Estrogen: Physiological Function and Natural SourcesFitness Gear & Equipment
Although estrogen exists in men as well as women, it is found in significantly higher levels in women, especially those of childbearing age.
Estrogen also plays a key role in the development of secondary sex characteristics, the physically-defining differences between men and women that don’t relate directly to the reproductive system including enlarged breasts, widened pelvis, and increased amounts of body fat in the buttock, thigh, and hips. Estrogen also contributes to women having less facial hair and smoother skin then men.
Estrogen is most importantly, an essential part of a woman’s reproductive process, regulating the menstrual cycle and preparing the uterus for pregnancy by enriching and thickening the endometrium.
Estrogen is produced primarily by developing follicles in the ovaries, the corpus luteum, and the placenta. The luteinizing hormone (LH) stimulates the production of estrogen in the ovaries. Other types of estrogens are produced in smaller amounts by the liver, adrenal glands, and breasts. These secondary sources of estrogen serve an especially important role in the physical and mental health of postmenopausal women. Fat cells also produce estrogen, potentially the reason why being underweight (or obese) are risk factors for infertility
Among estrogen’s many functions, it:
-- promotes formation of female secondary sex characteristics
-- accelerates metabolism
-- reduces muscle mass
-- increases fat stores
-- stimulates endometrial growth
-- increases uterine growth
-- increases vaginal lubrication
-- thickens the vaginal wall
-- helps maintain integrity of vessel and skin
-- reduces bone resorption, while increasing bone formation
Today, estrogen is understood to play a significant role in women’s mental health, especially in later life.
Sudden estrogen withdrawal, fluctuating estrogen, or long periods of low levels of estrogen correlates with significant mood lowering, sometimes diagnosed as depression. Clinical recovery from postpartum, perimenopause, and postmenopause depression has been shown to be effective after levels of estrogen are stabilized and/or restored.
Fortunately, a number of foods and herbs are prime sources of natural plant estrogens, and can be very helpful in maintaining female health. Many of these foods are also high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fatty acids, and are low in saturated fat, making them great additions to your diet*:
-- Anise seed
-- Baker's yeast
-- Cowpeas (black- eyed peas)
-- Olive oil
-- Red beans
-- Red clover
-- Sesame seeds
-- Soybean sprouts
-- Split peas
-- Sunflower seeds
However, over-indulgence of particular foods can inhibit estrogen:
-- Citrus Foods
-- Fruits (except apples, cherries, dates, pomegranates)
-- Green beans
-- White rice
-- White flour
*This list can be of great value for women fighting breast cancer, PMS, fibroids, ovarian cysts (but are those you want to avoid if you need to increase or replenish estrogen levels).
Images via wikipedia.org unless credited otherwise (with my appreciation)
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