Hormones

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Hormones

What are hormones?

Hormones are chemicals that your body produces that are carried by the bloodstream to organs or tissues elsewhere in the body and that regulate how your body works and your behaviour.  When we use the word hormone, we are often referring to the reproductive hormones although there are many other substances in your body that act as a hormone.

List of Hormones and their Actions

For the purpose of this article, we’ll limit our discussion to the reproductive hormones, so this list is not inclusive of hormones that do not directly impact the reproductive organs.

  • Estrogen – stimulates the development of secondary sex characteristics in women, promotes the growth of the endometrium, myometrium, maintains the health of the skin and bones, and has neuroprotective functions.  In men, estradiol modulates libido, helps with erectile function and sperm production
  • Progesterone – it enhances sodium excretion, prepares the endometrium for implantation, decreases maternal immune response, decreases uterine contractility, activates the milk-producing function of the breasts, influences skin health, antispasmodic, anti-inflammatory, enhances the function of serotonin receptors in the brain, moderate cravings by moderating the effects of dopamine
  • Testosterone- it promotes protein synthesis, increases muscle mass, bone density/growth/maturation, maturation of sex organs, development of secondary male sex characteristics, libido, sperm production
  • DHEAs –  in the brain it promotes neuroprotection, neurite growth, neurogenesis and neuronal survival, apoptosis, catecholamine synthesis and secretion, as well as having antioxidant, anti-inflammatory and anti-glucocorticoid effects
  • Androstenedione – a weak androgen and an intermediate in the production of testosterone and estrone
  • DHT/Dihydrotestosterone – has an essential role in the development of the male external genitalia & is the primary androgen in the prostate, seminal vesicles, skin & hair follicles.  Excess can cause male androgenic alopecia & is involved in BPH & prostate cancer.  It may be involved in female androgenic alopecia, acne, hirsutism & seborrhea
  • Prolactin – has anti-stress effects, stimulates milk production, suppresses fertility
  • LH – surges to cause ovulation, promotes progesterone production after ovulation, stimulates testosterone release in males
  • FSH – stimulates egg follicle growth and rise in estrogen in women, influences sperm development in men
  • GnRH – made by the hypothalamus and controls release of LH and FSH
  • Oxytocin – produced by the hypothalamus and released by the pituitary, regulates maternal behaviour and social attachment

What are the hormone-producing glands?

For the reproductive hormones mentioned above, the organs that produce them are the ovaries, testes, pituitary, adrenal glands and hypothalamus.  Fat tissue can also produce estrogen.

The Pituitary

  • The “Master” gland
  • The size of a pea, attached to the base of the brain by a thin stalk
  • Situated just below the hypothalamus which is the communication centre for the pituitary
  • Hormones produced: ADH, Oxytocin, TSH, ACTH, Prolactin, MSH, GH, FSH, LH

The Adrenal Glands

  • Situated atop the kidneys
  • Responsible for blood pressure, fluid & electrolyte balance, regulation of metabolism & blood glucose, immune regulation/suppression, production of androgens & stress response
  • Hormones produced: Aldosterone, cortisol (hydrocortisone), cortisone, corticosterone, DHEA, DHEAs, androstenedione, small amounts of estrogen & progesterone

The Ovaries

  • Situated beside the uterus
  • After puberty and until menopause, they are responsible for developing egg follicles into eggs, releasing the hormones estrogen and progesterone and ovulating (releasing an egg each month)
  • Hormones produced: estradiol, testosterone, progesterone, DHT

The Testes

  • Produce sperm & androgens, primarily testosterone
  • Hormones produced: testosterone, DHT, estradiol

Signs and symptoms of hormone imbalance in women

Because hormones impact so many different systems in your body, the signs of hormone imbalance can be many and depend on the hormone and whether it is too high or too low.  Here is a table by hormone of the symptoms of hormone imbalance in women:

Signs of Hormone Imbalance in Women

HormoneSigns of Excess in WomenSigns of Deficiency in Women
TestosteroneHirsutism, amenorrhoea, acne, hair loss, genital abnormalities, depression, deeper voice, infertilityDepression, low libido, low muscle mass, low energy/drive or motivation
DHEAsHirsutism, amenorrhoea, acne, hair loss, genital abnormalities, depression, deeper voice, infertilityFatigue, depression, anxiety, hypersensitivity to noise, loss of libido, dry eyes, skin, and hair, loss of head hair, axial (armpit) hair & pubic hair
DHTHirsutism, amenorrhoea, acne, hair loss, genital abnormalities, depression, deeper voiceDepression, low libido, low muscle mass, low energy/drive or motivation
EstradiolHeavy periods, acne, clots in menstrual flow, breast tenderness, depression, highly emotional, endometriosis, PMS migraines, fibroidsVaginal dryness, UTI’s, irregular periods, hot flashes, h/a or migraines, irritability, mood swings, depression, cognitive decline
ProgesteroneLow libido, depression, anxiety, mood swings, weight gain, UTIs, fatigue, muscle weakness, fibroids, stomach upset, edema, hivesAnxiety, waking at night, endometriosis, hot flashes, dysmenorrhea, fibrocystic breasts, PMS, bone loss, low libido, infertility
ProlactinIrregular periods, vaginal dryness, nipple discharge, acne, hirsutism, decreased estrogen, depression, anxiety, hostility, memory deficit, psychosisFatigue, loss of pubic and underarm hair, and inability to produce breast milk (alactogenesis)
OxytocinEmotional hypersensitivity & hyper-reactivity to the emotions of othersPoor communication, irritability and inability to feel affectionate, more anxiety, difficulty achieving orgasm, sugar cravings, lack of joy, disturbed sleep, muscle aches
Signs or symptoms of hormone imbalance in women

Signs and symptoms of hormonal imbalance in men

Here is a table by hormone of the symptoms of hormone imbalance in men.  The table displays both signs of an excess of the hormone and deficiency of the hormone.

Signs and Symptoms of Hormone Imbalance in Men

HormoneSigns of Excess in MenSigns of Deficiency in Men
TestosteroneAcne or oily skin, prostate enlargement, worsening of sleep apnea, hypogonadism, increase in RBC’s, hair loss, infertilityDepression, erectile dysfunction, low energy, low muscle mass, low libido
DHEAsUsually asymptomatic, but may result in estrogen excessFatigue, depression, anxiety, hypersensitivity to noise, loss of libido, dry eyes, skin, and hair, loss of head hair, axial (armpit) hair, and pubic hair
DHTProstate cancer, male pattern baldness, aggression, acneDepression, irritability, low libido, lethargy, low muscle mass, increase in body fat
EstradiolProstate cancer, BPH, heart disease, depression, gynecomastia, low libido, low muscle massLow bone density, low libido, erectile dysfunction, increase in abdominal fat, low sperm count
ProgesteroneProstate cancer, BPH, heart disease, depression, gynecomastia, low libido, low muscle massDepression, low bone density, low libido, increased abdominal fat
ProlactinErectile dysfunction, gynecomastia, low body hair, low libido, decreased testosterone, retrograde orgasm, depression, anxiety, hostility, memory deficit, psychosisUnknown
OxytocinEmotional hypersensitivity & hyper-reactivity to the emotions of othersPoor communication, irritability and inability to feel affectionate, more anxiety, difficulty achieving orgasm, sugar cravings, lack of joy, disturbed sleep, muscle aches
Signs and symptoms of Male Hormone Imbalance

Testing for Hormones

At Forces of Nature, our naturopathic doctors can order blood tests for each of the above tests.  Saliva testing can also be done to determine whether hormones are passing into the tissues.

Natural Ways to Balance Hormones

Naturopathic treatment for hormonal imbalance involves first identifying the exact hormonal imbalance and may require testing all of the above hormones to determine the exact cause of hormone problems.  Natural therapies that may help balance hormones include changes to your diet, exercise, stress reduction, herbal medicine, acupuncture, Traditional Chinese Medicine, massage therapy and even chiropractic treatment to allow proper nerve transmission to the hormone-producing glands.

Contact us for more information about how we can help you achieve optimal hormone balance at 416-481-0222 or email Info@ForcesofNature.ca

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