Steroid Hormone Overview
Estrogens (estradiol, estrone, estriol) are predominately female hormones, and in adults, they are important for maintaining the health of the reproductive tissues, breasts, skin and brain. Excessive estrogens can cause fluid retention, weight gain, migraines and overstimulation of the breasts, ovaries and uterus, leading to cancer. Insufficient estrogen levels can lead to hot flushes, vaginal dryness, rapid skin aging, urinary problems, excessive bone loss and possible acceleration of dementia. An excess of estrogen, relative to testosterone, is thought to play a role in the development of prostate problems in men. Most scientists now agree that by-products of estrogen metabolism are the cause of both breast and prostate cancers.
Progesterone can be thought of as a hormonal balancer, particularly of estrogens. It enhances the beneficial effect of estrogens while preventing the problems associated with estrogen excess. Progesterone also helps create a balance of all other steroids. It also has intrinsic calming and diuretic properties. It is important in women, but it's importance in men for the maintenance of prostate health is only now being appreciated.
Androgens (testosterone, DHEA, androstenedione) play an important role in tissue regeneration, especially the skin, bones, and muscles. The principal androgen in both men and women is DHEA. DHEA levels decline with age, and in some cases, supplementation with DHEA can restore energy, improve immune function, lift depression and improve mental function. Testosterone is involved in maintenance of lean body mass, bone density, skin elasticity, sex drive and cardiovascular health in both sexes. Men make more of this hormone, accounting for their greater bone and muscle mass. Androstenedione is a precursor for both estrogens and testosterone, especially in females. It can be produced in excess by the ovaries, especially during early menopause, and can cause some of the "androgenic" symptoms such as scalp hair loss and facial hair growth.
Glucocorticoids, primarily cortisol, are produced by the adrenal glands in response to stressors such as emotional upheaval, exercise, surgery, illness or starvation. Cortisol plays an essential role in immune function, mobilizing the body's defenses against viral or bacterial infection, and fighting inflammation; however, chronic elevated cortisol levels suppress the action of the immune system and predispose to frequent infections. Cortisol levels are highest first thing in the morning, to combat the stress of overnight fasting and to animate the body for the day's activities.
The brain derives most of it's energy from glucose, so maintenance of adequate blood levels is a top priority. After a period of fasting, cortisol output increases, and this initiates catabolism, or the breakdown of protein into simple amino acids and their conversion into glucose to feed the brain.
Chronic, excessive stress (emotional or physical), protein deficiency, and lack of nutrients including Vitamins A,C and Pantothenic acid (B5) can cause the adrenal glands to become exhausted, so that they can no longer produce adequate cortisol. This leads to low blood glucose (hypoglycemia), excessive fatigue, and increased susceptibility to infection.
Tightly coordinated production of adrenal glucocorticoids is essential for optimal health. In normal individuals, the breakdown or catabolism of tissues by glucocorticoids is followed by the building up or anabolism of tissues by androgens. As we grow older, an excess of catabolic hormones over anabolic hormones develops, and this is in part responsible for the aging of all the body tissues, and the loss of our ability to repair damaged tissue. The same thing happens under chronic, excessive stress, and contributes to premature aging. Stress can literally burn our bodies out prematurely.
DHEA Found to Reduce PMS Symptoms in
In a year-long study, daily supplementation with DHEA was
found to increase estrogen levels by up to four times, they report in the December issue
of Fertility and Sterility (vol 80, issue 6, pp 1495-1501).
For the study, by Dr Alessandro D. Genazzani from the University of Modena, Italy and colleagues, 20 menopausal women took a daily supplement of 25 milligrams DHEA over 12 months. They saw levels of both estrogen, testosterone and dihydrotestosterone increase by between three and four times and nearly two-fold increases in progesterone levels.
The women also reported improvements in hot flashes and no side effects, according to the researchers.
The findings suggest that DHEA could one day replace hormone replacement therapy, seeing rapidly declining use following research showing negative side effects. Supplements are set to benefit, with the NMAS this week releasing a statement that supports use of herbals such as soy isoflavones.
Are Uterine Fibroids?
Common symptoms include heavy menstrual bleeding, bleeding between periods, urinary problems such as frequent urination as a result from a fibroid pressing on the bladder, lower back pain, pain during sex, and reproductive problems. Please consult your gynecologist if experiencing any of these problems.
What Causes Uterine Fibroids?
A Natural Solution
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