Estrogen is one of the most important female hormones. Its role is vital to body functioning and maintenance of the appropriate level of estrogen can preserve the overall health of a woman. Most females are aware that estrogen is produced to regulate the growth and development of their body and some may be more informed about the role it plays in regard to their reproductive life.
Estrogen is a steroid compound hormone that is made up of three separate forms of the hormone; estradiol, estrone, and estriol. Each hormone type is produced in a different way and used for a different purpose. The theory that surrounds the production of these three estrogen hormones is complex; it explains what happens once a woman reaches menopause and her estrogen production drastically slows down.
Understanding the Three Different Forms of Estrogen
- All three forms of estrogen are sex hormones.
- The majority of estrogen is made up of estradiol, therefore making this the most important of the three forms.
- Estradiol is primarily secreted by the ovaries.
- A small amount of estradiol is produced in the adrenal glands. Estradiol has the strongest effects because it is the form that actually links to the estrogen receptors.
- Estradiol is responsible for tissue growth in the breasts and reproductive area, and development of the secondary sexual characteristics which include breast growth, wider hips, increased hair in the underarms and genital regions, softer skin, and a more curvy body shape. It also regulates the menstrual cycle and fertility levels.
- Estradiol levels remain constant throughout the menstrual cycle and then there is a rapid increase before ovulation, and then a drop again afterwards, before rising again to return to normal levels.
- Estrone is a weaker and less important form of estrogen than estradiol.
- It is also secreted in the ovaries and adrenal glands but is typically produced by body fat.
- It isn't directly active on bodily tissues, but instead is there to be converted into estradiol if the body requires it.
- Estriol is produced in the liver but only in small quantities.
- It is produced in much higher quantities during pregnancy in the placenta, the tissue that links the fetus to the mother.
- Scientific research on this estrogen form is lacking, but its effects are believed to be fairly minimal. However, we do know that once estriol has attached to an estrogen receptor, it blocks the estradiol from acting there, allowing it to have estrogenic and anti-estrogenic actions.
What Happens to Estrogen Production Postmenopause?
- Estrone and estradiol production fluctuates during perimenopause which is why the female encounters so many menopausal symptoms, which take form in physical, emotional, and psychological ways.
- Postmenopause estrogen production shifts from the ovaries to the fat cells in a woman's body, although the ovaries still play a role because testosterone is produced there.
- Less estrogen is produced in the adrenal glands.
- Estrone becomes the chief estrogen postmenopause because more of it is converted from androgens which are found in the adrenal glands, and was already the hormone that was readily produced in the fat cells.
More Information about Estrogen
Estrogen, the three forms it takes and their unique roles, is a complex and difficult concept. It is important to remember that all three are under the same hormone type, so technically, they work together to regulate the sexual reproductive system within the body. If the estrogen levels become unbalanced, whether it is during perimenopause or prior to this, it can cause the body to react in some strange and distressing ways. To find out more about hormonal imbalance and how to treat it, follow this link.