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Estrogen has countless various functions within our body, such as stimulating brain function, managing weight, improving cardiovascular capabilities, keeping signs of aging at bay and maintaining a constant good mood.
For the brain, estrogen protects and grows neurons as well as increases the amount of neurotransmitters in our brain. It plays a role in memory retention and increases one’s ability to concentrate. Adequate levels of estrogen are important for weight management because it increases the basal metabolic rate and improves insulin sensitivity. Estrogen also plays a role in improving cardiovascular capabilities because it improves blood flow by dilating blood vessels, decreases the build-up of plaques in the arteries and increases the amount of good cholesterol HDL. Estrogen is protective of the aging process because it is required in sexual interest and increases the water content of skin, keeping it thick and soft. In addition to all these benefits of estrogen, it also increases the level of serotonin in the brain, a neurotransmitter found to elevate mood and satisfaction.
” I would honestly say that the hormonal balance was my greatest breakthrough. If you are not happy or imbalanced, you are going to crave a lot of things. “
An imbalance of estrogen comes from either a deficiency or excess of estrogen. Not only can aging cause a decrease of estrogen production, environmental factors can cause a excess of estrogen, such as lack of exercise, eating a diet low in whole grains and fiber, and exposure to estrogen found in the meat supply and plastics. Estrogen deficiency contributes to symptoms of menopause, such as anxiety, irritability, gastrointestinal discomfort, insomnia and depression. Estrogen excess can cause weight gain due to water retention or hypothyroidism. Having too much estrogen also predisposes an individual to increased risks for cervical cancer, breast cancer and autoimmune disease.
Estrogen is the predominant hormone in women, but is also present in men. However, men experience elevated estrogen levels as they age, and high estrogen in men increases risks for heart disease dramatically.
Contrary to common belief, testosterone is important in women too! Testosterone increases sexual interest and improves emotional stability. Testosterone loss during menopause in women can contributes to the vicious cycle of symptoms related to aging such as weight gain, fatigue, dry skin, thinning of hair and anxiety. Some women may experience high testosterone during menopause. They will feel anxious, depressed, fatigued and experience salt and sugar cravings.
Women who have low progesterone levels experience similar symptoms as people who have low estrogen levels. They will often be more likely to experience anxiety, irritability and insomnia. Low progesterone can be induced by several lifestyle factors such as high stress, arginine depletion from excessive exercising and eating a diet high in saturated fat and sugar while low in vitamin A, B6, C and zinc. Women who are hypothyroid will naturally have low levels of progesterone. Additionally, taking antidepressants will also decrease progesterone.
The adrenal glands make DHEA, which can be converted to estrogen, progesterone and testosterone in women and men. DHEA is important for a number of different health conditions, such as cardiovascular health, bone health, weight management, brain function and immune system. Unfortunately, the body’s DHEA level inevitably declines as one ages, starting when one reaches the late twenties. By the time one reaches age forty or fifty, one’s depletion of DHEA can significantly impact daily bodily functions and enjoyment of life. Supplementation of DHEA will improve sleep, cardiovascular health and lessen the damaging effects of stress on brain, immune system and weight management.
The adrenal glands make cortisol, which unlike the other hormones, actually increases with age. Cortisol has a bad reputation of being the stress hormone. However, it has many essential functions in the body, such as mediating insulin effects, bone health, immune system response and maintaining a good mood. Those experiencing stress and depression will have elevated levels of cortisol. If an individual has prolonged high cortisol, he or she will have altered blood sugar response, high risk for osteoporosis, and impaired immune system.
When it comes to hormones, individual differences are crucial for detection and treatment. A comprehensive picture of one’s hormone panel will offer an overview of how the woman or man is aging during late adulthood, growing during adolescence or maintaining growth for maximal function during early and middle adulthood. Since different hormones will interact with each another, a well-rounded hormone panel will determine the level and efficacy of a specific treatment to increase energy and to improve mood.