Estrogen: What women should know

Estrogen: What women should know

When we talk about menopause, breast cancer, and women’s health in general, estrogen is very much part of the conversations. Yet many women are not clear about exactly what estrogen is, so let’s take a brief overview.

Estrogen is a hormone that plays a key role in the emergence and maintenance of female characteristics, such as breast development, and the female reproductive system. The hormone is made by the ovaries, adrenal glands, and fat tissues.

Estrogen appears in three different forms in the body:

  • Estradiol, the most common form in women during their reproductive years (before menopause). High levels may cause acne, depression, low libido, and osteoporosis, and increased risk of breast and ovarian cancers. Low levels are associated with cardiovascular disease and weight gain.
  • Estrone, a weaker form of estrogen and present in women after menopause.
  • Estriol, a form that increases during pregnancy and peaks just before a woman gives birth

Healthy estrogen levels provide women with many essential benefits. For example, estrogen:

  • Helps protect against bone loss and osteoporosis
  • Supports cardiovascular health and stabilizes blood pressure
  • Improves muscle mass
  • Boosts mood by keeping serotonin levels steady
  • Protects brain health by warding off inflammation and disease, helping with memory, and maintaining blood flow
  • Promotes vaginal lubrication

When talking about estrogen, we need to address xenoestrogens, which are chemicals that act like estrogens in the body. They are also known as hormone disruptors because they cause hormone imbalances. When we are exposed to xenoestrogens, which can be found in many everyday products, they enter the body and increase estrogen levels. The result can be estrogen dominance. Because xenoestrogens do not biodegrade, they accumulate in fat cells and have been linked to breast cancer, obesity, endometriosis, diabetes, and miscarriages. I know this is a lot of information! I invite you to follow all of my posts on estrogen, xenoestrogens, breast cancer, and menopause to help you get a broader understanding of each of these topics. We are in this together!

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