Statements «female» or «male» hormone is not meant to be understood literally, if anything, although the groundwork for it is there.
The ratio is different in every single person, because each of us, men and women, has different levels of testosterone and estradiol. But if you think of testosterone as masculine and estrogen as feminine, then these hormones are different things in very different amounts.
A little bit about estradiol
The hormone forms the primary and secondary female sex characteristics. Primary – it’s genitals. Secondary: fat deposition mostly on the buttocks, legs and arms, feminine facial features, high voice. During puberty, females produce testosterone, but later it is converted to estradiol by their ovaries.
In addition, in both men and women, estradiol is responsible for:
- bone mineralization (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8865143/)
- skin quality (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11705091/, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2685269/)
- libido (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4720522/, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4854098/)
- cholesterol ratio (www.health.harvard.edu/womens-health/take-control-of-rising-cholesterol-at-menopause, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3168528/)
These are the first positive differences from testosterone. That is, it’s extremely stupid to think that if you drop estradiol to 0 on your labs, you will be 100% manly 🙂 No, your bones will most likely be brittle, horrible moods, atherosclerosis, rapid aging, and no libido – The description doesn’t sound at all like a man’s. It’s the same with testosterone in women. If you reduce it to 0 and leave only estradiol, the condition will be, to put it mildly, bad, and one hundred percent women will not get 🙂
You may have heard about the growth hormone? That it in some sense rejuvenates the body and promotes rapid healing of wounds. So estradiol increases the secretion of this hormone (www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fendo.2013.00066/full, link.springer.com/chapter/10.1007/978-1-4612-1546-2_19). Perhaps for this reason, among others, estradiol has been linked to better skin and stronger bones.
The reason that testosterone and estradiol in women, unlike men, are almost identical is simple – women, in order to achieve childbearing, should have similar strength and resistance to stress. If they have only 10% of testosterone, they will produce estrogen from other sources – a woman has much more estradiol than the woman can even produce it, so that it’s not worth anything. The same happens with testosterone, because women simply do not need it for growth.
What does your estradiol level indicate?
The level of estradiol in the blood should be taken in the morning to the first half of the menstrual cycle – it’s a good indicator of your estrogen activity. When your levels are high, it may indicate problems with the production of sex hormones, such as in women with polycystic ovarian syndrome, and even women with a high testosterone levels.
On the contrary, if the level of estradiol is normal, and you are under stress, it can indicate a problem. For example, if you are stressed at work or you have children, the level of estradiol may be higher than normal.
In addition to testosterone and estradiol, there are also a lot of other hormones – androgens, progestins, and corticosteroids. The function of all of them is to ensure that everything is fine and works as it should. In fact, androgens are important for the growth of children, and cortisol is important in the stress reaction. Many of them come from the adrenal cortex, and the remaining hormones are produced in the gonads. The production of testosterone and estradiol is performed with the help of luteinizing hormone (LH) and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). At the level of the thyroid gland, you can get thyroxine and calcitonin (if you have a family history, you may have a greater chance of getting cancer).
Testosterone and estradiol are key factors in the body’s balance. Other hormones have a smaller, but important role. This applies both to men and women. For example, women with high levels of testosterone are more inclined to experience menopausal symptoms, such as night sweats. To make an analogy, estradiol is an oil of motor oil that helps everything work together. Testosterone is the fuel that the engine uses, but without a sufficient amount of oil, you can’t even start.
Estradiol, like testosterone – it’s the sex hormone that will definitely change sexual behavior.
Here is a composite photo of 10 different girls about 2 weeks apart, which one you think is more attractive? (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1560017/)
If you trust numerous studies, then… The left photo statistically wins.
There is quite a lot of data that during ovulation, the left picture, when estradiol is highest, any girl seems more beautiful (www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0018506X13000482, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26766112/)
Here in this composite photo already 18 very beautiful girls, well in my subjective opinion, the differences are less noticeable. So, which side do you like better??
Ovulation photo again on the left (royalsocietypublishing.org/doi/10.1098/rsbl.2015.0638).
Girls, now you know when to take pictures more often 🙂 2-3 days before and after ovulation took a picture and then lay out the whole month 🙂
And the difference in estradiol in ovulation and in the luteal phase can be at times. And in particular is that, as I understand, there are days when a higher level of estradiol is registered in the first phase. These are days when the progesterone is low, and the cycle is almost ovulatory again (the cycle begins, then, in the same way) and the estradiol goes up due to increased sensitivity of the hypothalamic-pituitary system to estradiol as compared to the progesterone (progesterone inhibits the increase of estradiol, which inhibits the luteinizing hormone).
In men, the hormones are relatively stable. To make it clearer, imagine that at the beginning of the month your testosterone is like your grandfather’s, about 7 nmol, and in a couple of weeks you turn into a superman with 42 nmol! You’re ready to lead “Toward Successful Success” trainings while sending out your profiles to porn agencies, but then there’s a decline to grumpy grandpa level. And it happens every month until you’re 50. And that’s the average, and in fact some girls’ estradiol can change by a factor of 10 in a month. In that case, it’s like you’re legally sitting on a steroid course for about a week every month with testosterone below 100 nmol).
Okay, from the outside high estradiol increases attractiveness woman, but, what happens to her sexual desires) Logically, the desire for sex again, there is a lot of data, and it is at the time of ovulation that more brutal men are liked (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15190016/, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22406876/, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/15216424/). During ovulation there is also a higher chance of getting pregnant (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7477165/). And one can observe flirtatious behavior, flirting on the part of the woman (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/24335600/).
Even the gait changes. Yes, when a woman’s estradiol is at its highest, she walks … slower and sexier, and does so unconsciously (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22245227/). This is exactly the likely behavior. It’s rare to find black and white data in science at all. Some will change their gait, some won’t, but the average is more likely yes.
So let’s see how estradiol affects male sexual function? There’s an interesting pattern here.
In general, elevated estradiol often leads to erectile dysfunction (ED) and worsens the sperm count (www.nature.com/articles/s41598-020-69712-6, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC8294872/). And lowered to lower libido and delayed ejaculation (DE), a man just becomes less interested in sex, but the technical part is more or less fine, sometimes this happens with elevated estradiol too. PE — is premature ejaculation. А — Estradiol levels. В — Testosterone levels. С — Estradiol to testosterone ratio. If testosterone is even 10 times higher than normal, and estradiol even if it is 1.5 times higher or lower, it will still make you feel worse and healthier than if you have average values of both.
In the brain, estrogen receptors are located in areas that are involved in sexual behavior; one of the most mysterious mechanisms of neuroendocrinology works so that when estrogen enters these areas of the brain, we have erotic fantasies (taken from Sapolsky «The Psychology of Stress»). Such are the interesting things today) I hope I was able to argue that without estradiol, male sexual behavior is simply not possible, let alone for women.
Brain, Intelligence, Estradiol
OK, we’re done with the depraved part, let’s move on to the effects on intelligence.)
Generally speaking, neurobiology is somewhat similar to programming, except that the code is already written, and we only study which particular command turns memory on or off, which blocks increase motivation, under what conditions or operators it all works, etc.д. Probably not for nothing people who study these processes to apply in practice, to optimize their own code are called Biohackers. So what does estradiol do to the brain?
Remember in a recent issue we said that hormones like Testosterone, LH and Gonadoliberin cause the brain to create more dopamine, the main neurotransmitter of motivation? So, apparently Estradiol does something similar to Serotonin.
The receptors for estradiol in the brain and for serotonin are on roughly the same neurons.
Estradiol increases the expression of tryptophan hydroxylase and serotonin transporter. In short, it increases serotonin synthesis in the brain (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22127200/, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6520586/). Therefore, if a woman is deficient in estrogen, she may also be deficient in serotonin. And serotonin – is the neurotransmitter that keeps you from falling into depression.
On the contrary, elevated estradiol levels make a man overly emotional, empathic and with mood swings, especially noticeable in men. If you’re a man and have started noticing that you watch sentimental movies more often than usual, bring on tears and text your exes – Get a blood test at least for testosterone and estradiol, the latter will probably be higher than normal.
Estradiol also works with 5HT-2A serotonin receptors (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/7632610/, www.researchgate.net/publication/10629128_Increase_in_Prefrontal_Cortex_Serotonin_2A_Receptors_Following_Estrogen_Treatment_in_Postmenopausal_Women which, by the way, is the main target of psychedelics. So a man with high estradiol, in terms of biochemistry, is like a little bit under the mushrooms, Just like a man with high testosterone a priori pumps more dopamine and gets a little under psychostimulants. Moderate sports and normal fat percentages increase testosterone in men (www.hindawi.com/journals/ije/2021/7523996/) and estradiol in women, which means sports provoke the production of potent!)
It is known that male and female brains do not work in exactly the same way. It would be more accurate to say that gender differences are present in almost all parts of the brain (www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fnins.2019.00185/full. They are not too big, but there are. For example, the corpus callosum, which connects the 2 hemispheres of the brain is slightly larger in women. This topic has been refuted periodically, but it is the latest data that still show differences (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3767965/). The corpus callosum seems to bind the brain together and make it work together. On the contrary, in studies on rats on spatial memory, when they had to find their way out of the maze, females performed significantly worse at this task. So there are definitely differences between the sexes, somewhere a little better, somewhere worse.
But estradiol does not affect just the brain. We know that estradiol affects the heart, bone marrow, the kidneys, arteries, uterus, skin, and muscles. And it does this in different ways depending on the type of tissue. There is a general trend for estradiol to be in one way or another anti-inflammatory. So estradiol reduces inflammation, as it is thought to do in most tissues of the body.
It should be clear that estradiol is a hormone, which in the female body and also in the brain, is responsible for many functions. So we know that estradiol increases the levels of N-methyl D-aspartate (NMDA) receptor on synapses in the brain, which is why it is believed to be a key contributor to some cognitive processes, and also why estradiol prevents the neurons from becoming more sensitive to the NMDA receptor blocker D-amino guanidine and how this can make the neurons more sensitive to NMDA receptor blockade (Walsh et al., 2005). In addition, it has been shown that in some brain areas estradiol increases nitric oxide activity. This factor seems to be required for brain-derived neurotrophic factor to induce rapid synaptic plasticity (Cullinan and Rissman, 2007; Koehl and Merzenich, 2006).
It is also thought that estradiol causes the growth of new neurons. There is no reason to believe that this is not the case in female brains.
There is no single mechanism by which estradiol works. In the brain it can act by many mechanisms. It is clear that estradiol is a key player in synaptic transmission, plasticity, learning, and memory in the brain. It also reduces inflammation, as it does elsewhere.
Modern research is finding increasing evidence of hormonal effects on cognitive function (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31843506/, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33279507/). Elevated testosterone is more of a nudge, but gives a conditional kick in the butt. High estradiol, but within normal limits, is more useful for intelligence, reflection, memory, empathy, re-evaluation of situations, and to a lesser extent for determination (pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32723546/, pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34273676/).
An interesting study was done on 15 year old girls. They were shown positive, negative, and neutral pictures, an example of a negative — Some kind of spider on the shoulder.
So the researchers asked the participants to sort of rethink the picture, to suppress the negativity, like «So it’s just a spider, it’s no big deal». And most importantly — believe it! By the minute – It’s point cortical work. It turned out that in those who had it easier – The dorsolateral prefrontal cortex worked better and there was a direct correlation with estradiol blood levels (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6842698/). Maybe it’s a false correlation, but given that estradiol definitely changes behavior and in part nootropic, based on the effects on the brain, it is not surprising that it can seemingly activate certain areas of the cortex and help thinking.
Estradiol increases positive reinforcement (www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6374122/), which means it can increase the satisfaction even of a boring.
Influence of other hormones in males and females
Estradiol affects every hormone in the body, in both males and females. It influences the secretion of the pituitary hormones, growth hormone and prolactin. It affects the thyroid and adrenal glands. There are changes in the enzymes that are the products of gene activation. It can affect the secretion of insulin, which has a huge influence on diabetes. In females, it plays a significant role in weight gain. One of the main issues with the weight gain is that in many cases it affects metabolic disorders and diabetes. Estradiol regulates the sex hormones of the body, testosterone and progesterone, to increase their levels in females. It also affects many of the enzymes and hormones of the male body, such as androgens, the enzyme aromatase, TSH, and FSH. It increases the release of thyroxine from the thyroid, which will lead to an increased response to TSH in its actions on the hypothalamus. And it also increases the response of the thyroid to D2 receptors. It also affects the adrenal glands and increases the cortisol response (Woollett and Keverne, 2006).
In men, estradiol does not act as an androgen. It is a very potent inhibitor of sex hormone-binding globulin (SHBG), with an inhibition constant of 8.9×10−11M. This property makes estradiol the strongest endogenous competing inhibitor of SHBG among the estrogens. Hence the name “sex hormone-binding globulin”, because the hormone binds to this protein in blood and removes it from the circulation. This will allow estradiol to act directly in areas where estrogens are bound to albumin, such as the liver, fat, and breast tissue (Vermeulen, 2004).
There is also a specific difference in estrogen production between men and women. The key enzyme of the aromatase conversion of testosterone to estradiol is significantly more sensitive to androgens in males. Androgen binding to the androgen receptor enhances the activity of the aromatase enzyme. In fact, it is estimated that approximately 80% of testosterone is converted to estradiol in male bodies. The increase in estrogen production has been linked to several functions of the male body, like male-specific sexual orientation and the formation of muscle mass. We should be aware that estradiol produced in the male body influences all the estrogen receptors, and also all the androgen receptors, which is why it has been shown that estradiol is more potent than any other estrogen in the regulation of male sexual orientation and in the regulation of muscle mass. This is why it is thought that the use of AIs can be associated with a loss of muscle mass and muscle strength. The fact that the muscles will shrink means that the estrogen levels will increase and it will affect the expression of many genes in the muscle. This phenomenon is called muscle fiber hypertrophy (Tang et al., 2002). And, estradiol is also thought to play a key role in the regulation of muscle loss, such as weight loss (Tang et al., 2002). So the increase in estradiol may lead to weight gain and muscle loss.
— Estradiol is the smartest hormone, in addition to its other effects on sexuality, bone density, skin quality or cholesterol.
— It increases serotonin synthesis and improves brain function.
— For women, the best body condition is usually when estradiol is above the mid-range of normal. Basically the situation is the same as with testosterone in men. At any rate, low estradiol will lose out to higher estradiol in almost everything in the normal range. Of course, unless there are some cancers where estradiol needs to go down.
— For men, optimal estradiol levels are around 60-130 pmol/l (16-35 ng/l). And different sentimental effects would occur more likely at 140+ pmol/L.