The Basics about Hormones

Hormone photo

Hormones are chemical messengers that tell systems throughout the body what to do, how to do it, and when to do it. Hormones are comprised of various nutrients such as cholesterol, amino acids, or fats from the diet and are produced through the bodies endocrine glands. There are over 50 different hormones that help our bodies grow, develop, and metabolise; they also influence sexual function and reproduction, among other things. So what happens when there’s a fluctuation in hormone levels? Here’s a list of the 10 most recognized hormones and what they do.

 

1. Thyroid

The thyroid gland releases two hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). They are responsible for controlling metabolism, regulating weight, energy levels, internal body temperature, skin, and hair. When the thyroid is overactive, making too much of the hormones (hyperthyroidism), weight loss, heart problems, or brittle bones can occur. When the thyroid doesn’t produce enough hormones (hypothyroidism), weight gain, tiredness, and hair loss can occur. 

 

2. Insulin

This hormone is released by the pancreas, a gland located behind the stomach. It allows the body to use sugars from those carbs we love for energy or to store them for future use. It also helps regulate blood sugar levels, preventing them from getting too high (hyperglycemia) or  too low (hypoglycemia).

 

3. Estrogen

The ovaries release this female sex hormone. It’s responsible for reproduction, menstruation, and menopause. Excessive estrogen in women increases the risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, depression, and moodiness. Low levels of estrogen in women lead to acne, skin lesions, thinning skin, and hair loss.

 

4. Progesterone

Progesterone is produced in the ovaries, the placenta during pregnancy, and the adrenal glands. It’s important in preparing a woman’s body for conception, maintaining pregnancy, regulating the monthly cycle, and sexual desire. When progesterone levels drop, the menstrual cycle occurs.

 

5. Prolactin

Released by the pituitary gland, prolactin levels increase during pregnancy. After childbirth it enables women to breastfeed. It also plays an important role in fertility by inhibiting follicle stimulating hormone (FSH) and gonadotropin-releasing hormone (GnRH).

 

6. Testosterone

This male sex hormone is responsible for the development of male reproductive organs. Testosterone also plays a role in secondary sexual characteristics, like increasing muscle mass and bones, growth of body hair, sexual desire and performance.  Low levels of testosterone may lead to abnormalities such as frailty, bone loss, low energy, and sexual dysfunctions.

 

7. Serotonin

This is our mood-boosting, feel-good hormone. Serotonin is associated with learning and memory, regulating sleep, digestion, mood, and muscular functions. Low levels of serotonin cause depression, migraine, weight gain, insomnia, and sugar cravings. Excessive levels of serotonin cause agitation, confusion, and sedation.

 

8. Cortisol

Produced by the adrenal gland, cortisol controls physical and psychological stress. In a dangerous or fearful situation, it increases heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. During stressful times, cortisol aids in coping with the situation. Consistent high levels of cortisol cause ulcers, high blood pressure, anxiety, and high levels of cholesterol. Low levels of cortisol in the body cause chronic fatigue syndrome.

 

9. Adrenaline

Adrenaline is secreted in the adrenal gland as well as some of the central nervous system’s neurons. This is our emergency hormone, initiating the reaction to think and respond quickly under stress. It’s responsible for  increasing metabolic rate, dilation of blood vessels going to the heart and the brain, as well as assigning specific responses to each of our organs during stressful situations.

 

10. Growth Hormone

Growth hormone, or HGH, is a protein-based hormone produced in the pituitary gland. It is comprised of 190 amino acids. Its function is to stimulate growth, cell reproduction, cell regeneration, and boost metabolism. It is very important in human development.