Hormones are chemical messengers in our body that regulate many essential functions. They help control our growth, mood, metabolism, and even the way our body responds to injury or illness. An imbalance in our hormone levels, either too much or too little, can lead to a range of health complications, from weight gain to diabetes to mood disorders.
As we age, our body’s natural hormone levels decline, leading to physical and mental deterioration. Replenishing and rebalancing our hormone levels with Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) can help us look and feel younger longer, lose weight, and stay healthy.
The human body contains over 50 different hormones. In this article, I’ll share an overview of seven important hormones for health and wellness.
Important Hormones for Health & Wellness
Thyroid hormone is produced by the thyroid gland, a small butterfly-shaped structure located at the base of your neck. This hormone is crucial for weight management, as it helps regulate your metabolism. Thyroid hormone also affects a variety of functions, including your heart rate, body weight, energy level, and even your mood.
Hypothyroidism, or “underactive thyroid”, is a condition where the thyroid gland doesn’t produce enough thyroid hormones, leading to symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, depression, and sensitivity to cold. On the other hand, Hyperthyroidism, or “overactive thyroid”, means the thyroid gland is producing too much thyroid hormone, which can lead to symptoms like a fast heart rate, weight loss, nervousness, or excessive sweating.
Estrogen is a set of hormones crucial for the development and functioning of female sexual and reproductive health. These hormones are primarily produced in the ovaries in women, but they’re also made in the adrenal glands and fat tissues. Men also produce estrogen, but in smaller amounts, mainly in the adrenal glands and testes.
Estrogen plays a key role in regulating menstrual cycles and maintaining pregnancies. It is also involved in bone health, affecting bone structure and strength in both females and males. An imbalance of estrogen in the body can lead to symptoms like irregular periods, mood swings, hot flashes, headaches, and trouble sleeping. In the long term, it can even contribute to conditions like osteoporosis.
Sometimes called the “pregnancy hormone”, progesterone is a hormone that plays an important role in maintaining healthy pregnancies. Progesterone prepares a women’s body for conception, regulates the menstrual cycle and, in conjunction with estrogen, supports many other body processes.
Progesterone also plays an important role in men’s health, though it’s often less discussed. In men, progesterone is produced in the adrenal glands and testes, and contributes to the production of the male sex hormone, testosterone.
In both men and women, optimal progesterone levels support a healthy libido, optimal blood sugar levels, bone health, and muscle mass. Progesterone also supports mental well-being by calming anxiety, boosting mood, and promoting healthy sleep.
Testosterone is a hormone mainly produced in the testicles for men, and in smaller amounts in the ovaries for women. This hormone plays a crucial role in the development of male physical characteristics such as muscle strength and mass, facial and body hair, and a deep voice.
Low testosterone in men can manifest through several symptoms. These may include fatigue and reduced energy levels, difficulty concentrating, and reduced muscle mass. Some men may also experience mood changes such as depression or irritability. Additionally, low testosterone can lead to a decreased sex drive and problems with sexual performance.
Testosterone also plays a vital role in women, although it’s present in smaller quantities. Even though testosterone is often considered a ‘male hormone’, its role in women’s health and well-being is equally significant. For both men and women, testosterone helps maintain healthy muscle mass, bone density, and red blood cell levels. It also contributes to the regulation of libido, mood, and cognitive function.
DHEA is a hormone produced by the body’s adrenal glands, located just above your kidneys. It’s a natural substance your body uses to make male and female sex hormones, such as estrogen and testosterone. DHEA plays a significant role in various bodily functions, including the creation of hormones, immune system support, and energy production. It’s also known to support bone density and muscle mass. When it comes to health and wellness, maintaining healthy DHEA levels can contribute to overall vitality, physical strength, and emotional well-being. DHEA levels naturally peak in early adulthood (around age 25) and slowly fall as we age. By the time people reach their 70s or 80s, their DHEA levels are only 10% to 20% those in young adults.
Melatonin primarily produced by the pineal gland in the human brain. Often referred to as the “sleep hormone”, it helps to regulate our sleep-wake cycle. When it’s dark, more melatonin is produced, which signals the body to prepare for sleep. Less melatonin is produced with light exposure, notifying our body to stay awake. Maintaining a balanced melatonin level is essential for health and wellness. It not only ensures a good night’s sleep but also exhibits antioxidant properties and supports immune health.
Symptoms of a melatonin imbalance can vary greatly, including trouble falling asleep, insomnia, daytime fatigue, irritability, and in some cases, depression. Understanding melatonin’s functions highlights the importance of maintaining a healthy sleep routine.
7. Vitamin D
Often called the ‘sunshine vitamin’, Vitamin D is a crucial nutrient our bodies need for maintaining optimal health. Vitamin D’s primary role is regulating the absorption of calcium and phosphorus, both of which are vital for healthy bones and teeth. It also supports our immune system, brain, and nervous system. A Vitamin D deficiency can lead to symptoms including fatigue, muscle weakness, pain, and mood changes. In severe cases, it can even cause bone deformities or illnesses like osteoporosis or rickets.
While commonly referred to as a vitamin, Vitamin D is technically a prohormone. Unlike vitamins, which are nutrients that the body cannot synthesize on its own and must be obtained through the diet, Vitamin D can be synthesized by our bodies through exposure to sunlight, specifically UV-B rays. Furthermore, Vitamin D acts more like a hormone, as it influences numerous bodily functions, including the regulation of calcium and phosphate levels necessary for bone health.
Balancing Your Hormones: Steps to Take
Maintaining balanced hormone levels is crucial for optimal health, and your lifestyle choices can significantly influence this balance. For example:
- Regular physical activity such as walking, swimming, cycling, tai chi, yoga, or playing any sport you enjoy, aids in managing stress levels, which in turn helps regulate hormones.
- A balanced diet consisting of fresh fruits, vegetables, lean proteins, and whole grains, provides the necessary nutrients for hormone production.
- Minimizing your intake of processed foods and sugar can prevent insulin spikes, helping to ensure hormonal equilibrium.
- Adequate sleep is also vital as it facilitates the proper functioning of the entire hormonal system.
Many people also look to Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) as a way to naturally balance their hormones as they age, often starting in their 40s. Bioidentical hormones share the exact same structure and chemical composition as your body’s own hormones, and are produced naturally with plant-based ingredients. BHRT is a safe and natural way to slow and even reverse some of the effects of aging.
Contact us for a patient questionnaire, if you think you may have an age-related hormonal imbalance and are ready to learn more about whether BHRT could be right for you.