Long before the Internet and Artificial Intelligence, we already have a complex network of interconnected functions in our bodies. Every organ does not exist in isolation and functions performed by one organ always affect more than itself. Each of them contributes to homeostasis directly and indirectly – what I termed physiological “inner peace”.
Estrogen is a class of hormones and consists of E1 (estrone), E2 (estradiol) and E3 (estriol). E2 is the primary form of estrogen during the reproductive age, E3 is at its highest level during pregnancy and E1 is the primary form of estrogen post-menopause. They are produced in gonadal organs (reproductive organ) modulated mostly via the HPA (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal) axis as well as in adipose tissue (fat tissue).
We often associate estrogen with sexual and reproductive functions. A complete list of functions of estrogen include:
- Reproductive System (sexual drive, sexual hormones)
- Brain & Central Nervous System (thermoregulation, sleep, mood, cognition, pain)
- Urogenital System (vaginal pH, urinary health)
- Integumentary System (Skin elasticity, hydration and thickness, mucosal and hair)
- Weight and metabolic functions (visceral and fat deposition)
- Musculoskeletal System (Joint and muscle)
- Enteric Nervous System (Gut motility and emotions)
During reproductive years, the imbalance can manifest in PMS and/or various reproductive challenges (including spotting, anovulation, prolonged cycles, infertility). As the reproductive system does not exist in isolation, these imbalances have close relationships with thyroid health, stress, and metabolism. Post menopause, hormonal imbalances can lead to vasomotor symptoms, sleep disturbances, mood swings, vaginal dryness and urinary frequency or recurrent urinary tract infections (UTI), weight gain, reduced elasticity (in skin and blood vessels) and hair loss. Excess estrogen is a common health challenge under the exposure of EDC (endocrine disruptor chemicals), causing PMS (Pre-menstrual symptoms), irregular bleeding.
From the list above, you can imagine the far-reaching effects of too much or too little estrogen. That level is finely balanced amongst the different glands in the body when not disrupted by overloads of chemicals or toxins exposed. Chemicals or toxins include endocrine disruptor chemicals (EDC) in personal care products, medication, chemicals used in food and inefficient detoxification in modern living. An example of ineffective detoxification can be late nights, as liver detoxification is most active during 11 pm – 3 am.
Testosterone is the major androgen (male sex hormone) in men. Like estrogen, it has been mostly associated with sexual functions. Other than sexual functions, it has many important roles in the body:
- Cardiovascular system (blood pressure, circulation and cholesterol metabolism)
- Brain & Central Nervous System (memory, cognition, mood)
- Integumentary System (hair in different parts of the body)
- Musculoskeletal System (muscles and joints)
- Metabolism (fat, triglycerides, insulin)
- Urogenital System (bladder, prostate and infection)
Like other hormones, testosterone does not exist in isolation in the body. Its level is a dynamic flux of balance as a result of the internal endocrine status. Apart from reduced libido and erectile dysfunction, testosterone deficiency can lead to increased body fat, loss of muscle mass, bone density, depression, difficulty concentrating, poor work performance, and unfavorable cholesterol profile. Unlike estrogen, EDC can lead to lower testosterone levels. Without external intervention, excess testosterone is not common. Most excess levels have been associated with hormonal therapy or indirect resulting from other health challenges.
Natural Transition vs. Chemical or Medical Disruption
Both estrogen and testosterone require cholesterol as the backbone for their production. Both estrogen and testosterone go through natural cycles in both sexes and decline over the years. Both females and males have estrogen and testosterone. They both form part of the homeostasis (dynamic balance) as we age.
When the level naturally declines with age, the body adapts and adjusts with fewer problems – this is what I would coin ”physiological inner peace”. When the hormonal level is disrupted externally (operation, hormonal therapy or overloads of EDCs), the body is forced to adjust and sometimes that adjustment does not come easily. In other words, it is not only related to the absolute level of each of the hormones but rather an orchestrated harmony of them. Aging in men generally leads to declining testosterone levels, yet prostatic hyperplasia and prostatic cancer incidence increases. In females, post-menopausal women are also not exempt from estrogen-sensitive cancer. Another common observation in both sexes is emotional challenges when the hormones are not in homeostasis. Other physiological challenges and symptoms vary among individuals.
It is vital to understand the root causes of any manifestation of hormonal imbalances. Our endocrine system is a delicate system of an interconnected network of functions. And hormonal imbalances are frequently a result of diet, lifestyle and medical interventions. A holistic approach in modulating endocrine system functions, minimizing exposures to endocrine disruptors, and enhancing liver detoxification through a combination of whole food diet, herbs, stress management and lifestyle will be the best strategy.
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