Estrogen is produced in the ovaries, adrenal glands and fat tissues, and in the placenta during pregnancy, while testosterone is produced in the testicles and the adrenal glands. While both sexes produce both hormones, men normally have much more testosterone than women, and women normally have several times the amount of estrogen that men have.
In both sexes, an imbalance in the proper levels of these hormones can seriously affect health and appearance, and if the proper levels are reversed – so that a woman has more testosterone than estrogen, or a man has more estrogen than testosterone – the individual will take on some of the physical characteristics of the opposite sex.
Women whose bodies produce too little estrogen frequently experience symptoms of menopause, even if they are too young to really be going through it. These symptoms include hot flashes, mood swings, and brittle bones. The menstrual cycle might become irregular or completely stop, vaginal lubrication will be reduced, and reproduction will become difficult or impossible.
If a woman’s estrogen levels are too high, she will likely gain weight or have difficulty losing it. Fat will increase especially around the abdomen and hips.
Women whose testosterone levels are too high may take on several “male” characteristics (“virilization”). The voice may become lower; breasts may become smaller; they may experience male-pattern hair loss and simultaneously an increase in body hair. Acne and menstrual problems are also common.
Low testosterone in women is associated with fatigue, weight gain, loss of sex drive, mood swings and hair loss.
Men’s responses to estrogen levels are similar to women’s. Too much estrogen causes weight gain in the chest, abdomen, and hips, causing men to take on a “womanly” figure. Some men will develop breasts too, a condition called gynecomastia. They will experience mood swings and a decrease in their sex drive, and their muscle strength and energy levels will go down.
Depression and brittle bones are common symptoms among men who produce insufficient quantities of estrogen.
Low testosterone levels also reduce men’s sex drive and may cause sexual and erectile dysfunction, low semen volume, fatigue and physical weakness, hair loss, an increase in body fat and a decrease in bone mass.
There are few proven problems associated with excessively high testosterone levels in men, and the condition is uncommon.
The longer someone waits to treat a hormonal imbalance, the harder it is to correct. It can cause lasting damage to a person’s body, permanently impairing the ability to reproduce. The immune system can be affected, and relationships may suffer from the lack of sex drive in either sex.
If you experience the symptoms described above, you should be tested for hormonal imbalance. Effective therapies exist to supplement levels that are too low and to reduce levels that are too high. The goal of such therapy is to bring hormone levels back to their normal level for your age and physique.