Although we tend to defer to women when speaking of it, estrogen’s importance and functions extend to men as well.
But many of us have a limited understanding of estrogen. In fact, as someone who has had an estrogen positive breast cancer, it was an easy jump for me to arrive at the incorrect conclusion that estrogen had no benefit for me and at all and was only detrimental for my best health.
So I want to take some space here to look at important functions of estrogen to broaden the concept that it is responsible only for the development of female secondary sexual characteristics and estrogen dominant conditions such as Endometriosis, PMS and breast cancer.
In women estrogen is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat tissue. It circulates through the blood stream and locks on to estrogen receptors located throughout the body including the breasts, uterus, brain, bone, liver and heart. The mere fact that there are so many receptors throughout the body for estrogen underscores its importance.
In men, estrogen is produced through an enzymatic process in which the enzyme aromatase transforms testosterone into estrodial. For men, it is important that a proper balance between estrogen and testosterone is maintained for prostate health as men with higher blood levels of estrogen may be at a higher risk for enlarged prostate or prostate cancer.
So let’s take a look at some key beneficial roles that estrogen plays.
Estrogen increases the ‘good’ cholesterol, HDL and decreases the ‘bad’ cholesterol, LDL. Estrogen has a positive effect on the inner layer of artery walls, helping to keep blood vessels flexible and estrogen dilates blood vessels to aid increased blood flow.
Estrogen is extremely important for bone health. It helps the bones to retain calcium as well as other important minerals needed to keep bones strong. Estrogen reduces bone resorption, the breakdown of bone, and increases bone formation.
Estrogen helps to keep the tissue of the vagina healthy and lubricated. Estrogen helps to prevent vaginal thinning and dryness.
Estrogen and skin
Estrogen is important for healthy skin. It helps our skin to retain collagen, increase skin thickness and improve blood supply to the skin.