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  • Writer's pictureErin Stefanacci

Hormones: 101

I know you've heard of hormones, but very few actually understand hormones and the profound impact that they have on our health. Hormones influence almost every aspect of how our body functions on a day-to-day basis, including:

  • Metabolism + energy

  • Sexual function

  • Reproduction + fertility

  • Mood + emotional response

  • Homeostasis - blood sugar, blood pressure, etc

  • Sleep-wake cycles

  • Growth + development

  • Stress response + adaptation

  • Immune function

What are hormones exactly and what do they do?

Hormones are chemical compounds secreted by endocrine glands and regulate physiological processes within the body. These glands include:

  • Thyroid

  • Parathyroid gland

  • Pituitary gland

  • Hypothalamus

  • Pineal gland

  • Adrenal glands

  • Ovaries

  • Testes

  • Pancreas

In addition, there are areas outside of the endocrine system that also produce hormones. These include the liver, kidneys, gut, and adipose (fat) tissue.

There are many hormones within the body, however there are three primary classes of hormones based on structure and composition:

  1. Steroid Hormones: Steroid hormones, arising from cholesterol, encompass critical entities like estrogen, testosterone, and cortisol. These lipid-based molecules influence cellular processes, including metabolism, immune response, and development.

  2. Peptide Hormones: Peptide hormones, composed of amino acids, form a significant group, featuring insulin, growth hormone, and oxytocin. They exert control over growth, energy homeostasis, and reproductive functions through intricate signaling pathways.

  3. Amino Acid-Derived Hormones: Derived from amino acids like tyrosine and tryptophan, this category includes thyroid hormones and catecholamines like epinephrine and norepinephrine. They play a crucial role in metabolism, stress response, and neural signaling.

Hormone levels are tightly regulated to maintain balance and optimal bodily function. Feedback mechanisms modulate hormone secretion by various stimuli, such as stress, changes in blood glucose levels, and signals from the nervous system.

Once hormones reach their intended destination, they bind to a cell receptor and initiate a cascade of events that regulate enzyme activity, gene expression and cellular responses.

What is hormone imbalance and how does it happen?

Hormones become imbalanced when there is dysfunction in the production, secretion, or signaling of at least one hormone in the body. A number of things can cause a disruption in the balance of hormones, including poor diet, chronic stress, environmental toxin exposure, underlying health problems, genetic predispositions, and more.

Depending on what hormones are imbalanced, symptoms can show up in various ways. Common symptoms of hormone imbalances include:

  • Fatigue and low energy levels

  • Weight loss resistance

  • Changes in appetite

  • Mood swings, anxiety, and/or depression

  • Insomnia or sleep disturbances

  • Hair loss or excessive hair growth

  • Low libido or sexual dysfunction

  • Irregular menstrual cycles or no menstrual cycles

  • Skin problems such as acne or dry skin

  • Digestive distress (bloating, gas, constipation, leaky gut)

If you experience any of the symptoms mentioned above, it may be worth pursuing hormone testing to determine whether or not a hormone imbalance is influencing what you experience.

With so many different hormones in your body, there is no “one-size-fits-all” approach to hormone health. Since everyone’s biochemistry and lifestyle is unique, hormone imbalances can manifest differently in you versus someone else.

Have more questions and want to chat? Book a free 15-minute consultation with Dr. Erin here.

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