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Hormones 101

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What are hormones? 

There are various types of hormones made in our bodies by the endocrine system such as thyroid glands, adrenal glands, and reproductive organs including testes and ovaries. Hormones act like a messenger signaling other parts of the body to change and take action to help maintain homeostasis in essential human functions including metabolism, heart rate, blood pressure, sleep, just to name a few.

 

With little or excess amounts of hormones, the cells and organs in the body cannot communicate effectively, leading to hormonal imbalances and health issues such as weight gain, chronic stress, pain, and anxiety. This ultimately affects your physical health and sense of well-being negatively. 

This is why, hormonal balance is so critical for your health, especially after age 40 when the body's ability to cope with stress and damage along with producing an adequate amount of hormones declines. 

Common types of hormones that I will cover with my clients include:

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  • Insulin - known as a "fat-storing hormone", secreted by beta-cells of the pancreas to help decrease blood sugar level. Controlling insulin secretion is crucial in weight loss, reproductive health, and diabetes prevention. 

  • Cortisol - known as a "stress hormone" secreted by the adrenal gland, cortisol helps fight stressful events derived from both physical and mental factors. 

  • Adrenaline - known as a "fight-or-flight" hormone, adrenaline helps the body responds to emergencies by increasing alertness, heart rate, and blood sugar. 

  • Estrogen - one of the sex hormones that regulate the female reproductive system, estrogen is a key hormone in preventing and managing women's unique health issues. 

  • Progesterone - one of the sex hormones that support estrogen in releasing an egg each month for a woman's menstrual cycle. 

  • Testosterone - a sex hormone that regulates and promotes sex drive and sperm production in men. 

  • Ghrelin - a "hunger hormone" released by the GI tract to promote hunger and food intake, ghrelin is highest during the fasting state. 

  • Leptin - another hunger hormone made by the fat cells and intestinal cells to inhibit hunger and food intake, leptin is highest after meal consumption.

What causes hormonal imbalance and how does it affect our body?

Aging is a big part of hormonal imbalance. Our body's ability to balance hormones and maintain physical functions diminishes with age. Hormonal imbalance is also caused by internal and external factors such as an unhealthy diet, a sedentary lifestyle, and environmental toxins, which are known as hormone disruptors. Chronic exposure to hormone disruptors can cause the endocrine system to produce too much or too little hormones, resulting in health problems such as infertility, diabetes, heart disease, and other chronic health conditions such as autoimmune disease.

What are the common symptoms associated with hormone imbalance? 

Hormonal imbalance prevents the body from maintaining optimal metabolism, sleep, mood, hunger, and sex drive. As a result, you may experience physical and psychological symptoms such as fatigue, weight gain/loss, reduced energy, decreased sex drive, insomnia, anxiety, depression, hot flashes, cold intolerance, hair loss etc. These symptoms and cases vary among individuals, therefore it is important to get a personalized nutrition program with hormone testing from a nutrition professional such as a registered dietitian. 

Can nutrition help with balancing hormones? 

Yes! Fortunately, there are many things that you can do to help balance hormones through nutrition! First of all, maintaining a healthy, balanced diet provides nutrients, such as amino acids and fats, for the body to make an adequate amount of hormones.  In addition, certain micronutrients such as vitamin D, vitamin B12, selenium, and iodine from unprocessed foods support the optimal production and function of hormones. Hormone testing can further help determine your hormone status and target the nutrients your body needs to maintain hormone homeostasis. 

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