Category: Natural chemicals
Introduction and description
Estrogen or oestrogen is a hormone.
Like all steroid hormones, estrogens readily diffuse across the cell membrane. Once inside the cell, they bind to and activate estrogen receptors (ERs).
Estrogen receptors can be found all over the body including the brain and even the eyes, as such the reproductive functions clearly have a knock-on effect throughout the body.
Estrogens are present in both men and women, they are usually present at significantly higher levels in women.
- In women - They are responsible for development and regulation of the female reproductive system and promote the development of female 'secondary sexual characteristics', such as breasts. They are also involved in the thickening of the endometrium and other aspects of regulating the menstrual cycle.
- In men - estrogen regulates certain functions of the reproductive system important to the maturation of sperm and “may be necessary for a healthy libido”.
The very name estrogen comes from the Greek οἶστρος (oistros), literally meaning "verve or inspiration" but figuratively sexual passion or desire, and the suffix -gen, meaning "producer of".
Endogenous and exogenous ligands
Endogenous - The three major naturally occurring estrogens in women are
- estrone (E1) - During menopause, estrone is the predominant circulating estrogen
- estradiol (E2) - Estradiol is the predominant estrogen during reproductive years both in terms of absolute serum levels as well as in terms of estrogenic activity
- estriol (E3) - during pregnancy estriol is the predominant circulating estrogen in terms of serum levels.
- estetrol (E4) - Another type of estrogen produced only during pregnancy
Though estriol is the most plentiful of the three estrogens it is also the weakest, whereas estradiol is the strongest.
Exogenous - A range of synthetic and natural substances have been identified that possess estrogenic activity and can also bind to the same receptors, either in an agonistic or antagonistic capacity.
- Synthetic substances of this kind are known as xenoestrogens. These are used in contraceptives and in HRT.
- Plant products with estrogenic activity are called phytoestrogens.
- Fungal substances are known as mycoestrogens.
Of the three, phytoestrogens are likely to play an increasingly important role in the future to help us keep in balance hormonally and also to help us control the size of families. Via phytoestrogens we may even see the development of a safe male contraceptive.
Synthesis and essential precursor chemicals
All of the different forms of estrogen are synthesized from androgens, specifically testosterone and androstenedione, by the enzyme aromatase.
Thus any chemical that is an aromatase inhibitor disrupts this process.
Estrogens, in females, are produced primarily by the ovaries, and during pregnancy, the placenta.
Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH) stimulates the ovarian production of estrogens by the granulosa cells of the ovarian follicles and corpora lutea.
Some estrogens are also produced in smaller amounts by other tissues such as the liver, adrenal glands, and the breasts. These secondary sources of estrogens are especially important in postmenopausal women. Fat cells produce estrogen as well.
One key absolutely key precursor to the manufacture of estrogen is cholesterol.
In females, synthesis of estrogens starts in the ovary, by the synthesis of androstenedione from cholesterol. Androstenedione is a substance of weak androgenic activity which serves predominantly as a precursor for more potent androgens such as testosterone as well as estrogen.
In effect if you are lacking in cholesterol you will be lacking in estrogen. This makes the use of statins and lipid lowering drugs rather questionable, especially as a lack of estrogen produces so many serious life threatening illnesses – as we shall see in the section on Estrogen imbalance.
There are a number of very direct functions that estrogen controls in women, but also a number of indirect functions.
Estrogen together with progesterone promotes and maintains the uterus lining in preparation for the implantation of the fertilized egg and maintains uterus function during the gestation period.
It also “upregulates the oxytocin receptor in the myometrium”.
The hormone FSH - follicle-stimulating hormone released from the pituitary gland matures the oocyte into an ovarian follicle [or ova]. Once it has matured it sends a message to the pituitary using oestrogen and the growing process stops. Ovulation [the movement of the follicle into the uterus] is triggered by another hormone LH - luteinizing hormone also from the pituitary.
The surge in estrogen levels induces the release of luteinizing hormone, which then triggers ovulation by releasing the egg from the Graafian follicle in the ovary. In other words it is part of the ovulation cycle.
Although the main functions of estrogen are related to reproduction, it is clear that there is a very complex inter-functional dependency in operation here related to a whole host of other functions.
Many of the related functions in women are connected to the idea that the body prepares itself on a continuous basis to receive a baby or produce a baby.
First and formost estrogen brings out the feminine characteristics of compassion, love, empathy, patience and gentleness. The sort of behaviour needed to cope with a baby who keeps you up all night and needs constant attention:
Oestradiol exerts a profound influence upon multiple brain circuits. For the most part, these effects are mediated by oestrogen receptor (ER)α. We review here the roles of ERβ, the other ER isoform, in mediating … oestradiol-regulated anxiety, aggressive and sexual behaviours, the control of gonadotrophin secretion, and adult neurogenesis. PMID: 21851428
This is 'femininisation', the subjugation of the will in order to serve a little baby. During the menstrual cycle, the changes in estrogen levels just before a period can result in the mood swings we all know about, sudden violent feelings of aggression or anger. The plunging of mood into anxiety and sadness.
The same mood changes can take place during the menopause, loss of estrogen creates mood swings and often - as the levels sink, so can the mood.
It is almost as if the body, every month, is mourning the fact that a baby has not resulted.
But there are also more subtle changes that take place which affect the appearance.
This too is 'femininisation', the changes that change a child, whose appearance is often almost androgynous, into a woman with very distinct characteristics.
Estrogen affects the appearance of women to make them sexually attractive to men – what scientists call rather coyly ‘secondary sex characteristics’.
Appearance - skin and eyes
The skin is helped by estrogen helping to make it more supple and attractive. The suppleness is needed when we become pregnant and expand, but the glowing healthy skin also signals subconsciously that here we have a woman in her prime and ready to produce children.
During adolescence when the hormones are changing, the body takes a little while to adjust to the right level of estrogen and the result can be acne and spots, but once the balance has been reached, we get the 'clear skinned smile' of the young woman.
Estrogen has an effect on the organ that produces melanin – the chemicals that determine the pigmentation of skin.
The eyes too have estrogen receptors and the clear eyes and sparkly look with intense colours in the iris are also a signal of health.
The man is actually being subtly manipulated via women's hormones and the woman needs to do nothing but let nature do its work.
The bones are strengthened considerably to support the weight of a new body shape, and the baby. Our teeth may also be helped - a winning smile and the ability to eat the food needed for the baby.
Estrogen controls things like our metabolism and the amount of fat we store. Nature intended that women be well rounded in order that they had plenty of stores ready for a pregnancy, big breasts for feeding a baby, big hips to support the weight, balanced by a big bum to keep you upright during pregnancy.
Skinny women with no breasts are not producing an adequate supply of estrogen. Women, being competitive creatures and in the race for the best man, often tell other women that it is fashionable to be skinny and super thin. Clothes are designed for skinny women with no boobs and no bottom. Fashion magazines and women's magazines criticise celebrities when they go over a size 8.
But this is a rather underhand way of reducing the competiton, because I can state categorically that men like big bottoms and they love big breasts and anything that curves seductively reduces them to a shivering mass of desire.
Interestingly enough, being curvaceous has an effect on desire in the woman too, it is true that estrogen is the love hormone.
Men like anything above size 14, in fact they seem to especially like a size 18 to 20. Having tested all sizes in my long and interesting life, I can vouch for the fact that 'large' appears to have a special fascination for men, as if you are a sort of bouncy castle they can play with. And men do love playing, that is a fact.
Bulimics and anorexics and the stick thin are signalling unhealthiness. And indeed they are unhealthy, because, lacking in adequate nutritional input, the estrogen supply fails and periods stop. They cannot produce healthy children.
There is an effect of the ‘thickness’ of the blood too. In someone with a balanced supply of estrogen, the blood is just thick enough that it prevents loss of excessive blood during menstruation or childbirth, but not so thick it causes blood clotting.
In the page we have on estrogen imbalance in the overload section, you will be able to see that estrogen imbalance is in part responsible for hypertension, or hypotension. For example estrogen is made from cholesterol, cholesterol circulates in the blood. If we are in imbalance, we may get either high cholesterol or low cholesterol.
It will be noticeable that several sorts of cholesterol will be present in the blood stream to help with the manufacture of the hormone. Cholesterol is also increased in the bile, which makes removal of the gall bladder seem a somewhat unwise activity if we still want the estrogen.
The livers of women produce binding proteins. A binding protein acts as an agent to bind two or more molecules together and this function is under estrogen control.
Binding proteins are used by the woman's body to control such things as her metabolism. If we use an example, Iron-binding proteins are carrier proteins and metalloproteins which play many important roles in metabolism. They bind Iron and can therefore inhibit microbial growth. Two iron-binding proteins are lactoferrin and transferrin. There is thus yet another knock on effect here on one's ability to fight pathogens. Estrogen helps the liver to produce the proteins needed to fight disease caused by pathogens such as bacteria.
But there are very very many other types of such binding protein, examples include:
- DNA-binding protein
- RNA-binding protein
- Calcium-binding protein
- Actin-binding protein
- Retinol binding protein
- Binding immunoglobulin protein
- Odorant binding protein
- Thyroxine-binding proteins
- Folate-binding protein
- Sterol regulatory element-binding protein
- Androgen-binding protein
- Maltose-binding protein
- Insulin-like growth factor-binding protein
- Growth hormone-binding protein
- Vitamin D-binding protein
- Fatty acid-binding protein
All these are in a sense under estrogenic control, which means the knock on effects of imbalance, for example, cover far more than the reproductive system. They affect the thyroid, our sense of smell, our eyes and our growth rate, our bones and our teeth, and our muscles as well as our ability to use glucose or produce it effectively. In effect, imbalance of estrogen can be linked with diseases like diabetes and pancreatitis.
Another hormone that is affected by estrogen levels is Cortisol. It functions to increase energy ready for baby carrying and to help in the sort of metabolic changes described above. But there is a much wider impact that estrogen has on our immune function, in part mediated by cortisol.
Cellular signaling by estrogens is mediated by estrogen receptor α (ERα) and β (ERβ), respectively. Estrogens have prominent effects on immune functions and both ERα and ERβ are expressed in immune cells and lymphoid malignancies. With regard to lymphoid malignancies, most show estrogen influence as several epidemiological studies of lymphoid cancers demonstrate gender differences in incidence and prognosis with males being more affected. PMID: 23707618
In essence if we have the capacity to reproduce, our immune system is bolstered by the presence of estrogen. But once estrogen has gone, the immune system withers and loses its function and we get more illness and eventually we die. The end of the reproductive years signals the time when we begin the process of dying.
I think we can see that estrogen is indeed the principle hormone of the reproductive cycle.
But, although many obvious direct functions can be identified, so can many indirect ones. The indirect ones are far more numerous than the direct ones and cover just about every function of the body.
I suspect this is little appreciated. If estrogen goes out of balance, everything goes out of balance in a sort of catastrophic domino cascade of cause/effect, cause/effect.
In the end we may find that it is estrogens that determine whether we live or die
Estrogens regulate various normal and pathophysiological processes including cancers. Cellular signaling by estrogens is mediated by estrogen receptor α (ERα) and β (ERβ), respectively. Binding of agonists to the ERs affects gene transcription. The main endogenous estrogen, 17β-estradiol (E2), binds to both ERα and ERβ with similar affinity. ….. Importantly, while estrogens via ERα stimulate proliferation, signaling via ERβ inhibits proliferation and promotes apoptosis. PMID: 23707618
This makes the presence of endocrine disruptors, and artificial hormones, phytoestrogens , HRT and contraceptives of especial interest, because they have the potential to terribly disrupt or heal in a major way. Kill or cure.
Follow the link to see what happens when estrogen is disrupted and what are the posssible ways it can be brought back into balance.
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