The female sex hormone estrogen is essential for women. It plays a central role in the menstrual cycle and during pregnancy. If the estrogen level is too low, serious side effects can occur. But estrogen deficiency can also have serious consequences for men.
What is estrogen?
Estrogens (also: estrogens) are female sex hormones. They are divided into three different types:
Estradiol is also considered the “major estrogen”. In addition to the other two types, it also takes on systemically important tasks for the entire body in addition to sex-specific functions.
In women, estrogens are mainly produced in the ovaries, as well as in the placenta and the adrenal cortex. They control the woman’s menstrual cycle, are of great importance during pregnancy, and contribute to metabolism and bone formation. In small amounts, they are also essential for the male organism.
That’s how important estrogens are for the body
One of the main roles of estrogen in the female body is to control the menstrual cycle. The sex hormone ensures that follicles in the ovaries mature. In addition, under the influence of estrogen, the permeability of the mucous membrane in the cervix changes, allowing sperm to pass through at the time of ovulation.
In addition, estrogens are responsible for the development and maintenance of secondary female sexual characteristics. They promote the growth of the breasts, the development of the mammary glands, and the formation of the uterus.
Metabolism is one of the central tasks that estrogens promote in the human body. For example, they increase blood circulation, promote water retention in the body, support the production of proteins and lead to an increase in triglycerides and cholesterol. Estrogens are also involved in lipid metabolism and other metabolic processes in men. They are also considered an important stimulus of male sexuality.
Checking estrogen levels: what is normal?
To be able to fulfill all these functions in the human body, a certain level of estrogen must be maintained. This is generally higher in women than in men. In the course of the menstrual cycle, however, a woman’s estrogen levels vary greatly. The values are evaluated differently depending on the phase of the cycle.
- The first half of the cycle (days 1 to 14): The blood serum concentration of estradiol is 25 to 95 ng/l.
- Day of ovulation (approx. day 14): The blood serum concentration of estradiol is 75 to 570 ng/l.
- The second half of the cycle (days 15 to 28): The blood serum concentration of estradiol falls to 60 to 250 ng/l.
As stated above, estrogen levels, especially estradiol levels, increase in the first half of the cycle. Just before ovulation, this increase becomes extreme. This also triggers a rapid surge in luteinizing hormone (LH), which ultimately triggers ovulation. At this point, the estrogen concentration decreases again.
Estrogen levels also rise sharply during pregnancy. During this time, the two estrogens estradiol and estriol are mainly produced by the placenta. Estrogen levels reach their maximum at the end of pregnancy. In contrast to pregnancy, estrogen levels drop below 45 ng/l at the onset of menopause.
Estradiol concentrations are normally between 12 and 42 ng/l in men and below 30 ng/l in boys and girls before puberty.
Estrogen deficiency: symptoms and treatment
The most common reason for estrogen deficiency in women is menopause and the onset of menopause. This is by no means a disease-related deficiency, but a completely natural process. If hormone production decreases too quickly or is subject to strong fluctuations, this can lead to physical complaints and impairments.
However, deficiency symptoms can also occur in young women. The cause here is usually a disrupted hormone production or regulation of the hormone balance. The following symptoms can indicate a lack of estrogen:
- Hot flashes and sweats
- sleep disorders
- weight gain
- Dry skin
- Increased hair growth on the face
- Irregular Cycles
- loss of libido
- Unfulfilled desire to have children
- Osteoporosis (brittle bones)
Above all, complaints such as depression and weight gain should not be underestimated in men. Because, as researchers at Harvard Medical School have found, a reduction in estrogen concentration in the body also leads to weight gain in men, just as it happens in women during menopause. Both sex hormones, testosterone, and estrogen, are also needed in the body for the male libido.