Estrogen Explained

Estrogen Explained

Lena Edwards MD
3 minute read

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Estrogen is an extremely important hormone in both men and women, controlling hundreds of functions throughout the body. Although we often identify estrogen as a female hormone of reproduction and sexual characteristics, estrogen is also important in maintaining a healthy heart and blood vessels, brain, bones, lungs, and intestinal tract, in addition to affecting both libido (sex drive), and mood.

Many women are concerned about estrogen supplementation because of its potential to induce breast cancer. Certainly, this is a concern and one which has been substantiated by studies using oral synthetic estrogens, particularly when they are combined with oral progestins (NOT progesterone). However, when we consider the protective functions of our own innate estrogen, we find that the number one risk factor for breast cancer is actually advanced age; and this happens when estrogen levels have declined.

Indeed, today’s number one killer of American women is cardiovascular disease, not breast cancer. Contemplate the data emerging from years of medical research demonstrating how estrogen reduces the risk of heart disease in a number of different ways: Lowers LDL cholesterol• Improves heart contraction• Impairs LDL oxidation• Improves insulin sensitivity• Lowers lipoprotein (a)• Lowers blood pressure•


In a premenopausal woman, elevated stress hormones end up "shutting down" estrogen (and progesterone) production on many levels. Additionally, estrogen-sensitive tissues ignore the "hormonal messages" of both estrogen and progesterone, particularly if it is reproductive in nature.

This increase in one set of hormones can culminate into such problems as delayed puberty, infertility, and miscarriage. The effect of cortisol on reproduction have clearly been demonstrated in women with Cushing’s Disease (hypercortisolism) as evidenced by their lack of ovulation, lack of menses, and infertility.

Interestingly, in aging women, cortisol tends to rise, and it is believed this may be partially responsible for postmenopausal women’s propensity towards weight gain, mood disorders, inflammation and autoimmune disease, insulin resistance, and increased risk for cardiovascular disease.

Women with female hormone imbalances, including PMS, perimenopause, and menopause, are especially vulnerable to experiencing HPA axis dysfunction and abnormal cortisol levels.

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Find out more about estrogen, cortisol and female hormones in this video.

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