What are Hormones and what do they do?

Hormones are chemicals in our bodies that help control and regulate the activity that happens within our tissues and organs. Hormones have an impact on so many things including appetite, weight, sexual desire, blood pressure, growth, mood, brain function, skin health, energy, stress, and too many more to list.

Hormones are produced in endocrine glands throughout our bodies. Some of the more well-known endocrine glands are the pituitary gland and hypothalamus in the brain, the thyroid gland in the neck, the adrenal glands on top of the kidneys, and of course the ovaries.

Hormone imbalances, when there is too little or too much of a certain hormone, can cause effects throughout the body.

Signs of a hormone imbalance could include:

  • weight gain, difficulty losing weight, excess belly fat
  • fatigue, difficulty concentrating
  • mood swings, anxiety, depression
  • problems sleeping
  • headaches
  • muscle weakness or aches, joint pain
  • hot flashes
  • decreased sex drive, vaginal dryness, pain with sex
  • hair loss or hair growth in undesirable places such as the chin
  • skin changes like acne on face, chest, upper back
  • irregular periods, missed or heavy periods

What do hormones do?

Estrogen – the female sex hormone, is produced by the ovaries. Estrogen plays a role in many things including the development of breasts and other female sex characteristics, regulating menstrual cycles, and sex drive. It also effects many other body functions like hair growth, skin health, blood clotting, bone formation and strength, weight, and mood.

Progesterone – also produced by the ovaries, important in regulating menstrual cycles, balancing the other hormones, enhancing libido, helping to regulate metabolic function, brain and thyroid function, and mood. Progesterone also lowers the risk of high blood pressure, breast cancer, and high cholesterol. 

DHEA – the most abundant hormone found in humans. DHEA plays a role in producing other hormones and steroids, our immune system, aging, bone density, sex drive, and weight loss.

Testosterone – in women, testosterone is present in much lower levels than in men but plays an important role in breast and vaginal health, emotional well-being, maintaining muscle mass and decreasing body fat, memory function, bone density, skin health, menstrual cycles, and sex drive.

Thyroid hormones – help to regulate metabolism, weight, body temperature, energy, skin and hair health.

Cortisol – stress hormone, produced in the adrenal glands, responsible for what we often refer to as the adrenaline rush or the fight or flight response. It is our body responding to danger or stress.