When someone can’t wrap their heads around their emotions, they often blame their behaviors on hormones. But hormones are more than just that.
Hormones belong to the endocrine system, which is responsible for different bodily functions, such as metabolism, sleep cycles, skin health, growth and development, reproduction and mood. This system produces and distributes hormones, which serve as the body’s chemical messengers. There are many types of hormones, and each has a specific function in the body. Here are some of them:
Adrenaline – Adrenaline, which is produced by the adrenal glands, is considered a stress hormone. It is responsible for the "fight-or-flight" response of the body. It also increases blood flow, blood sugar levels, heart rate, and pupil dilation.
Estrogen – Estrogen is a sex hormone that contributes to libido or sex drive in both men and women. For women, estrogen levels must remain in the normal range to regulate menstruation and the female reproductive system.
Progesterone – Progesterone is another sex hormone produced by the ovaries. It is important for maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
Ghrelin – Ghrelin is an appetite-regulating hormone that is released when the stomach is empty. It stimulates feelings of hunger.
Leptin – Leptin is a hormone that controls your appetite. It sends signals to your brain when you’re full and should stop eating.
Growth hormone – Growth hormones are produced by the pituitary gland and promote growth and cell reproduction.
Insulin – The pancreas produces insulin. This hormone is responsible for controlling blood sugar.
Melatonin – Produced by the thalamus, melatonin is the hormone that controls your internal body clock. It is also directly related to your sleep patterns and cycles.
Testosterone – Testosterone is both a male and female sex hormone that influences libido, as well as motivation in general. It is also a key hormone in the growth and development of sex organs.
Your body can be greatly affected by even the smallest hormone imbalance. Hormone imbalances can be caused by various reasons, be it stress, hormonal birth control and other pharmaceutical drugs, eating disorders, cancer treatments, injury or trauma and more.
Hormone imbalances affect men and women differently. In men, it may cause depression, erectile dysfunction, fatigue, hair loss, low libido, memory loss, muscle mass loss and weight gain. In women, it may cause acne, breast tenderness, hair loss, increased hair growth on the face, back or chest, indigestion, irregular periods, night sweats and hot flashes, painful sex, skin darkening, skin tags, vaginal dryness and weight gain or weight loss.
Many conditions also arise due to hormone imbalance. These include polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), diabetes, Cushing’s syndrome, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism and ovarian cancer.
What you can do to keep your hormones balanced
A healthy diet and lifestyle can go a long way in helping keep your hormones in balance:
Eating more cruciferous vegetables – Cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower and kale, contain compounds that bind to excess estrogen in the gut and flush it out.
Consuming more healthy fats – Healthy fats help the body produce hormones that boost energy and feelings of satiety and suppress cravings.
Getting enough sleep – During sleep, the body releases, re-balances and replenishes hormones. For this reason, getting seven to nine hours of sleep each night is important.
Relaxing – Having too much cortisol and stress hormones can affect other hormones, which is why it is important to reduce stress. You can do this by practicing relaxation techniques and exercising.
Cutting back on stimulants – Caffeine is a stimulant that can interfere with the hormones that promote restorative sleep. Therefore, it is important to limit your caffeine intake.
Using natural beauty and skin care products – Many beauty and skin care products contain harmful chemicals, such as parabens, that are known to be hormone disruptors.