Today I would like to highlight some of the health benefits of estrogen – a key hormone for vitality and longevity in both men and women! The majority of studies focus on estradiol (E2), though we know that estrogen exists in many different forms. For that reason, we want to make sure that estrogen metabolism is healthy and that our metabolites promote wellness, not disease. It is important to remember that a healthy balance of all hormones and nutrients, as well as a healthy lifestyle, contribute to achieving the best outcome with any treatment.
Here are a few ways studies have shown that estrogen can promote health and wellness:
- Cardiovascular Protection
Estrogen has been shown to promote the growth of new blood vessels and support the natural dilation of existing vessels. It encourages energy production by supporting mitochondrial function (the small energy producers – or “powerhouses” – that are present inside each cell) and, in doing so, contributes to the health and survival of each individual cell! Estrogen also limits cell damage by inhibiting fibrosis following cell injury. If that weren’t amazing enough, it has significant antioxidant properties and contributes to healthier cholesterol levels.
- Cognitive Function
Estrogen has neuro-protective properties, which means that it helps to protect your brain cells. This promotes better memory, cognition, and learning as we age! It also plays an important role in energy regulation on a cellular level, which helps keep our brain cells – among others – in healthy working order. Evidence suggests that it may also contribute to cellular repair.
- Feminine Health
Estrogen keeps the female intimate tissues healthy. When Estrogen levels are optimal, women are less likely to develop bleeding or pain with intercourse – a common issue in aging women, resulting from estrogen deficiency and thinning tissue. It also promotes the natural lubrication of vaginal tissue and contributes to a healthy libido at any age!
- Bone Health
Estrogen is a key regulator of bone metabolism in both men and women. It supports the activity of our osteoblasts – cells responsible for producing and maintaining strong and healthy bones. When estrogen levels drop during menopause, our osteoblasts lose their bone-producing efficacy, which may contribute to the development of osteopenia or osteoporosis (bone loss/weakening).
- Gastrointestinal Health
Hormone therapy (specifically estrogen) has been associated with a reduced risk for developing colon cancer. Additionally, estrogen interacts with the microbiome (the living organisms in your gut) which plays a major role in an individual’s overall health and well-being.
By Stella Jansen van Rensburg, MD, MBChB, ABAARM, PgDPD
Papillon Medical Dermatology and Laser Centre
Iorga, A., Cunningham, C.M., Moazeni, S. et al. The protective role of estrogen and estrogen receptors in cardiovascular disease and the controversial use of estrogen therapy. Biol Sex Differ 8, 33 (2017). https://doi.org/10.1186/s13293-017-0152-8
Zárate, S., Stevnsner, T., & Gredilla, R. (2017). Role of Estrogen and Other Sex Hormones in Brain Aging. Neuroprotection and DNA Repair. Frontiers in aging neuroscience, 9, 430. https://doi.org/10.3389/fnagi.2017.00430
Krause, M., Wheeler, T. L., 2nd, Snyder, T. E., & Richter, H. E. (2009). Local Effects of Vaginally Administered Estrogen Therapy: A Review. Journal of pelvic medicine & surgery, 15(3), 105–114. https://doi.org/10.1097/SPV.0b013e3181ab4804
Cauley, J. (2015). Estrogen and bone health in men and women. Steroids, 99, 11-15. doi: 10.1016/j.steroids.2014.12.010
Barzi, A., Lenz, A. M., Labonte, M. J., & Lenz, H. J. (2013). Molecular pathways: Estrogen pathway in colorectal cancer. Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, 19(21), 5842–5848. https://doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-13-0325