estrogen stimulates breast cells to grow; progesterone prevents cysts from developing in painful breasts. Estrogen causes you to retain salt and water; progesterone is a natural diuretic. Estrogen creates progesterone receptors, the locks on the cell’s nucleus into which a hormone inserts like a key; progesterone makes estrogen receptors jam and shut down.
When balanced, your bones are strong, dense and pliable; your skin is hydrated and smooth with plenty of collagen. Your metabolism is forgiving. Your cardiovascular system stays clear of clots and plaque.
So the key to this keeping the flirtatious partner happy is to keep her balanced with her more stable partner progesterone.
Next week we’ll talk about what happens when this diva gets out of control and wreaks all kinds of havoc on our bodies. Stay tuned …..