How Hormones Affect Our Weight and Health
Are you struggling with thyroid dysfunction, weight issues, chronic fatigue, or mood imbalances? Then your hormones could be to blame.
Hormones are chemical messengers produced by your endocrine glands that control nearly every process in your body, from metabolism to reproduction to mood. The endocrine system is comprised of a wide range of hormone-secreting glands that serve a variety of functions including your hypothalamus, thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, ovaries, and testicles. Hormone imbalances can mess with your sleep, mood, and libido, and contribute to weight gain, adrenal fatigue, brain fog, and several chronic illnesses. You can read about Hormone Imbalances Causes and Symptoms in my post here.
SOME OF THE MOST IMPORTANT HORMONES
The thyroid gland keeps your metabolism under control through the action of thyroid hormones. These hormones don't just control your overall metabolism, weight, energy levels, and temperature. They actually directly manage the metabolism of every single cell in your body, so if your levels are off, every cell can be affected. Thyroid disorders that result in too little or too much thyroid hormone can cause a wide range of symptoms, and left untreated can result in illnesses such as Hashimoto'disease or Grave's disease. 90% of thyroid conditions are autoimmune.
Insulin is released by your pancreas, which is located behind your stomach. This critical hormone enables your body to use glucose or sugar from carbohydrates in the food you eat for energy. It helps keep blood sugar levels from getting too high or too low. If you have more sugar in your body than you need, insulin helps store it in your liver and release it later when you need it for energy. If your pancreas does not produce insulin naturally, as in the case of type 1 diabetes, you must take insulin regularly. This is usually administered through injections or an insulin pump. If your body does produce insulin but not enough to balance the sugars in your blood, you may develop hyperglycemia or high blood sugar. This can cause long-term complications including type 2 diabetes. Lifestyle changes including a healthy diet and moderate exercise can improve blood sugar level and create an insulin/blood sugar balance.
This sex hormone for women is created in the ovaries, although the adrenal glands and fat cells make some too. Estrogen is responsible for reproduction, menstruation, and menopause. Estrogen is important in bone and blood health as well as sex drive. Levels of this hormone naturally rise and fall during a woman's lifetime. Excess estrogen increases the risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, depression, and moodiness. Estrogen dominance is a condition in which progesterone is not in balance with your estrogen. Low estrogen levels can lead to acne, skin lesions, thinning skin, or hair loss. Your body can be fooled by xenoestrogens, chemical compounds that mimic estrogen. These can be found throughout our environment including in plastics, cosmetics, processed foods, and some meats. Because some estrogen is produced by fat cells, excess weight can increase your estrogen levels. Your gut also impacts estrogen because it regulates enzymes that metabolize estrogen. Many of these issues can be addressed by taking care of your gut health, cleansing environmental toxins, and eating a healthy diet.
This "mood-boosting hormone" is associated with learning and memory, regulating sleep, digestion, and some muscular function. It is primarily produced in the gut. Recent research has shown that serotonin levels that promote a positive impact on mood can increase longevity by as much as 10 years. Low levels of serotonin can lead to depression, migraines, weight gain, insomnia, and carb cravings. Too much serotonin can cause agitation, confusion, or lethargy.
The main function of this hormone produced by the adrenal gland is to respond to stress. However, cortisol also plays a role in controlling inflammation and regulating blood flow. In danger mode, the adrenal gland boosts production which increases heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, and overall inflammation. Nearly all of your cells have cortisol receptors, so in times of high alert, cortisol can shut down processes such as digestion. While cortisol's job is to quickly respond to danger, under ideal conditions this only happens in short bursts. If you are under continued stress over a long period, your body will continue to produce cortisol. This can lead to a host of issues including ulcers, high blood pressure, and heart disease, anxiety, increased cholesterol levels, autoimmune issues. Learning to manage stress through a variety of techniques such as meditation, mindfulness, and exercise is a great way to help manage cortisol. You may also consider adding supplements like adaptogen herbs that support stress relief.
Adrenaline, like cortisol, is secreted in the adrenal gland and also in some neurons of the central nervous system. It is derived from the amino acid tyrosine. It helps you think and act fast in response to danger by sending extra blood to your heart and large muscles. Adrenaline also blocks pain. As with cortisol, sustained stress can lead to an overproduction of this hormone. This can result in dizziness, irritability, anxiety, weight loss, palpitations, rapid heartbeat, and high blood pressure. Learning relaxation techniques that help you manage stress can go a long way toward alleviating symptoms.
Making some simple changes to your diet and lifestyle you can balance your hormones and prevent or reverse many of the health issues associated with these imbalances. Read about how to balance your hormones naturally in my post here.
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