What is Estrogen and How Does It Work?

Inside this article, we’ll dive into the estrogen hormone.

We’ll talk about what it is, how it works, the importance of it, and why you should be concerned with a healthy balance of estrogen.

Also, when most talk about estrogen, it’s mostly regarding women, however it’s equally important for men to maintain healthy levels of estrogen.

What is Estrogen?

Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone, which primarily works in women to promote secondary sexual characteristics (breast growth, widening of the hips, body fat distribution, etc.), and while estrogen plays a big role in fertility for both males and females, women are more greatly affected.

Also it’s important to note that men produce estrogen too; however they do not go through monthly hormonal fluctuations like females.

So why does your estrogen fluctuate each month?

Well during ovulation (mid-cycle), there is an introduction of another hormone called Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) released from the pituitary gland which stimulates follicles within the ovaries to grow and ripen. This will be followed by a luteinizing hormone (LH) which is responsible for converting the follicle into a corpus luteum.

The corpus luteum then produces estrogen, however levels of estrogen are highest during ovulation. After ovulation, LH becomes known as Progestrone or progesterone and it’s responsible for preventing the release of an egg during the first half of your menstrual cycle, also called the proliferative phase. Finally at the end of this phase, if fertilization does not occur, estrogen production decreases significant along with progestrone levels to cause menstruation/a period.

So now that you know how estrogen fluctuates each month, let’s go over what can be considered “healthy” ranges.

How To Maintain Healthy Levels

Before thorough-going into how to maintain healthy estrogen levels, it’s important to first discuss the two types of estrogen your body produces.

First is Estradiol which is created by aromatization of testosterone and can be converted from other hormones such as cortisol, DHEA, or the small amounts produced by the testes.

After conversion, estradiol can bind with a carrier protein in order for it to be transported freely in the blood stream where there are at least 5 different forms of this protein when bound with estradiol called Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG). SHGB has been found to affect not only estrogen but also testosterone in both men and women.

Finally we have Estriole which is a metabolic by-product of estradiol and can have a significant impact on estrogen activity. Estriole, being the most powerful form of estrogen in your body, directly affects transcriptional activity – meaning it switches genes on or off. This switch causes estrogen to behave differently from normal cells having to do with cancer.

In order to maintain healthy levels of estrogen, one must be able to regulate aromatization during times when endogenous (created naturally within the body) production of testosterone is high such as during intense training/lifting sessions, proper sleep habits, adequate protein intake, and managing stress through meditation or other means.

It’s also important for both males and females to monitor their SHGB levels since this will affect the amount of free estrogen present in their bloodstream.

Estrogen’s Role With Fitness

So with all that being said, why is it important for both men and women to monitor their estrogen levels?

Well first let’s talk about Estrogen’s role with female hormones.

Estrogen has been shown to directly affect insulin sensitivity through SHGB which can therefore effect your ability to build muscle mass or burn fat. It also prevents progesterone from stimulating LH receptors – meaning if progesterone cannot bind it’s target receptor, then you won’t experience any egg-laying/ovulation (which means no periods) – even if you’re taking clomid or hcg injections.

Having high estrogen levels while working out will lead to an increased risk of damage and injury. It can also cause a number of issues with your well being, weight, and mental clarity.

Another reason for keeping estrogen in check is so that it doesn’t interfere with what you want from hormone therapy. Some people take hormones for various reasons such as the treatment of prostate cancer or breast cancer, but other people may take them solely because they want to prevent symptoms from getting worse. In this case, you’ll be more likely to have an increased risk for symptoms if you’re not taking care of your estrogen levels.

For example, estrogen can cause testicular atrophy by directly inhibiting LH receptor activity making it unable for the body to produce testosterone. This increase in estrogen may lead to increased rate of sterility, erectile disfunction, and decreased libido. Also if your estrogen is too high you won’t be able to reap the benefits from hormone therapy which is why monitoring your levels are necessary!

So now that you know how important it is to keep an eye your estrogen levels, let’s talk about what you should do if they are already out of whack.

How To Regulate Estrogen Levels

To make sure you have healthy levels of estrogen, start by making sure your SHGB cannot bind estradiol since this will be the number one cause of estrogen enlargement.

If you’ve been taking a birth control pill, make sure to use a back up form of birth control when you stop for at least three months because your SHGB levels might still be elevated from the synthetic hormones in your bloodstream. Also, if you’re carrying excess fat around your mid section there’s a good chance that it can lead to increased levels of estradiol which is why this is one of the first places people lose fat!

It’s also important to manage stress since high cortisol can dramatically affect estrogen activity and metabolism throughout the body. Although managing your stress may not directly lower estrogen levels but it should help prevent things like insulin resistance which can contribute to higher estrogen.

Estrogen vs Testosterone

Now before I finish, I’d like to stress that estrogen will not have the same effect testosterone has on your body (obviously) – but that doesn’t mean it’s okay to neglect it!

If you’re looking for hormone optimization, then be sure to speak with your doctor about ways in which you can take care of your estrogen levels.

The key to all of these factors is to remain in a healthy range.

It will be the key difference in living a healthy, optimized, state.

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