Why Are Hormones Important
We all have them…but why do hormones play such an important role in our day to day health and well-being?
Surely we’ve all experienced those sudden outbursts of anger or frustration, quickly followed by uncontrollable tears…occasionally capped off by a bought of laughter over how silly that past 20 minutes just was! It’s easy (and convenient) to blame our raging hormones, but this excuse may actually be closer to the truth than we’d like to believe. But why are hormones important? Because hormones play a critical role in daily health and well being. When hormone levels are out of balance, our mood, health, weight, stress, blood sugar levels, and, for women, ovulation and even fertility are impacted.
What Causes Hormonal Imbalance?
If you read this post on the 20 Signs You Have a Hormonal Imbalance, then you know there are many ways our body tells us things “aren’t quite right”. If we’re in tune with our body, we’ll recognize these signs and act quickly to find balance before they worsen. But what causes our bodies to get out of balance in the first place?
Common culprits are frequently due to lifestyle factors including poor diet, stress, bad sleeping habits and lack of exercise. Other factors include, most commonly for women, menopause, pregnancy, menstrual cycle, and “the pill” or other contraceptives. Still other factors could be due to hypothyroid, hyperthyroid, autoimmune diseases and diabetes.
When we’re not living up to our optimal potential, our hormonal balance suffers…then we suffer, which makes finding and maintaining that proper balance even more difficult. Why? Because our hormones are out of balance and we just can’t think straight!
To get a better idea of why our hormones are so important, let’s look at how our body produces and utilizes these hormones.
Glands, Glands and More Glands
Hormones are created by our endocrine system, more specifically, they’re created by glands that are part of the endocrine system. The main hormone-producing glands are the hypothalamus, parathyroid, thymus, pancreas, thyroid, adrenal, pituitary, pineal, ovaries and testes. Each responsible for creating and maintaining different hormones, it’s these glands that work together in a delicate balance to keep us healthy.
Hormone.org shows us which glands are responsible for what…let’s take a look:
- “Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is responsible for body temperature, hunger, moods and the release of hormones from other glands; and also controls thirst, sleep and sex drive.
- Parathyroid: This gland controls the amount of calcium in the body.
- Thymus: This gland plays a role in the function of the adaptive immune system and the maturity of the thymus, and produces T-cells.
- Pancreas: This gland produces the insulin that helps control blood sugar levels.
- Thyroid: The thyroid produces hormones associated with calorie burning and heart rate.
- Adrenal: Adrenal glands produce the hormones that control sex drive and cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Pituitary: Considered the “master control gland,” the pituitary gland controls other glands and makes the hormones that trigger growth.
- Pineal: Also called the thalamus, this gland produces serotonin derivatives of melatonin, which affects sleep.
- Ovaries: Only in women, the ovaries secrete estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, the female sex hormones.
- Testes: Only in men, the testes produce the male sex hormone, testosterone, and produce sperm.” (Source)
“The Fantastical World of Hormones”
The truth is, each hormone has a specific function, but it’s the balance and harmony of these hormones that allows our body to function properly. And oftentimes, you may find more than one hormone is to blame for that awful night of sleep! According to this chart on the fantastical world of hormones from Dr. Mercola, here’s a breakdown of the more common hormones, where it’s produced and its function:
These hormones are derived from cholesterol, includes sex hormones and adrenal hormones (mineralocorticoids and glucocorticoids):
- Estrogen – produced by the ovaries, placenta, breasts, liver, adrenal glands, fat cells, hypothalamus, and others. Responsible for female sexual development, breast development, menstruation, pregnancy, memory, and anti-aging.
- Progesterone – produced by the ovaries, placenta, and CNS. Responsible for female sexual development, breast development, menstruation, and pregnancy.
- Testosterone – produced by the testes and ovaries. Responsible for male sexual development, sex drive, sperm production, and muscle and bone mass.
- DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone) – produced by the adrenals and the brain. Responsible for lean body mass, bone strength, immunity, heart health, and resistance to stress.
- Pregnenolone – produced by the adrenals. Responsible for memory and resistance to stress.
- Cortisol – produced by the adrenals. Responsible for resistance to stress, energy production, anti-inflammatory, and mood stability.
- Vitamin D (1,25 dihydroxyvitamin D or calcitrol) – produced by the skin, liver and kidneys. Responsible for a variety of functions, including bone and muscle health, heart health, immunity, metabolism, brain development, cell communication, and more!
These hormones are often in “pre-hormone” form, requiring further processing to be active:
- HCG (human chorionic gonadotropin) – produced by the placenta. Helps support the endometrial lining for a developing fetus (and stimulates progesterone).
- HGH (Human growth hormone, or somatotropin/somatropin) – produced by the pituitary. Promotes growth in children and adolescents, and helps regulate body composition, tissue growth, and metabolism in adults.
- Melatonin – produced by the pineal gland. Responsible for sleep; supports brain health, heart health, immune system, and cancer prevention.
- Insulin – produced by the pancreas. Signals glucose to be transferred from your blood into your cells for energy usage; fat body regulation.
- Glucagon – produced by the pancreas. Signals liver to release glucose into your blood.
- Prolactin – produced by the pituitary, breasts, uterus, prostate, skin, fat, and immune cells. Promotes lactation, bonding, and more than 300 reproductive, metabolic, immune, and other functions.
- Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) – produced by the pituitary. Stimulates cortisol release.
- Leptin – produced by fat cells. Promotes fat regulation.
- Ghrelin – produced by the stomach and pancreas. Stimulates hunger.
- Parathyroid hormone (PTH) – produced by the parathyroid gland. Controls amount of calcium in your bones and blood.
- Thyrotrophin-releasing hormone (TRH) – produced by the hypothalamus. Stimulates the thyroid gland to release TH.
- Humoral factors (e.g., thymosin) – produced by the thymus. Responsible for the development of a healthy immune system.
Amino Acid Derivative Hormones (Amines)
These hormones are derived from tyrosine and tryptophan, includes thyroid hormones and catecholamines.
- Adrenalin – produced by the adrenals. Responsible for the “fight or flight” response: increases heart rate, dilates blood vessels, and releases glucose.
- Thyroid hormone (TH) – produced by the thyroid gland. Responsible for organ development and metabolism.
These hormones are produced from fatty acids (arachidonic acid); very short-lived in your body and exert effects primarily on local tissues.
- Prostaglandins – produced by nearly every cell in the human body. Varying responsibilities, including uterine contractions, bronchodilation and inflammation.
Finding & Maintaining Hormonal Balance
As mentioned above, our hormones can become unbalanced for many reasons. And, unfortunately, a hormonal imbalance can be difficult to diagnose in its early stages (and is frequently misdiagnosed). Furthermore, a hormonal imbalance can happen even when you’re taking great care to keep your hormones in check. But the good news is, THERE’S HOPE!
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