What is Estrogen?
Estrogen is known as the “female” hormone. The four major naturally occurring estrogens in women are estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), estriol (E3), and estetrol (E4).
Although estrogen is identified with females, it is also found in men.
In women, estrogen helps initiate sexual development, regulates menstrual cycles, and affects the entire reproductive system.
Estrogen in men:
In men, estrogen also plays an important role in sexual function. As teenagers, men have high levels of testosterone and low levels of estrogen. As they age, testosterone levels in men decrease while their estrogen levels increase.
Estradiol (E2) in men is essential for modulating libido, erectile function, and spermatogenesis. Estrogen receptors and aromatase, the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen, are abundant in the brain, penis, and testis, organs important for sexual function. In the brain, estradiol (E2) synthesis is increased in areas related to sexual arousal. Also, in the penis, estrogen receptors are found. Low testosterone and elevated estrogen increase the incidence of erectile dysfunction independently of one another.
Normal estrogen levels in men:
The following estrone and estradiol levels are considered normal for men:
|Prepubescent male||Undetectable–16 pg/ml||Undetectable–13 pg/ml|
|Pubescent male||Undetectable–60 pg/ml||Undetectable–40 pg/ml|
|Adult male||10–60 pg/ml||10–40 pg/ml|
- The role of estradiol in male reproductive function [L]
Symptoms of low estrogen in men:
Low estrogen levels in men aren’t a big cause for concern.
But some of the same symptoms of high estrogen can happen if you don’t have enough estrogen. This is because estrogen imbalances can result from hypogonadism, a condition that results in a lack of hormone production in your body.
Hypogonadism can lower estrogen levels, testosterone, and other hormones, leading to many of the same symptoms of high estrogen levels.
Causes of low estrogen in men:
Low estrogen due to hypogonadism can have several possible causes, including:
- autoimmune conditions like Addison’s disease or hypoparathyroidism
- genetic disorders like Turner syndrome or Klinefelter syndrome
- infections of the sexual organs, such as mumps
- kidney or liver conditions
- testicles that don’t descend
- an overabundance of iron in your blood (hemochromatosis)
- exposure to radiation
- having surgery on your penis or testicles
- human immunodeficiency virus (HIV)
- conditions that affect the pituitary gland
- having obesity
- rapid weight loss
- not getting enough basic nutrients and vitamins
- brain surgery
- tumor growing on or close to your pituitary gland
A healthy balance of estrogen and testosterone is important for sexual growth and development. When these hormones become imbalanced, sexual development and function may be affected.
Causes of Increased Levels of Estrogens in Men:
- Testosterone, DHEA, or pregnenolone supplementation
- Excessive aromatase activity (may be seen with obesity)
- Testicular, adrenal, or hepatic tumors
- Hepatic cirrhosis
- Adult-onset adrenal hyperplasia, Adrenal neoplasm
- Consider insulin resistance, as this is sometimes associated with overly active aromatization (testosterone -> E2) in men
- Infertility. Estrogen is partly responsible for creating healthy sperm. When estrogen levels are high, sperm levels may fall and lead to fertility issues.
- Gynecomastia. Estrogen may stimulate breast tissue growth. Men with too much estrogen may develop gynecomastia, a condition that leads to larger breasts.
- Erectile dysfunction (ED). Men with high levels of estrogen may have difficulty getting or maintaining an erection.
Possible treatment options:
Please talk to your doctor about possible treatment options.
Changes to your diet can also help keep your estrogen levels low:
A diet low in fat and high in fiber is commonly recommended for estrogen level control. Some foods that might be involved in this kind of diet include:
- cruciferous vegetables (including broccoli and kale) contain phytochemicals that block estrogen production
- shiitake and portobello mushrooms naturally reduce aromatase
- red grapes contain natural estrogen blockers resveratrol and proanthocyanidin
- sesame seeds and flaxseed, as well as whole grains like oats, corn, and rice, contain a micronutrient called polyphenol
- green tea is another good source of polyphenol
- pomegranates are high in estrogen-blocking phytochemicals
Some meat products contain estrogen as a result of treatment with synthetic hormones and should be avoided. Some other products to avoid that can increase your estrogen levels include:
- wraps or containers made of plastic that can be absorbed by your food
- hygiene products that have parabens containing estrogens, such as shampoos
Staying in shape can also keep your estrogen levels low:
- get a physical to check your overall health
- make a plan and start slow
- work out for about 15 to 30 minutes per day, and increase the time as you feel comfortable
- switch it up: do cardio one day, strength the next, and so on
- join a gym and get into the habit of going regularly
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