Hormones influence nearly every process that occurs in the human body, which is why we’re familiar with so many of them. Cortisol, melatonin, testosterone and estrogen all play essential roles in our day-to-day lives, just to name a few.
When it comes to addressing hormone imbalances in biological males, testosterone is often the first that comes to mind. However, while estrogen is widely considered to be a “female” sex hormone, our bodies aren’t that black and white. Estradiol – the most common form of estrogen – plays a crucial role in your body’s development and essential functions, regardless of biological sex.
“Men and women are a complex milieu of hormones,” says Notch Medical Advisor Dr. Chris Meletis, N.D. “Just like women need testosterone, men also need estradiol.”
There are three primary types of estrogen that can exist in the body: estradiol (E2), estriol (E3) and estrone (E1). Not only is estradiol the predominant form of estrogen in both males and females, but it also plays an essential role in cognitive function, sexual performance, reproductive development and more.
Like testosterone, estradiol is a sex steroid. Because estrogen receptors and aromatase— the enzyme that converts testosterone to estrogen — are prevalent in male reproductive organs, estradiol levels are directly linked to a sexual health and performance.
“The biggest misconception is that estrogen is restricted to females and not needed or desired in males,” says Meletis. “Estradiol plays a critical role in male sexual and reproductive function.”
However, it’s finding the proper balance between testosterone and estradiol that’s most important, he says. In addition to erectile dysfunction and reduced sex drive, imbalanced estradiol levels can lead to osteoporosis, prostate cancer and other serious medical issues with long-term implications.
So how do you know if your estradiol levels are within a healthy range? And how do you maintain this fine balance?
In addition to making sure you’re getting enough protein and vitamin D, Meletis says regular exercise and weight management are key.
“Over the course of time, testosterone gets cannibalized into fat tissues through the enzyme aromatase,” he says. “While estrogen is critical for your libido and sexual health, too much can also shut things down.”
Since there are many overlapping symptoms between hormone imbalances, Meletis says, getting a comprehensive hormone test is a great place to start.
“If you’re only looking at one or two hormones in isolation, you’re not getting the full picture,” he says. “Measuring estradiol, testosterone, cortisol and thyroid levels can really give you a snapshot of your overall health.”