Thursday, September 2, 2010

More About Estrogen. It's Functions and Purpose in Men and Women

About Estradiol

Estradiol is the most active form of estrogen in the human body.

As well as the being one of the most important "female hormones" which is responsible for a normal monthly cycle, estradiol is known to support normal function in quite a number of important physiological processes including -
1. bone mineral density & osteoporosis prevention's
2. proper heart and blood vessel health & arteriosclerosis prevention.
3. Mood
4. sex drive
5. thyroid function
6. skin elasticity (which decreases without estradiol and causes thin skin and wrinkles)
7. and fertility

Peri- and post-menopausal women may monitor the decreasing levels of this hormone that occur with aging. Cycling women experiencing PMS symptoms that
may be due to a hormonal imbalance may also monitor estradiol.

In men estradiol does not play as important a role as it does in women, though men also have a small amount of estradiol normally in their bodies. The amount of testosterone that men have usually does not allow estradiol to have any significant physiological effects on the body. If the amount of estradiol compared to testosterone increases, then men can notice certain symptoms such as weight gain especially in the midsection, development of enlarged breasts (gynecomastia), decreased sex drive, and many of the signs of low testosterone.

Certain medications and drugs, chronic alcoholism and other chronic health conditions can result in increased estradiol levels in men.

In women, estradiol is a steroid hormone produced primarily by the ovaries and adrenal glands. Estradiol has a direct affect on the function of the reproductive system, the nervous system, the cardiovascular system and the skeletal system.

Blood sugar levels, skin and other tissues and functions are also significantly influenced by estradiol.

Though proper estradiol levels are critical for the prevention of osteoporosis, the actions of this hormone extend far beyond bone health.

Therefore it is crucial that proper levels also be maintained in all women.

The Menstrual Cycle and the Endometrium

Progesterone prevents development of endometrial cancer 1. Low progesterone with unopposed estrogen may be one cause of dysfunctional uterine bleeding 2. Progesterone may help decrease uterine contractions, cramping and pain 3, 4.

The Vagina & Urinary Tract

Excessive progesterone may increase urinary incontinence and even counteract the beneficial effects of estrogen in maintaining urinary control 5, 6, 7, 8.

The Libido

Excessive progesterone may decrease libido due to antiestrogen and anti-androgen effect 9, 10. As well as decreasing libido, excessive levels may induce depression 11.

Blood Sugar & Insulin

While estrogens help the cells of the body utilize glucose more efficiently by making them more sensitive to insulin, progesterone can cause a decrease in insulin sensitivity, having an effect on blood sugar that is similar glucocorticosteroids 12. This interference with the action of insulin can interfere with normal glucose uptake and cause insulin resistance 13, 14, 15, 16, 17.

The ability of progesterone to interfere with proper function of insulin and glucose has since been associated with gestational diabetes 18, 19, 20 as well as hormone replacement therapies 21,15, 22, 12 and has been been observed in both synthetic & non-synthetic progesterone 20, 23, 24, 12. Even the high progesterone levels which occur naturally during the luteal phase can induce insulin resistance in some women 21, 16.

The Brain – Mood & Memory

Progesterone and its metabolites result in increased relaxation and reduced anxiety in a way that is similar to the effects of benzodiazepines 25, 26 by a direct effect on neurotransmitter receptors called Gamma-AminoButyric Acid type A (GABAA) receptors 27. When progesterone levels drop a woman can experience withdrawals similar to the withdrawal seen with benzodiazepine, barbiturate, and alcohol withdrawal 29.

Excessive levels may cause decreased coordination, slowed reflexes, depression and impaired memory and reasoning skills 30, 31, 32, 33, 34. The sedating effects of excessive progesterone can cause drowsiness and even induce sleep 35, 32, 36. The nerve calming effect of progesterone is so pronounced that both natural progesterone and medroxyprogesterone have both been shown to decrease seizures in women with epilepsy 37, 38.

Progesterone has a protective, stimulating effect on breathing patterns during sleep, resulting in decreased incidence of sleep apnea, a serious condition in which the body is deprived of oxygen 39, 40, 41, 42.

The action of progesterone on GABAA receptors have been associated with an increase appetite and food intake 43, 44, 45.

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