Exploring the Major Female Hormones
Hormone imbalance can occur in both men and women. However, since many of its symptoms are associated with menstrual cycle, perimenopause, menopause, and thyroid disorders, it becomes more prevalent in female than in male.
Nutrition and lifestyle play a critical role in balancing the hormones produced by your body. Once you enter your 40’s you need to be more conscious with what you eat to control hormone production. Regular exercise is also helpful in ensuring hormone balance.
Whether you’re in your 20’s, 30’s, or already in your 40’s, learning about the different female hormones and what they can do will help you understand the importance of maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The major female hormones enumerated below may sound like a school lecture, but they can significantly affect your moods and overall health.
1. Estrogen – this is the main sex hormone in women. It is essential in the growth and development of female sexual characteristics and the reproductive process. The three major estrogens are:
a) Estradiol (E2) – the predominant estrogen before a woman reaches menopause. It is produced in large amounts by the ovaries and helps stimulate the growth and multiplication of cells. In women, high level of estradiol is linked to the risk of breast cancer and endometrial cancer. Estradiol imbalance can result to mood swings, uterine bleeding, decreased muscle strength, and hot flashes.
b) Estrone – the predominant estrogen after menopause which is produced by the ovary and the adipose tissue. Heavy women with too much fat accumulated around the waist are said to have higher levels of estrone. Increased levels of estrone are associated with diabetes, heart attack, breast cancer, and uterine cancer.
c) Estriol (E3) – the weakest link in the estrogen group. This hormone is produced in large amounts during pregnancy. But although frequently overlooked, studies suggest that a proper level of estriol helps reduce a variety of perimenopause and menopause symptoms, such as hot flashes, bone density, and vaginal dryness.
2. Progesterone – this hormone is produced mostly in the ovaries and in smaller amounts in the adrenal cortex. Aside from preparing your body for conception, progesterone also helps in regulating your monthly menstrual cycle, reduces swelling or inflammation, keeps blood clotting levels stable, keeps bone and skeletal muscles strong, and stimulates collagen production to increase your skin’s elasticity. A high progesterone level can cause mood swings, hot flashes, drowsiness, incontinence, lowered libido and vaginal infections. Low levels of progesterone can result to hair loss, acne, dry eyes, muscle pains, panic attacks, and constipation, among others. Progesterone acts as an antagonist to estrogen. While estrogen stimulates cell growth, progesterone functions to protect tissues of the body, such as the endometrium.
3. Testosterone – this hormone is largely considered a male hormone, but it is also produced by the ovaries in women. A balanced testosterone level helps increase mental sharpness and energy; improves libido; increases bone density; as well as relaxes the coronary arteries. On the other hand, imbalanced testosterone is associated with severe acne, ovarian cyst, insulin resistance, and irregular menstrual cycles. Elevated testosterone in women can be a result of certain health conditions, such as polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), Cushing syndrome, and adrenal problems. Numerous studies have shown that as you age, your circulating testosterone diminishes which results to a variety of health problems. Other symptoms that are associated with testosterone imbalance include mood swings, fatigue, depression, sleep disturbances, loss of appetite, hair and bone loss, insomnia, muscle pains, and so forth.
Exploring Your Options: Making Informed Decisions About Hormones
By: Carol Uebelacker