Important Hormones: Here’s What to Know and Why They Are Vital
By Kris Crews
Hormones are the regulators of the body. These tiny packages of chemicals travel through your bloodstream orchestrating the myriad of interactions that are constantly going on inside of you. There are more than fifty types of hormones coursing through your system right now controlling everything from your metabolism to your mood. There are five, however, that may be considered the most important hormones.
In this article, we focus on these five key hormones, what they do, and how to keep them in check.
Insulin is produced from the pancreas when we take in sugar (glucose). It has several functions, the main one being to regulate blood sugar levels. The carbs we eat are broken down by the body to produce glucose, which is the main energy source for the cells. Insulin allows the cells in our muscles, liver, and adipose tissue to take up and make use of this glucose.
Glucose that cannot be used by the cells is converted and stored as fat. This provides energy reserves to be used when glucose levels drop too low.
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Melatonin is produced by the pineal gland. It regulates your sleep cycle and controls your body clock. As night rolls around, the pineal gland increases its production of melatonin to prepare the body to go to sleep. That is why, when you interfere with the natural cycle of lightness and darkness by doing something like introducing computer screen light into the bedroom, you find it much harder to get to sleep.
You are probably familiar with cortisol as the stress hormone. When you are in a stressful situation, the body releases more cortisol, putting you on high alert.
Cortisol is produced in the adrenal glands and released into the bloodstream. It controls blood sugar and reduces inflammation. When we are stressed, the hypothalamus in the brain triggers the release of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which then activates the pituitary gland to secrete the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This, in turn, leads to the release of the three key stress hormones: cortisol, noradrenaline, and adrenaline.
Estrogen is the female sex hormone. It is produced in the ovaries of women and is a key part of the growth of female sex organs. It also controls womens’ periods and is important in the building of strong bones, as well as healthy skin and nails. In middle age, women’s estrogen release will fluctuate, resulting in hot flashes, weight gain, and other symptoms of menopause.
Dopamine and serotonin are neurotransmitters or chemical messengers by which nerves communicate with each other and other parts of the body. Dopamine promotes feelings of pleasure and satisfaction and helps with motivation. Serotonin also helps to promote a positive mood and improves sleep quantity and quality.
Hormonal Imbalance Symptoms
When your body produces either too much or too little of a certain hormone, you have a hormonal imbalance. Just like the ingredients in a recipe, small changes in hormonal release can have a big effect on how your body performs.
As we age, our production of some hormones, such as testosterone, naturally decreases. But other hormonal changes are an indication that things are not right. The following may be signs of hormonal imbalance:
- Weight gain
- Fat deposits between the shoulders
- Sudden weight loss
- Increasing sweating
- Increased urination
- Fluctuating heart rate
- Blurry vision
- Loss of hair
- Skin dryness
- Puffy cheeks
- Stretch marks on the skin
Male Specific Symptoms
- Development of breast tissue (gynecomastia)
- Erectile dysfunction
- Muscle tissue loss
- Inability to concentrate
- Decreased body hair growth
Female Specific Symptoms
- Heavy periods
- Missed periods
- Excessive hair growth
- Vaginal dryness
- Vaginal atrophy
- Night sweats
Self Treatment For Hormonal Imbalance
To regulate insulin release, take a couple of shot glasses of apple cider vinegar before your biggest meal of the day. Also, balance your carb intake with protein at every meal. Focus on eating low glycemic index carbs such as fruits and vegetables, beans, and rolled oats.
To prevent a melatonin imbalance, you need to avoid artificial light in your bedroom at night. That means not taking your technology (including your phone) to bed with you. Make the room as dark as possible, possibly covering light from getting in under doors with towels or sheets.
Foods that are high in melatonin include tart cherries, goji berries, eggs, milk, fish, and nuts. You may also consider taking a natural melatonin supplement to help you get to sleep.
In order to control cortisol levels, we need to reduce our stress levels. A proven strategy to reduce stress is deep breathing. It will help to calm you down and reduce your stress level. Breathe in for a four count, hold for a count of seven, then breathe out for a count of eight. Other stress-lowering techniques include mindful meditation, journaling, and yoga.
You can help to correct an estrogen imbalance by getting seven to eight hours of quality sleep each night, getting regular exercises (both strength and cardiovascular training), losing weight, eating healthy fats and fiber lean protein, and avoiding sugars.
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To boost the feel-good dopamine and serotonin hormones, you should exercise regularly, get a good night’s sleep, and establish a habit of down time, meditation, listening to music, and spending time outdoors under sunlight.
In terms of eating to promote your positive neurotransmitters, you should focus on eating protein. A certain amino acid called tyrosine plays a role in the production of dopamine. Tyrosine is plentiful in such foods as eggs, dairy, turkey, beef, legumes, and soy.
Reducing your saturated fat intake will also promote the production of dopamine and serotonin.
Go here for more on how to balance hormones.
Your hormones are like the orchestra conductor who ensures that all the instruments harmonize to create beautiful music. If you do your part to keep them operating at their peak, you’ll be rewarded with a body that works the way it was designed.
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