What Every Woman Should Know About Estrogen

What Every Woman Should Know About Estrogen

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  1. The Science:

    Estrogen is a hormone comprising a group of compounds which include estrone, estradiol and estriol, and is the main sex hormone in women, essential to the menstrual cycle.

    Although estrogen exists in men as well as women, it is found in significantly higher levels in women, especially those of childbearing years.

    Estrogen also plays a principal role in the development of secondary sex characteristics, helping to create the defining differences between men and women not directly related to the reproductive system: pronounced breasts, a widened pelvis, and increased amounts of body fat in the buttock, thigh, and hip areas. Estrogen also contributes to women having less facial hair and smoother skin then men.

    Produced primarily by developing follicles in the ovaries, the corpus luteum, and the placenta, estrogen is crucial to a woman’s reproductive process, regulating the menstrual cycle and preparing the uterus for pregnancy by enriching and thickening the endometrium.

    Secondary sources of estrogens, produced in smaller amounts by the liver, adrenal glands, and breasts, serve an especially important role in the physical and mental health of postmenopausal women. Fat cells also produce estrogen, potentially being the reason why underweight or overweight are associated with infertility.



    Estrogen’s Many Functions:

    Among estrogen’s many recognized functions, it:

    > promotes the 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 the integrity of blood vessels and skin

    > reduces bone resorption, while increasing bone formation

    Estrogen is assumed to play a significant role in women’s mental health, particularly in later life.  Fluctuating estrogen levels, sudden estrogen withdrawal, and long periods of low estrogen have been shown to correlate with depression and mood swings. (Clinical recovery from postpartum, perimenopause, and postmenopause depression has been shown to be effective after levels of estrogen were stabilized and/or restored.)



    Natural Sources of Estrogen:

    While estrogen and hormonal replacement is an option open to many women, health experts agree that in most cases, it’s better for a women to raise her estrogen levels through diet. 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 same foods are also high in vitamins, minerals, fiber, and essential fatty acids, as well as low in saturated fat–and should be a regular part of your diet*:

    > alfalfa, anise seed, apples

    > baker’s yeast, barley, beets

    > carrots, cherries, chickpeas, clover, cowpeas (black- eyed peas), cucumbers

    > dairy foods, dates

    > eggs, eggplant

    > fennel, flaxseeds

    > garlic

    > hops

    > licorice

    > oats, olive oil, olives

    > papaya, parsley, peas, peppers, plums, pomegranates, potatoes, pumpkin

    > red beans, red clover, rhubarb, rice

    > sage, sesame seeds, soybean sprouts, soybeans, split peas, sunflower seeds

    > tomatoes

    > wheat

    > yams

    However, over-indulgence of particular foods can transversely inhibit estrogen:

    > berries, broccoli, buckwheat

    > cabbage, citrus foods, corn

    > figs, fruit (except apples, cherries, dates, pomegranates)

    > grapes, green beans

    > melons, millet

    > onions

    > pears, pineapples

    > squashes

    > tapioca

    > white rice, white flour

    *As estrogen has been associated with breast cancer, PMS, fibroids, and ovarian cysts, and counter-indicated for certain medical treatments, these lists can be of great value in terms of increasing or decreasing estrogen intake as needed. Check with your doctor as to your particular estrogen needs at your present stage of life.

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