we keep hearing about “Hormones”. if we are moody we blame our hormones. if we are sluggish we blame our hormones. and these days I see more and more people blaming hormones for their weight issues. So what are hormones and how would we know if they are really to blame, and how can we control them?
What are hormones and what do they do?
Hormones are special chemical messengers in the body that are created in the endocrine glands. These messengers control most major bodily functions, from simple basic needs like hunger to complex systems like reproduction, and even the emotions and mood.
Hormones are created by glands, which are part of the endocrine system. The main hormone-producing glands are:
- Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is responsible for body temperature, hunger, moods and the release of hormones from other glands; and also controls thirst, sleep and sex drive.
- Parathyroid: This gland controls the amount of calcium in the body.
- Thymus: This gland plays a role in the function of the adaptive immune system and the maturity of the thymus, and produces T-cells.
- Pancreas: This gland produces the insulin that helps control blood sugar levels.
- Thyroid: The thyroid produces hormones associated with calorie burning and heart rate.
- Adrenal: Adrenal glands produce the hormones that control sex drive and cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Pituitary: Considered the “master control gland,” the pituitary gland controls other glands and makes the hormones that trigger growth.
- Pineal: Also called the thalamus, this gland produces serotonin derivatives of melatonin, which affects sleep.
- Ovaries: Only in women, the ovaries secrete estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, the female sex hormones.
- Testes: Only in men, the testes produce the male sex hormone, testosterone, and produce sperm.
These glands together create and manage major hormones in our body. some of the major hormones are:
Estrogen (or estradiol) is the main sex hormone in females. It causes puberty, prepares the body and uterus for pregnancy, and regulates the menstrual cycle. During menopause, estrogen level changes cause many of the uncomfortable symptoms women experience.
Progesterone (females) is similar to estrogen but is not considered the main sex hormone. Like estrogen, it assists with the menstrual cycle and plays a role in pregnancy.
Cortisol has been called the “stress hormone” because of the way it assists the body in responding to stress. This is just one of several functions of this important hormone.
Melatonin levels change throughout the day, increasing after dark to trigger the responses that cause sleep.
Testosterone is the main sex hormone in men. It causes puberty, increases bone density, triggers facial hair growth, and causes muscle mass growth and strength.
growth hormone is responsible for your proper growth and development.
Insulin increases the cells permeability to glucose, which the cells use for energy. By promoting the utilisation of glucose by the tissue cells, insulin causes a decrease in the concentration of glucose in the blood. Insulin also promotes the storage of glycogen in the liver.
Glucocorticoids are produced by the middle cortex. These affect almost every cell in the body regulating the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates. Cortisone is one such glucocorticoid.
Thyroxine contains iodine which is essential for the body’s normal growth, and metabolism. Thyroxine helps control body size, regulating not only the growth of tissues but also the differentiation or specialisation of tissues.
Triiodothyronine has similar functions to thyroxine.
As we can see hormones have a wide range of responsibility in our body. When just one of these hormones is even slightly imbalanced, it can lead to widespread health problems that affect your growth, sexual development and function, sleep, metabolism and hunger. (1)
How do we know if our hormones are out of balance?
Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalances:
- Infertility and irregular periods
- Weight gain or weight loss (that’s unexplained and not due to intentional changes in your diet)
- Depression and anxiety
- Low libido
- Changes in appetite
- Digestive issues
- Hair loss and hair thinning
How to naturally balance our hormones?
1. stay away from refined carbs and add more healthy fats to your diet:
If have been following me closely, you will see that the solution to most of our problems is to stay away from refined carbohydrates.
Fats are fundamental building blocks for hormone production. for example, You need fats because they regulate the production of sex hormones.
some of the good sources of healthy fats include: coconut oil, avocados or avocado oil, grass fed butter, and wild caught salmon.
please note you need to stay away from oils high in Omega-6 fats like Safflower, sunflower, corn, cottonseed, canola, soybean and peanut. these oils cause inflammation in your body, which can disrupt your hormones and cause other health issues. to learn more about choosing the best edible oils and the importance of Omega 6 to Omega 3 balance in our diet, please visit the article on “Choosing the best edible oils“.
2. Try to reduce stress and emotional imbalances
Traditional Chinese Medicine practitioners believe that the emotions of fear cause disease in your reproductive organs, kidneys and adrenals, affecting cortisol levels. This can lead to serious conditions like PCOS and infertility. The emotions of frustration, impatience and un-forgiveness cause disease in your liver, which can lead to an estrogen imbalance. And emotions of worry and anxiety can cause issues with your insulin levels, which can then affect several hormones. (2)
Baha’u’llah the founder of Baha’i faith in his Tablet toa physician states that:
” …..Jealousy consumeth the body and anger doth burn the liver: avoid these two as you would a lion…..”
Bahá’u’lláh, The Compilation of Compilations vol. I, p. 460
Some of the ways that you might be able to reduce stress is via prayers, reflection on your day, meditation, deep breathing exercises, going for a walk, spending more time in nature, listening to uplifting music, taking some time for yourself and do what you enjoy doing.
3. Be aware of medications and birth control
Make sure you know the side effects of all the medications that you use. Specially if you are using birth control, because they have a direct effect on your hormones.
4. Get more sleep
Another important factor that most of us miss, when it comes to our health. To learn more about sleep and how it effects you health, please visit my article about sleep.
Hormones control many of our body functions and play an important role in our health. We can keep our hormones in balance by following healthy lifestyle such as reducing stress eating healthy foods and sleeping.
Stay Happy and Healthy