Estrogen & Progesterone

Estrogen and progesterone are the female sex hormones. Estrogen is primarily a female sex hormone, but both men and women make estrogen. Women, of course, have higher levels of it. Femininity is the essence of estrogen. Estrogen enlarges breasts and widens the pelvis, and it provides that curvy, sexy appearance. Estrogen also stimulates the sympathetic nervous system, increases alertness, lowers body fat, protects against heart and Alzheimer’s disease, increases insulin sensitivity, and improves glucose tolerance.

About Estrogen and ProgesteroneDuring reproductive years, a woman makes estrogen every day of the month. The ovaries produce progesterone, the other female sex hormone, druing the two weeks before a woman’s period.

Although people often think of estrogen as a single entity, this hormone is actually three biochemically distinct molecules that the body produces naturally. These three estrogen molecules have different activities that make them more or less “estrogenic:”
  • Estradiol is made from the ovaries, and it gives women their curvy appearance.
  • Estrone is made from body fat.
  • Estriol is present in small amounts and is mostly made during pregnancy.

Around the age of menopause, these molecules play various parts in fat tissue creation—fat shifts from the buttocks to the belly, and more belly fat is created once there—it’s a vicious cycle. As a result, it becomes difficult to lose weight. If you don’t support estrogen production, you’ll gain weight.

Symptoms of low estrogen or estrogen deficiency can occur at any age, but they are more prominent in menopause. They include hot flashes, night sweats, headaches, vaginal dryness, mental fuzziness, frequent bladder infections, a decreased sexual response, and weight gain. Symptoms of too much estrogen include depression, bloating, pounding headaches, breast swelling, and excessive vaginal bleeding.

Progesterone, the other female sex hormone, downregulates estrogen activity. Progesterone is produced by the ovaries. It reduces anxiety and has a calming effect on mood. It makes women happy. Postpartum depression is caused by a rapid decline in progesterone levels. Progesterone increases sleepiness, helps to build and maintain bones, slows the digestive process, promotes appetite and fat storage (which are important in pregnancy), helps breast tissue mature, and prepares breasts to produce milk.

Low progesterone levels can happen at any age, but production especially plummets around menopause. Symptoms of low progesterone or progesterone deficiency include PMS-like symptoms, premenstrual migraines, irregular or heavy periods, and anxiety. Women can suffer from excessive amounts of progesterone if they take too many hormone replacements; these symptoms include: sleepiness, drowsiness, and depression.

Both estrogen and progesterone levels have suffered because of our modern diet. Excess sugar and the elimination of natural fats led to serious disturbances in these important sex hormones. It is no wonder infertility and early menopause are now on the rise.

These female hormones are important for men as well. Estrogen sensitizes the male brain, and too little estrogen can effectively neuter a man. However, in men, excess estrogen is the real problem, especially as we get old. Too much caffeine and obesity can lead to overproduction of this female sex hormone instead of testosterone, the male sex hormone. Insecticides in our food chain have also contributed to the phenomenon of excess estrogen in men. A disturbance in the estrogen-testosterone balance in men can translate into weight gain.