Today we are going to talk about hormones. The body is made up of many different hormones that are responsible for key functioning. Hormone levels change and develop over time as we age and grow. They help regulate your body’s processes, like hunger, blood pressure, and sexual desire. When you hear the word ‘hormone’, you might just think of women’s health, but that is a common misconception. Some hormones may be specific to women and others to men but an imbalance or deficiency will have health consequences for both.
Hormones are messengers that travel throughout the body coordinating complex processes like growth, metabolism, and fertility. They can influence the function of the immune system, and even alter behavior. Before birth, they guide the development of the brain and reproductive system. That being said, our hormones are essential to reproduction, and they are fundamental to all the systems of your body. Here are some facts you should know about abnormal hormone levels and what you can do to address them.
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1. What are hormones?
So what are hormones? A hormone is a chemical that is made by specialist cells and it is released into the bloodstream to send a message to another part of the body. It is often referred to as a ‘chemical messenger’. As mentioned, hormone levels change and develop over time as you grow and age.
The body secretes and circulates about 50 different hormones. A wide variety of these chemical substances are produced by endocrine cells, most of which are in glands. They then enter the blood system to circulate throughout the body and activate target cells to distant organs to which the body effectively counters whatever challenges occur. Hormones have diverse chemical structures, mainly of three classes:
Hormones serve to communicate between organs and tissues for physiological regulation and behavioral activities. Hormones are best known for regulating reproductive systems in both males and females. But maintaining hormones can have major effects on your body such as digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function and many other system issues. When a hormone binds to the receptor, it results in the activation of a signal pathway that typically activates gene transcription, resulting in increased expression of target proteins.
While these physical components affect our lives, hormones are also a big contributor to maintaining mental health as well. Balance in hormones affects a person’s ability to sleep. If a human does not sleep well, it affects every other facet of their lives. Additionally, hormones can control stress induction, growth and development, movement and mood function.
This delicate balance affects both women and men. Hormonal imbalances occur when there is too much or too little of a hormone in the bloodstream. Because of their essential role in the body, even small hormonal imbalances can cause side effects throughout the body. Men and women alike can be affected by imbalances in insulin, steroids, growth hormones, and adrenaline. While Women may also experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels.
Men are more likely to experience imbalances in testosterone levels. Common causes of hormonal imbalances are, stress, medical conditions that affect your endocrine system, diabetes, obesity, poor nutrition, thyroid issues, chemotherapy, radiation therapy, adrenal disorders and many more. If you are experiencing symptoms of hormone imbalances, the best course of action is to speak with your healthcare provider and allow them to run tests to verify.
Women naturally experience hormonal imbalance throughout their lifetime, including during puberty, menstruation, pregnancy, childbirth, and breast-feeding, perimenopause, menopause, and postmenopause. Women are also at risk of developing different types of hormonal imbalance disorders than men because they have different endocrine organs and cycles.
Medical conditions causing irregular hormonal imbalances in women include polycystic ovary syndrome, hormone replacement or birth control medications, early menopause, primary ovarian insufficiency, and ovarian cancer. If you suspect you may be suffering from these issues, please consult your healthcare provider.
Hormones play an integral role in metabolism and your body’s ability to use energy. During menopause, many women gain weight because the metabolism slows down. You may find that even though you’re eating and exercising like normal, you still gain weight. Weight gain can be caused by estrogen dominance or by low progesterone. Progesterone encourages weight gain since it supports thyroid while increasing body temperature and metabolism.
Hormones such as testosterone and DHEA build muscle and break down fat. One reason why people might gain weight around menopause is changing hormone levels. Hormone help to regulate metabolism and body weight. Lower levels of estradiol may lead to weight gain. Throughout their life, women may notice weight gain around their hips and thighs.
An irregular menstrual cycle is often due to a lack of or imbalance in certain hormones in the body. A hormone medication called progestin can also help trigger periods in women who don’t get them. If you have irregular periods and are trying to get pregnant, your doctor may prescribe other hormone treatments.
If a hormone imbalance occurs, estrogen and progesterone levels can cause a buildup of the uterine lining. This added buildup will be shed during menstruation, causing a heavier flow. While fibroids are often non-cancerous, they can result in painful and uncomfortable symptoms including heavy and prolonged periods aswell.
Hormone decline is now being recognized as a leading cause of bone loss. Hormones play a role in regulating your bone density, including parathyroid hormone and growth hormone. They help orchestrate how well your bones use calcium and when to build up and break down bone structure. In addition to estrogen, calcium metabolism plays a significant role in bone turnover, and deficiency of calcium and vitamin D leads to impaired bone deposition.
Treating osteoporosis means stopping bone loss and rebuilding bone to prevent breaks. Healthy lifestyle choices such as proper diet, exercise, and medications can help prevent further bone loss and reduce the risk of fractures. There is more and more clinical evidence showing that bioidentical hormone therapy along with strontium supplementation is an effective way to fight the risk of fracture and actually build bone density, thus effectively reversing osteoporosis.
Hot flashes may be caused by hot weather, smoking, caffeine, spicy foods, alcohol, tight clothing, heat, and stress. Identify and avoid your hot flash “triggers.” Some women notice hot flashes when they eat a lot of sugar.
Hot-flashes and night sweats can be caused by your hormones as well. Specifically, changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can contribute to PMS symptoms, including hot flashes and night sweats. As progesterone levels increase, estrogen levels decrease. This drop can affect the part of your brain that controls internal temperature.
Vaginal dryness is most often caused by a decrease in estrogen levels. Estrogen is a hormone that helps keep the tissues of your vagina lubricated and healthy. Many factors can cause a drop in estrogen levels, for example, menopause or perimenopause. Estrogen is a female hormone, and it helps keep vaginal tissue healthy by maintaining normal vaginal lubrication, tissue elasticity, and acidity.
Other causes of vaginal dryness include certain medical conditions or hygiene practices. The most common treatment for vaginal dryness due to low estrogen levels is topical estrogen therapy. These replace some of the hormones your body is no longer making. That helps relieve vaginal symptoms, but it doesn’t put as much estrogen in your bloodstream as the hormone therapy you take in pills.
Fatigue is a common symptom that may have many potential underlying causes. Just as too little progesterone can make it hard to sleep, too much progesterone can make you more tired. Another common hormonal imbalance that causes fatigue is low thyroid hormone levels. Not only can hormone production affect fatigue and energy levels throughout the day, but the quality of your sleep also determines how well hormones are produced during the night.
They could be making you more tired than usual, and how to improve your body’s production of them. Hormone levels also influence the timing of when we feel sleepy and awake, our sleep-wake cycle. The hormone melatonin is released with darkness and tells our body it’s time to sleep.
The Concept of emotions like joy, sorrow, love, hope, anger, excitement, are all experienced through Neurotransmitters and hormones such as serotonin, dopamine, GABA, cortisol, noradrenaline, and oxytocin often affect emotion. Mood swings involve a sudden, unexplained change in mood. You might wake up in a great mood but find yourself becoming angry and irritable an hour or two later for no reason. Estrogen may play a role in PMS-related mood swings, but other hormones can affect mood, too.
Hypothyroidism, a condition in which the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough hormones, is a common hormone disorder. It can affect mood and cause other symptoms. In 1995, a proposed idea about rage was that it occurred when to when various hormones are rapidly released from the brain. Irritability is a common emotion. Many factors can cause or contribute to irritability, including life stress, a lack of sleep, low blood sugar levels, and hormonal changes.
Hormonal changes can wreak havoc on sleep. In turn, sleep deprivation can affect hormone levels in a sleepless vicious cycle. When hormone levels spike or drop, such as during the menstrual cycle, during and after pregnancy, and especially around menopause, women may be more vulnerable to sleep problems. During the course of perimenopause through menopause, a woman’s ovaries gradually decrease the production of estrogen and progesterone, a sleep-promoting hormone.
The shifting of ratios of hormones can be an unsettling process, sometimes contributing to the inability to fall asleep. It’s important to emphasize that insomnia can result from hormonal problems in both men and women. Disorders of thyroid hormone, testosterone, cortisol, and growth hormone can all cause sleep disorders.
Sometimes hormonal changes can cause a slowing of the heart and heart blockages that can cause symptoms, including dizziness,”. More commonly, the change in hormones causes faster heart rates. It can also be brought on by high blood pressure, which is more common after menopause. Many times, fluctuating hormone levels account for most episodes of premenstrual breast swelling and tenderness. Your hormones rise and fall during a normal menstrual cycle. Estrogen causes the breast ducts to enlarge. Progesterone production causes the milk glands to swell.
Interestingly enough, female hormones may block pain. One of the reasons women can tolerate the pain of childbirth is that estrogen levels soar before they deliver. According to the new research, this hormone activity increases the number of receptor sites in the brain where such natural pain-relieving chemicals as endorphins can “dock” pain.
Problems with indigestion can also arise as a result of hormonal imbalance. When you go through perimenopause or menopause, the level of estrogen in your body declines. This means the levels of cortisol are out of balance. When estrogen levels are high, cortisol is low. That’s how blood sugar and blood pressure are kept in check. When estrogen levels are low, adrenaline can be “triggered” more easily. You may build up more gas, bloat more easily and become constipated.
Bloating may occur more frequently in perimenopause than during menopause or postmenopause. During perimenopause, your hormones are changing rapidly. Estrogen causes your body to retain water, which can lead to bloating. Bloating isn’t the only symptom experienced by women going through perimenopause and menopause.
For some women, the fluctuation of hormones estrogen and progesterone can cause abdominal bloating and gas before and during their periods. These higher estrogen levels can cause flatulence and constipation. Some women experience diarrhea during your period, the exact reasons why aren’t fully understood, but it is quite common and often tied to menstrual cramps.
Believed to be at the root of the cause are prostaglandins, chemicals released during your period that allow the uterus, and thus the intestines, to contract. Menopause can also cause changes in bowel routine can begin even before menopause, during perimenopause. Estrogen is responsible for many things including keeping cortisol levels low. Cortisol is a hormone associated with stress. Stool also tends to be dryer when estrogen and progesterone levels are low.
During puberty, our bodies produce an excess of the male androgens hormone which stimulates the production of sebum in the sebaceous glands and the overproduction of sebum is one of the symptoms that can lead to acne. The hormone, progesterone, plays a role in premenstrual acne. Progesterone levels rise during the second half of your cycle. It can make your skin more oily and cause pores to swell shut, trapping dirt and oil.
How do you know if your acne is hormonal? Your pimples pop up around your chin and jawline. One of the telltale signs of a hormonal breakout is its location on the face. If you’re noticing inflamed cysts around your lower face, around your chin and jawline it’s probably hormonal acne.
Men also experience natural periods of hormonal imbalance during their lifetime. While Women may experience imbalances in estrogen and progesterone levels. Men are more likely to experience imbalances in testosterone levels. The natural causes of hormonal imbalances in men are during puberty and aging. Men are also at risk of developing different hormonal imbalances than women because they have different endocrine organs and cycles. Medical conditions causing hormonal imbalances in men include prostate cancer and hypogonadism (low testosterone).
Aging changes in the male reproductive system occur primarily in the testes. Testicular tissue mass decreases. The level of the male sex hormone, testosterone decreases gradually. The testes continue to produce sperm, but the rate of sperm cell production slows. The same group of symptoms is also known as testosterone deficiency, androgen deficiency, and late-onset hypogonadism. Male menopause involves a drop in testosterone production in men who are age 50 or older.
A significant drop in testosterone levels can result in a reduced sex drive, increased body fat, decreased motivation, and sleep problems like insomnia. These symptoms can add up to chronic low energy, and mental and physical fatigue. Low levels of cortisol will eventually lead to fatigue in men.
It is vital to maintain the balance of hormones in your body and low amounts of this important hormone contribute to fatigue. Fatigue is one of the most common symptoms of a hormone imbalance. If your thyroid makes too little thyroid hormone, it can also sap your energy.
For men, insomnia resulting from low testosterone and sleep apnea can lead to several other problems, including fatigue, reduced insulin sensitivity, low human growth hormone levels, and high cortisol levels. Cortisol, the stress hormone, will increase with prolonged insomnia because of the stress on the body.
When men are under stress for prolonged periods of time, their adrenal glands will produce excess cortisol. Eventually, the adrenal glands can become worn out, and will no longer produce the small amounts of cortisol needed to get through the day. This is a condition known as adrenal fatigue, and insomnia is just one of its many negative consequences.
Low testosterone can cause low energy and fatigue, meaning less physical activity and weight gain in men. Thyroid disorders, particularly hypothyroidism, and low levels of the human growth hormone (HGH) often cause weight gain by way of decreasing the body’s metabolic rate. Hormones like leptin, insulin, estrogens, androgens and growth hormone influence our appetite, metabolism and body fat distribution.
People who are obese have hormone levels that encourage the accumulation of body fat. Low testosterone causes increases in body fat, especially in the midsection. However, it turns out that not only does low testosterone seem to cause weight gain in men, the reverse also seems to be true. Obesity is one of the risk factors for low levels of testosterone.
Trouble thinking clearly, often called “brain fog,” is a very common symptom of hormone imbalance. Since testosterone is responsible for focus, if the hormone is low, you can experience brain fog, have trouble concentrating and even have memory problems. Instead of feeling sharp, you feel like you’re walking through jello.
You lose concentration, and the world seems like it’s moving faster than you can keep up with. If you’ve experienced an instance like this, you might be dealing with brain fog. Put simply, brain fog is a term to describe mental fatigue. Brain fog and the experience of brain fog can be incredibly variable amongst different people, it can last 5 minutes or 5 decades. While it is incredibly frustrating, it is often a symptom of something bigger.
Testosterone is the hormone most responsible for sex drives and high libidos in men. A decrease in testosterone can mean a decrease in libido. One of the biggest worries faced by men with declining testosterone levels is the chance that their sexual desire and performance will be affected.
As men age, they can experience a number of symptoms related to sexual function that may be a result of lowered levels of this hormone. Erectile dysfunction (ED) is not commonly caused by low testosterone production. In cases where ED accompanies lower testosterone production, hormone replacement therapy may help your ED. These side effects typically don’t happen suddenly. If they do, lower testosterone levels may not be the only cause.
Age-related muscle mass loss is a natural aging condition called Sarcopenia. From the tender age of 30, men can lose anywhere between 3 percent to 5 percent of their muscle mass every decade. This decrease in muscle leads to a reduction in a person’s strength. As a result, their balance and gait are also affected. Typically, levels of testosterone and insulin-like growth factor affect muscle growth and muscle mass. The decline in hormone levels may be a contributing factor to the loss of muscle mass.
The medical conditions that cause excess testosterone are rare. Anabolic steroids, which are sometimes abused by athletes and bodybuilders, are synthetic versions of the male hormone testosterone. They can cause behavior and mood changes that include rage, paranoia, irritability, and poor judgment.
Depression and anxiety in men are more likely to occur when hormone levels are imbalanced. Hormones may both contribute to as well as cause depression. Higher testosterone levels decrease the risk of depression and anxiety. Taking testosterone (testosterone therapy) if your levels are low can often improve depression. Too little testosterone has been linked with increased anxiety, while female sex hormones such as estrogen may also be linked to irritability and anxiety symptoms in both men and women.
The combined effect of increased cortisol and lowered testosterone means you feel more anxious. Higher testosterone levels decrease the rate of anxiety. Taking testosterone if your levels are low can often improve anxiety aswell. This has led to the theory that stress may cause infertility and loss of libido in men by inhibiting testosterone. A study published in The Journal of Physiology found that high levels of stress result in high cortisol, low testosterone, and increased anxiety behavior.
Bloating, fatigue, irritability, hair loss, palpitations, mood swings, problems with blood sugar, trouble concentrating, infertility, these are just a few symptoms of hormone imbalance. Hormones affect every cell and system in the body. Hormone imbalance can debilitate you. Forty-three percent of the general population say hormones have negatively affected their overall health. Maintaining balanced hormones is complex, as many different factors can contribute to hormonal ups and downs, especially in women.
Throughout the various different stages of life, from puberty to pregnancy to menopause, hormones are naturally in flux. For many of the years in between, hormones may flux and become imbalanced. As a result of lifestyle and environmental factors, such as high levels of stress, poor sleep, and an unhealthy diet full of fat and sugar. Here are a few tips to help you find a balance to this fundamental process within your body. This will help you to sleep better, feel better, and relax better. So you can enjoy your life!
Consuming an adequate amount of protein is extremely important. To optimize hormone health, experts recommend consuming a minimum of 20–30 grams of protein per meal. This is easy to do by including a serving of these high-protein foods at each meal. Consuming adequate protein triggers the production of hormones that suppress appetite and help you feel full.
Eating enough protein can help maintain healthy levels and aid in fat loss, which is also associated with your estrogen and testosterone levels. Carb intake also plays a role, with research showing carbs can help optimize testosterone levels during resistance training.
The more intense a workout, the more these hormones are released. Being consistent is also a key to retaining a steady flow of healthy hormones throughout your body. Some of the hormones in your body most affected by exercise are insulin, glucagon, cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine, testosterone and many others.
Physical activity can strongly influence hormonal health. A major benefit of exercise is its ability to reduce insulin levels and increase insulin sensitivity. Insulin is a hormone that has several functions. Recommendations for the best hormone workouts are a combination of strength training and cardio workouts to maximize health benefits and boost hormone levels. High-intensity exercises like squats, lunges, pull-ups, crunches, and pushups are ideal, with minimal rest time in between.
Insulin is highly affected by diet because of the many different signals going on throughout the body as a result of the glucose, and resulting energy, that is produced from carbohydrate intake. Once insulin resistance develops, the muscles, fat, and liver cells don’t respond to it properly, leading to a chain reaction in the body. Over time, insulin resistance can lead to serious conditions like diabetes, obesity, high cholesterol, heart disease, and even stroke.
A diet high in sugar can have significant effects on the reproductive hormones Sugar is intrinsically linked to estrogen, a hormone responsible for many processes in the body. Estrogen has many beneficial effects, including regulating the reproductive system as well as helping optimize the action of insulin, the hormone that prevents high blood sugar levels.
Adrenaline increases your heart rate, elevates your blood pressure and boosts energy supplies. Cortisol, the primary stress hormone, increases sugars in the bloodstream, enhances your brain’s use of glucose and increases the availability of substances that repair tissues. There are also many ways to help reduce stress.
Keeping a positive attitude and accepting that there are events out of your control can help you cope with every day stresses. Be assertive instead of aggressive, especially in work environments. During your day or work day, learn how to also practice relaxation techniques. This could include meditation, yoga, or qi gong. This will also be a good gateway into another area that will help reduce stress: exercising regularly. This can help your body and mind cope with stressors as well as maintaining a healthy, well-balance diet.
A nutritious eating plan doesn’t mean cutting out all fat, just focusing on healthier varieties. Not sure how to get started? Begin by making small changes. A general goal is for 20 percent to 35 percent of your total daily calories to come from healthy fats and fewer than 10 percent of calories per day from saturated fats.
These high-fat foods that are incredibly healthy: Avocados, cheese, dark chocolate, whole eggs, fatty fish, nuts, flax seeds, chia seeds, extra virgin olive oil. Omega-3 fats are a type of fatty acid that may offer health benefits, such as promoting normal functions of the brain and nervous system, lowering cholesterol, protecting against dry eye disease and reducing inflammation in the body.
Our eating behavior and patterns are highly affected by our hormones and our gut health. Let’s explore how hormones affect our eating habits. The brain stem sends neural signals to our gut. These neural and endocrine signals are believed to have an important role in short term regulation of our appetite. The so-called “hunger hormones,” leptin and ghrelin. Which are made by fat cells, that decrease and increase your appetite and also play a role in body weight.
Progesterone increases your metabolism, causing your body temperature to rise, increasing your appetite and energy levels. An average woman needs to eat about 2000 calories per day to maintain, and 1500 calories to lose one pound of weight per week. An average man needs 2500 calories to maintain, and 2000 to lose one pound of weight per week. However, this depends on numerous factors.
Green tea’s estrogen reduction activity may result from tea polyphenols inhibiting aromatase, the key enzyme converting androgens to estrone or estradiol. You probably already know some of the numerous health benefits of green tea. Studies suggest that it boosts metabolism. Green tea also contains theanine, a compound that reduces the release of cortisol (a stress hormone).
It also has antioxidants that reduce inflammation and lower the risk of disease. Amazingly, postmenopausal women who drank green tea daily had 20% less urinary estrone and 40% less urinary estradiol levels (meaning these women metabolized estrogen better). It was found that black tea did not produce the same results as green tea, and interestingly, caffeine consumption did not change the results.
Fatty fish have high amounts of Omega 3 fatty acids which are a good source of lignans, the compounds that may have a weak estrogen effect. When a weak estrogen-like substance takes the place of your body’s natural strong estrogen in a breast cell’s estrogen receptor, then the weak substance can act as a relative anti-estrogen.
Omega-3 fatty acids are constituents of the membranes of all cells in the body and are precursors of locally produced hormones which are important in the prevention and treatment of various diseases, especially in women, but men as well. Fish oil may prevent seizures by boosting brain estrogen levels. What is more, researchers found that the compound, called DHA led to an increase in estrogen in the brains of the mice, suggesting that DHA and estrogen work together to suppress seizures.
Sleep is an important factor for hormonal balance. Sleep is a time when several of the body’s hormones are released into the bloodstream. These include growth hormone, which is essential for growth and tissue repair, including in adults. Sleep helps to balance our appetite by maintaining optimal levels of the hormones ghrelin and leptin. Avoid caffeine-containing foods like coffee, black tea, and chocolate at least 3-4 hours before sleep.
Eat a lighter dinner that’s high in healthy carbs from foods like sweet potatoes, vegetables, whole grains, along with some lean protein. Try a low dose of melatonin. The hormone melatonin is naturally released within the body with darkness and tells our body it’s time to sleep. This is why being around too much bright light before bed can affect our sleep as it can stop the release of melatonin.
Too much light, right before bedtime may prevent you from getting a good night’s sleep. Regulating exposure to light is an effective way to keep circadian rhythms in check. During the day, find time for sunlight, or purchase a light-box or light visor to supplement your exposure to light. In fact, one study recently found that exposure to unnatural light cycles may have real consequences for our health including increased risk for depression.
The sleep hormone melatonin works together with your body’s circadian rhythm. Melatonin also helps regulate your body temperature, blood pressure, and hormone levels. Melatonin levels start to rise in your body when it is dark outside, signaling to your body that it is time to sleep
A new study of women ages 18 to 44 found that drinking coffee and other caffeinated beverages can alter levels of estrogen. In white women, for example, coffee appears to lower estrogen, while in Asian women it has the reverse effect, raising levels of the hormone. Studies have shown that caffeine increases cortisol and epinephrine at rest and that levels of cortisol after caffeine consumption are similar to those experienced during acute stress. Other hormonal effects of caffeine appear to be related to competitive actions for metabolism in the liver.
Caffeine is able to enter the brain and directly increase blood pressure and stimulate the release of stress hormones. These hormones are known to affect insulin and blood sugar in the body. So the researchers investigated whether caffeine has any harmful effects on blood sugar metabolism. Caffeine intake and PMS may be associated anecdotally and statistically, as fatigue and depression are common symptoms of PMS. People who experience fatigue may try to treat this symptom with increased caffeine consumption, which may not lead to the desired effect.
In order to keep our hormones healthy and balanced, it sometimes feels like a balancing act but it’s well worth it! Hormone levels change and develop over time as you grow and age. Just look at all of the many benefits of having balanced hormones and the risks of having a hormonal imbalance. Remember these steps to more balanced hormones:
Eat enough protein at every meal
Engage in regular exercise
Avoid sugar and refined carbs
Learn to manage stress
Consume healthy fats
Avoid overeating and undereating
Drink green tea
Eat fatty fish often
Get enough Sleep
Avoid to much light at night
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