The hormones in our body play a large role in our overall health. Hormones have many functions and a variety of hormones will be focused on.
In the lives that many are living nowadays, stress is a big factor that can cause imbalance in hormones. Many people don’t take the time to recover from stress and this leads to further problems. Chronic elevated stress levels increases risk for diseases such as heart disease and cancer and can also overtime influence reproduction and mental health. The hormones that play a role in stress include estradiol, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol.
When someone undergoes a stressful event or situation, both physical and emotional, then the body automatically responds by releasing cortisol and also DHEA. Cortisol is the main stress hormone. When this happens then there is an increase in glucose metabolism due to cortisol release. This mechanism helps decrease the immune response. During these stress-causing situations DHEA increases a person’s awareness and then lowers the emotional response.
Hormones play a role in weight management. With the busy lifestyles that many people have, sleep is not often prioritized. When sleep is inadequate then this stimulates hormonal triggers to increase hunger and appetite. Under stress, cortisol is released and more insulin is produced to maintain the glucose levels in the body. Along with this then appetite increases. Some people then tend to overeat more than they normally would and this could then lead to weight gain. Sleep, is a very important for regulation of hormones.
Then, when it comes to more gender-specific hormones, the important sex hormones for women include estrogen (estradiol, Estriol, Estrone), progesterone, testosterone, DHEA and cortisol. During a women’s menstrual cycle there are 2 different phases. These phases consist of the estrogen-dominant phase which occurs before ovulation and then the second phase is the progesterone-dominant phase which is after ovulation. This cycle is extremely important to women’s health.
Testosterone is predominantly a male sex hormone however women also require production of testosterone in small amounts. This hormone helps with strength and being fit and also being sexually active. It also helps protect women against breast cancer and heart disease.
DHEA is a hormone that is a precursor for both men and women sex hormones. When an individual is stressed and there is a production and release of cortisol, then DHEA is also released.
During the reproductive and menopausal periods in a women’s life, there are a variety of symptoms that she can experience. These symptoms include painful breasts, depression/insomnia, hot flashes, weight gain and more. It is therefore extremely important to be aware of one’s hormones and manage them well so that one’s health will be taken care of.
For men there are some different sex hormone markers. These hormones include testosterone, estradiol, progesterone, DHEA and cortisol.
Testosterone is the main hormone to look at in men. During puberty, testosterone levels increase and after the age of 35 the levels of free testosterone drop. Symptoms of low testosterone are numerous. These can include, but not limited to, erectile dysfunction, impaired mental ability, insulin resistance, weight gain and also bone loss.
DHEA is an important hormone that functions to balance testosterone with other estrogens and progesterone. Both DHEA as well as cortisol are important for maintaining men’s health. Cortisol, which is one of the stress hormones plays a role in men’s health. When there is an increased level of cortisol and also DHEA then it is likely to increase anxiety, impair immunity and also disrupt blood sugar levels. It can also lead to increased risk of heart disease.
Although estrogen is mainly a female hormone, it still plays a role in men’s health. When a man has increased estrogen with a decreased level of testosterone then it can increase his risk for developing prostate problems.
Following a healthy and balanced diet will help with hormonal balance. It is important to maintain a healthy weight. This can be done by consuming a variety of foods from different food groups but also watching the portions that are consumed. Exercise will also play a role. It is recommended that more fiber-rich foods are consumed and this can be done by choosing whole grain products instead of refined carbohydrates. Also, it is important to ensure that intake of fruit and vegetables are adequate to provide with the vitamins and minerals that the body requires. Vitamin D is also important and can be found in some plant oils, fortified dairy products etc. Then also, alcohol should be limited and only consumed in moderation. Maintaining a healthy weight will also help to decrease risk of diseases such as heart disease, diabetes, some cancers and high blood pressure. Avoid processed food and try eliminate foods high in fat, especially saturated and trans-fats. These fats are found in animal sources such as full cream dairy, high fat meat sources and also in commercially baked items.
It is important to remember that many factors play a role in hormonal balance. Following a balanced lifestyle with decreased stress levels, healthy diet, exercise and adequate sleep will be beneficial in keeping hormones in balance.