Of the more than 50 known human hormones, none get as much attention as testosterone and estrogen. And if you think about it, that’s not too surprising – testosterone and estrogen are the hormones responsible for male and female attributes respectively. Yet, the stark differences in their functions is in contrast to the close similarity in the two’s molecular structure.
Interest in testosterone and estrogen as well as their critical role in normal body function has spawned an enormous testosterone replacement therapy and testosterone booster industry.
What you need to know
What's the difference between testosterone and estrogen?
Before I get into what sets the two hormones apart, it’s important to clear one of the most common misunderstandings around testosterone and estrogen. It is true that testosterone is the male sex hormone and estrogen the female sex hormone. But things are not as black and white. The two hormones are found in both men and women. The distinction lies in the quantity.
With that important tidbit out of the way, let’s get down to it.
Testosterone: The male hormone
Testosterone is the male sex hormone. Males have up to 8 times as much testosterone as females. In males, testosterone is produced in the testes and adrenal glands. In females, the hormone is secreted in small amounts by the ovaries.
Effects of testosterone
As the primary hormone responsible for healthy growth and development of males, testosterone is at the heart of numerous body processes and functions.
It all begins in the womb where testosterone regulates penis and testes development.
During puberty, testosterone is the reason for the increase in body and facial hair, the deepening of the voice, the growth of the Adam’s apple as well as the maturation of the penis and testes. It causes faster growth in height and muscle among teens. This muscle-building capability has been behind the illegal and dangerous use of testosterone by athletes and pro bodybuilders keen on having an unfair advantage over their rivals.
And that notorious acne that comes with adolescence? Yes, that’s caused by testosterone too thanks to an unusually high production of sebum.
In adolescence and adulthood, testosterone is associated with greater arousal and libido.
Outside primary and secondary sex characteristics, testosterone is associated with multiple physical and cognitive benefits such as improving bone density, cardiovascular health and the circulation of red blood cells. Then there is the well-worn stereotype of testosterone fueling competitiveness and aggression – which is at least partly true.
Women have much lower testosterone but it still plays an important role. For example, testosterone improves libido in women especially those undergoing menopause.
Estrogen: The female hormone
I could start off by saying that estrogen is the female sex hormone as I did for testosterone. But that would be a bit of an oversimplification. Estrogen is in fact a class of hormones. There are three types of estrogen:
- estradiol (the predominant one),
- estriol and
It is mainly produced in the ovaries but also in fat tissue as well.
As we’ll find out shortly, this is just one of the things that perhaps makes estrogen a little harder for most people to get their heads around compared to testosterone.
Effects of estrogen in the body
While estrogen is a female sex hormone, estradiol has a somewhat odd relationship with the male body. Some studies have suggested that counterintuitively, estradiol may play a role in sustaining sperm production, libido and erection.
The different types of estrogen play different roles.
Estrone is the least understood type of estrogen. It occurs in higher amounts after menopause. Some experts suggest it may be a backup of the other two and convert to those when needed.
Estriol is usually undetectable but is secreted by the placenta in larger quantities during pregnancy.
Estradiol is the predominant type of estrogen and controls a broad range of processes including puberty, development of female features, reproductive cycles and bone density. It is the hormone that’s most pivotal for successful conception as it triggers egg release from the ovary. Estradiol also helps decrease levels of bad cholesterol (i.e. LDL cholesterol), dilate blood vessels and improve blood flow.
Causes and Symptoms
Testosterone and estrogen are crucial for healthy body development and function. When they exceed or fall short of regular levels, you could run into some problems.
Natural ways to boost testosterone
Going natural is the best way to boost testosterone. To do that, you need to find the right mix of foods, herbs, vitamins, minerals, amino acids and supplements. Take a look at the following examples you could start off with and build on.
High testosterone in women
Women may experience high testosterone due to medical conditions that affect the normal function of the ovaries and the pituitary gland.
Low testosterone in men
In men, low testosterone is the result of aging, with testosterone levels starting to decline at the age of 30. However, there are specific conditions that could impede the normal function of the testes, pituitary gland and/or hypothalamus and make the levels decline at a much younger age. Other factors may include insomnia, an unhealthy diet and, sedentary lifestyle.
Low estrogen in women
Low estrogen is usually caused by medical conditions that impede or damage the ovaries’ normal function. These include menopause and polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).
High estrogen in men
In men, high estrogen may be caused by aging as well as conditions inhibiting the normal function of the testes, pituitary gland and adrenal gland. An unhealthy diet is a risk factor too.
In conclusion, testosterone and estrogen are two of the most important hormones in the human body. While testosterone is primarily responsible for male development, estrogen plays a crucial role in female development. However, both hormones occur in both males and females.
Understanding the role of these hormones is essential for maintaining a healthy body and mind. The testosterone replacement therapy and testosterone booster industry is a testament to the critical role these hormones play in human development and function.