Estrogen in Men – Not Just a Female Hormone
Generally, estrogen is considered an only female hormone. But when you study its functions, you will learn that it plays a vital role in male (sexual) health.
There are three major endogenous estrogens in females that have estrogenic hormonal activity: estrone, estriol, and estradiol. However, the estradiaol, the predominant form of estrogen, is critical to both men and women. Estradiol plays a key role in sexual function as it is essential for modulating libido, erectile function, and spermatogenesis (the production or development of mature sperm, without which, one might not be able to fertilize the female counterpart).
Estrogen receptors, as well as aromatase (the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen) are abundant in the brain, penis, and testes. All three of these organs are essential to “normal” sexual function. When aroused, estradiol synthesis is increased in the brain as well as in the penis and testes.
Our hormones co-mingle in a variety of ways, for example, estradiol regulates testosterone in the mature penis. Although our hormones work together to balance our bodies, low testosterone or elevated estrogen can increase incidences of erectile dysfunction.
As with women, men can have a fluctuation in estrogen production. When a man’s body produces too little or too much estradiol, there are a range of symptoms that may occur:
- Sexual dysfunction (low libido, decreased morning erections, decreased erectile function)
- Enlarged breasts
- Lower urinary tract symptoms associated with benign prostatic hyperplasia (BPH)
- Increased abdominal fat (mostly associated with low estrogen)
- Feeling tired
- Loss of muscle mass
Estradiol boosts serotonin levels naturally. When this hormone is out of balance, serotonin levels drop (this is true for women too – which is why estrogen is most commonly known as the hormone connected to mood and behaviour). Typically, when one’s serotonin drops, the body will naturally counteract it by kicking out norepinephrine and epinephrine (thanks adrenals!), to balance the body. In cases where a person suffers from chronic stress or has weak adrenals, the whole balancing act gets out of whack. That’s when symptoms kick in:
- Fatigue / insomnia
- Low sex drive
- Erectile dysfunction
- Hot flashes
Hormone therapy is an effective solution in cases where the body isn’t producing a natural amount of any given hormone. Other ways to help your body balance and regulate hormone levels include: reducing stress, eating well, and exercising routinely. You can take your health into your own hands by understanding the basic ways your body functions.
If you are ever uncertain about what does what or how something works (or if something isn’t working the way you think it should), contact us! We encourage you to get in touch if you are ever concerned about anything related to your overall health, especially when related to your sexual wellness. You’d be surprised to learn that you aren’t alone if you call your doctor.