Fitness Monday - A Closer Look At The Metabolic Hormones- Estrogen & Progesterone

6:54 AM Posted by jo

This post is part of my series about the metabolic hormones and how they especially influence the weight. In my last post I discussed the thyroid hormones, and today I will go over the estrogen and progesterone hormones.

Estrogen has many functions in the body. Estrogen is in charge of a woman's development as well as having an important impact on digestive enzymes, blood fats, bone density, water and salt balance, memory, heart function and many more functions.

Many are surprised when they hear that progesterone and estrogen are steroid hormones. Steroid means they are created out of cholesterol. Both men and women produce progesterone and estrogen.

Unfortunately the environment today is full of synthetic estrogens called xenoestrogens that influence the bodies in a negative way. They synthetic estrogen are man made and include environmental toxins (pesticides, dioxins, plastic), pharmaceuticals, replacement therapy, and food additives. All these affect the body's own balance of estrogen.

Plant sources can also be a source of estrogen and progesterone, they have a milder effect on the body. 

Where they are produced
Estrogen and progesterone are produced in the adrenals, placenta, fat tissue, and the ovaries. Estrogen itself can be produced in other parts of the body also. Like other hormones, they can bind with receptors on the outside of the cells or move straight in to the receptors in the nucleus. DNA lives in the nucleus. 

The main forms of estrogen
There are many forms of estrogen but the main forms are estriol, estradiol and estrone. 

The highest amount of estrogen before menopause is estradiol from the ovaries which is delivered throughout the body. Estradiol is responsible for the  breasts, hips, smooths our skin, regulates the menstrual cycle and protects the bones, heart, and brain. 

Estrone is produced in the adrenal gland and the fat cells. Before a woman enters menopause estrone is converted into estradiol. After menopause it remains an estrone.

Estriol is produced by the placenta during pregnancy. 

Progesterone is produced in the ovaries, but is is also produced by the adrenals and act as a precursor to estrogen, testosterole and cortisol.  It is released monthly when the follicle bursts and release the egg. Progesterone has a big role in protecting the pregnancy, and it also promotes breast feeding. 

Men have estrogen and progesterone also, and they are produced in the adrenals and the testes. A small amount of estradiol is produced in the adrenals and testes. An optimal level of estrogen protects the heart, bones and brain. It also aids in maintaining a healthy libido. 

The youth estrogen
Estradiol is the youth estrogen and it assists the body to maintain lean. It aids in lowering the insulin and blood pressure levels, and raises HDL and lowers LDL. Women with higher amount of estradiol have seems to have more muscle and less fat. It also assist in keeping the mood stabilized, energy high and regulates the hunger. Estradiol put fat on your hips but it is the fat that helps your insulin response.

The ovaries shut down and the estradiol production decreases as the body is preparing to go through menopause. Estrone is the main estrogen after that, and it is the estrogen that transfers the fat to the belly instead. As the ovarian estrogen is decreasing, the body tries very hard to hold on to other estrogen areas of the body. Including the fat, which makes it harder to loose the fat. A higher amount of fat, the more estrone the body produces. It is not unusual to gain weight during this change. More estrogen leads to more belly fat, and more belly fat leads to more estrone. A vicious cycle as you can see.

Insulin increase the estrogen circulation and estrogen causes insulin resistance.

Progesterone level
Progesterone aids in balancing estrogen so it is not a good idea if the progesterone level drop either. Progesterone levels drops before the period and it can be one reason that you crave food. It also drops more drastically in menopause than estrogen. This means that you lose the fat burning effects of estradiol and testosterone since progesterone is a precursor to them.

When estrogen is not balanced in men they can lose their muscle building and fat burning advantage. 

Too much estrogen
In contrary to older believes that women's hormonal problems, especially during menopause, perimenopause, and PMS were due to declined levels of estrogen, it is now believed that women in the west have too much estrogen.

Recent studies are also confirming that girls reach puberty at an earlier age than before. Breast cancer has increased by 40% the last thirty-five years. Changes have been seen in men as well. Increased prostate cancer  and low sperm count show that men are also affected by excess estrogen.

The excess estrogen in our environment has a large part in the hormonal disruption. The bodies are facing endocrine disrupting estrogen from everywhere. Cosmetics, preservatives in the food, cleaners, and plastic wrapping all contain xenoestrogens. It is no wonder the breast cancer rates are going up.

Factors contributing to excess estrogen levels
There are other factors contributing to the excess estrogen levels in the body. Lack of quality protein or fat, sugars, too many refined grains and processed foods also affect the estrogen levels.

Men are prone to an increase in estrogen when they get older, but it is the excess that cause the problems. The excess estrogen can cause problems like decreased muscle building, metabolism and libido. The increased amount of estrogen in younger men is almost always caused by environmental estrogen. The excess xenoestrogens increase the risk of diabetes, cancer and other serious conditions.

Menopausal symptoms
Some researchers believe that the menopausal symptoms are caused by a drastic reduction in progesterone instead of a dip in estrogen. They call this "estrogen dominance" and is caused by excess estrogen and too little progesterone. Some find these thoughts controversial but more doctors are adapting to this new thinking.

The progesterone level is also affected by stress since cortisol compete for the same receptors on your cells as progesterone. 

Other things that mess up the estrogen and progesterone levels
Smoking, body fat, birth control pills, pesticides, stress and age are some things that can mess up the estrogen and progesterone levels in the body.

Signs of estrogen and progesterone imbalance
Some signs of  estrogen and progesterone imbalance are anxiety, excess facial hair, fatigue, hair loss, heavier or skipped periods, breast cysts, belly fat, brain fog, dry skin, chronic fatigue, dizziness, extreme PMS, decreased libido, carb cravings, and acid reflux. 

Some signs that men have imbalanced estrogen are decreased libido, depression, enlarged prostate, reduced facial hair, breasts, low sperm count, erectile dysfunction, decreased muscle tone and breasts.

Don't self diagnose, always check with a health  practitioner before assuming you have a condition. This information is for educational purposes only and not meant to prescribe or diagnose.

What to do
The first step is to remove xenoestrogens from the diet and environment. Whole foods and healthy fats need to be  introduced. A later post in this series will be about foods that support and assist the body in building healthy hormones.

Stay tuned until next time when I will cover testosterone and DHEA.

Thanks for visiting!


Johanna is an aromatherapist and an independent distributor of Young Living Essential Oils and Nature's Sunshine. She is passionate about educating people about health, essential oils, real food, natural remedies, and nutrition so they make healthier choices in their lives. 
She also runs Naturally Sports & Wellness together with her husband.  
Follow Johanna on twitter and facebook for more health tips and information. Don't forget to explore her new aromatherapy new blog.

This post is linked up to WFMW
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