Dr. Ananya Mandal defines hormones as, “chemical messengers that are secreted directly [from endocrine glands] into the blood, which carries them to organs and tissues of the body to exert their functions.”
What is the Endocrine System?
Watch this 5-minute video to help you better understand the endocrine system.
Your hormones need to stay at a balanced level in order for your body to run efficiently. If any hormone is significantly high or significantly low, it causes an imbalance, which can then lead to serious issues and conditions. If this is the case for you, visit your physician as soon as possible to get the right course of action. Here’s how to recognize the signs of the most common hormonal imbalances:
Hormonal Imbalance and Its Effects on The Body
Cortisol is a steroid hormone made in the cortex of the adrenal glands. They are released into the blood which transports it throughout the body. This helps regulate metabolism, acts as an anti-inflammatory, and influences blood pressure.
This hormone is also known as the stress hormone because it helps us deal with stress by shutting down unnecessary functions to allow the body to direct its energy in dealing with stress at hand. It’s supposed to be short-lived in order to deal with the stressor, however, if you’re suffering from constant stress, this could be a problem.
If you have too much Cortisol over a long period (ie. chronic stress), you could start to develop a condition called Cushing’s syndrome, the following are symptoms to look out for,
- Rapid weight gain in the face, chest, and abdomen, along with slender arms and legs
- A flushed face
- High blood pressure
- Muscle weakness
- Mood swings which show as anxiety and depression
- Frequently urinating
For more information about the cortisol hormone, click here.
The thyroid gland is usually small and resides in the front of your neck. Thyroid glands take iodine (found in many foods) and convert them into thyroid hormones. The point is to help control your metabolism. Thyroid hormones are regulated vital body functions such as breathing, heart rate, body weight, muscle strength, menstrual cycle, body temperature etc.
The following are symptoms for when your body is producing too much thyroid hormones aka hyperthyroidism:
- Sweating or high temperatures
- Hair loss
- Missed or light menstrual periods
The following are symptoms for when your body is producing too little thyroid hormones aka hypothyroidism:
- Trouble sleeping
- Tiredness and fatigue
- Dry skin or hair
- Sensitivity to cold temperature
- Heavy periods
- Joint and muscle pain
For more information about the thyroid hormone, click here.
Testosterone stimulates the development of male characteristics. This is present more so in men than women, as testosterone initiates the development of the male internal and external reproductive organs which is essential for the production of sperm.
If you have high levels of testosterone, usually more common with young children, you are more likely to have early signs of puberty. In women, high levels could be an indicator for polycystic ovary syndrome. Some symptoms include:
- Increase acne
- Body and facial hair
- Balding at the front of the hairline
- Increase muscle and bulk
For more information about testosterone, click here.
Estrogen is primarily produced in the ovaries, but it is also produced in the adrenal gland. It is important for sexual and reproductive development mainly in women. For young teenage boys, it’s common to have high levels of testosterone and lower levels of estrogen, but as they age the testosterone level decreases and the estrogen level increases.
For women, when you have too much estrogen in your body it can cause weight gain and menstrual changes and worsening PMS symptoms. You could also start to develop cysts in the breasts. When you have too little estrogen in your body you could notice an irregular menstruation or none at all. You may also experience symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes and low libido. You could also experience dry skin and mood swings.
For men, high levels of estrogen can lead to prostate cancer and heart disease. Some symptoms may include loss of muscle mass, fatigue, low libido, erectile dysfunction.
For more information about the estrogen hormone, click here.
Progesterone hormone is a steroid hormone. It plays an important role in the menstrual cycle and in maintaining the early stages of pregnancy for women. Basically, it prepares the endometrium (the tissue lining the inner cavity of the uterus) for the potential of pregnancy after ovulation.
Women with low levels of progesterone will have irregular menstrual cycles and/or struggle to conceive. Women with low levels of progesterone who succeed in getting pregnant have a higher risk of miscarriage or preterm delivery.
For men, progesterone increases levels of testosterone and enhances its effects, all while reducing estrogen. It helps with libido, improves your mood, regulates weight, provides you more energy etc.
Men with very high levels of progesterone could start to develop serious conditions such as heart disease.
For more information about progesterone, click here.
Leptin is released from the fat cells and helps regulate and alter long-term food intake. This hormone’s main purpose is to help the body maintain its weight. Leptin helps constrain hunger and regulate energy balance. Doctor and professor, Robert Lustig, says “leptin is the way your fat cells tell your brain that your energy thermostat is set right.”
Obese people have very high levels of leptin, but the brain isn’t getting the proper signal to stop eating, which is also known as leptin resistance. Therefore they continue to eat more; leptin levels keep going higher as people get fatter.
The main signs you’re leptin resistant include:
- being overweight and difficulty losing weight
- experiencing cravings regularly
Read this article for more information about leptin.
Insulin is released into the bloodstream by specialized cells called beta cells found in areas of the pancreas. It controls the body’s usage of carbohydrates and fat found in food. Insulin allows cells in our liver, muscles and fat to absorb sugar (glucose) from the bloodstream. Glucose can be converted into fat to provide energy when glucose levels are too low.
If your body is low on insulin or your cells resist the effects of insulin, you could develop high blood sugar, also known as hyperglycemia. This can cause long-term complications if the insulin levels stay low for a long period of time. This is commonly seen with people who have diabetes.
Signs of High Blood Sugar Include:
- extreme thirst
- blurry vision
- frequent urination
Signs of Low Blood Sugar Include:
- feeling clammy
- fast pulse
Read this article for more information about insulin.
There are many medications and drugs that can be taken to balance your hormones, always speak to your doctor first to figure out the best solution for you. that being said, there are many holistic ways that could help balance your hormones, these aren’t solutions, but rather aids. Read this article to find out more about holistic ways to help balance hormones.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment and is for information only. Always seek the advice of your physician or another qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition and/or current medication. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.
- Brady, B., MD. (n.d.). Thyroid Gland, How it Functions, Symptoms of Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid-nodules/thyroid-gland-controls-bodys-metabolism-how-it-works-symptoms-hyperthyroi
- Bennington, V. (n.d.). The Ups and Downs of Cortisol: What You Need to Know. Retrieved March 28, 2017, from https://breakingmuscle.com/learn/the-ups-and-downs-of-cortisol-what-you-need-to-know
- Estrogen Levels in Men. (n.d.). Retrieved March 28, 2017, from https://www.bodylogicmd.com/hormones-for-men/estrogen
- Hess-Fischl, A., MD. (n.d.). What is Insulin? Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/type-1-diabetes/what-insulin
- Kam, K. (n.d.). The Facts on Leptin: FAQ. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.webmd.com/diet/obesity/features/the-facts-on-leptin-faq#1
- Mandal, A., MD. (2013, December 02). What are Hormones? Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.news-medical.net/health/What-are-Hormones.aspx
- Sargis, R., MD,PhD. (n.d.). How Your Thyroid Works. Retrieved March 27, 2017, from https://www.endocrineweb.com/conditions/thyroid/how-your-thyroid-works
- What Is Estrogen & What Does It Do? (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/womens-health/what-is-estrogen
- What is Progesterone? What does it do? Learn on hormone.org! (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/what-do-hormones-do/progesterone
- You & Your Hormones. (n.d.). Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Cortisol.aspx
- You & Your Hormones. (2015, January 6). Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/testosterone.aspx
- You & Your Hormones. (2015, January 14). Retrieved March 27, 2017, from http://www.yourhormones.info/Hormones/Progesterone.aspx
- You & Your Hormones. (2015, February 19). Retrieved March 28, 2017, from http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/insulin.aspx
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