There are many interesting definitions of what hormones are. To understand them, we must see how experts have explained what they are and what they do in the human body.
According to Michele Helfgott, MD, quoted in Parkview Health, “Hormones are chemical messengers created by the endocrine system that send critical messages through the body, assisting in the regulation of your body’s processes. Unfortunately, when those messengers aren’t functioning normally, they can significantly affect your mental, physical and emotional health.”
Another explanation comes from the award-winning New York Times bestselling author of the book “Brain On Fire,” Susannah Cahalan. She writes, “Hormones get no respect. We think of them as the elusive chemicals that make us a bit moody, but these magical little molecules do so much more.”
Many of us think of hormones as things that throw our minds, moods, and behavior out of control. We blame our hormones when something doesn’t feel right in our bodies and minds. We also think only women are more affected by hormones, in general, than men. (But we admit teenagers of both genders can have “raging hormones.”)
Since we know that hormones perform very valuable functions in the health systems, we have to learn one key fact: to balance our hormones and not neglect them. Here are some tips to naturally achieve that (for both women and men).
According to Cleveland Clinic, a hormone imbalance for women can start at any time between the ages of 25 to 80. Usually, it occurs when your female hormones, specifically estrogen, progesterone, DAGA, and cortisol, are out of whack and unbalanced.
For some women, this can manifest as mood changes, fatigue, hot flashes, night sweats, sleep disturbance, daytime sleepiness, changes in their menstrual cycle (including menopause), and even weight gain.
According to Jag Desai, MD, writing in Core Medical & Wellness, hormones in men tend to decrease steadily after the age of 20, and by age 40, most men retain only half of their original growth hormones. By age 80, they typically retain only 5%. The most commonly noted male hormones are androgens and testosterone.
Andropause (also known as male menopause) is the most common type of male hormonal imbalance. Other signs and symptoms of imbalance include fatigue, hair loss, loss of muscle mass, low sex drive, and memory loss.
Psychologists believe that most of the time, stress is the cause. We could have obvious stresses caused by our lifestyles (like poor eating, exercise, and sleep habits). Or, it could be due to hidden stresses caused by our genetics.
Any stress causes overproduction or underproduction of certain hormones, thus throwing the body and mind into crazy behavior. The problem is that stress and hormones then form a vicious cycle. People with hormonal imbalances fall further into irregular eating, exercise, or sleeping patterns, thus exacerbating the problem.
According to Ronald C W Ma et al., in their medical paper in the National Library of Medicine, some medications we take for certain illnesses may cause drug-induced endocrine and metabolic disorders, resulting in hormonal imbalance in our bodies … so we must discuss any such side-effects of prescribed medications with our doctors.
Hormonal imbalances shouldn’t be seen only as mood change agents, but they can affect overall health if we let the imbalance continue for long.
Stress plus hormonal imbalance, in a negative cycle, can also add many complications to those suffering from ailments like obesity, cholesterol, diabetes, and hypertension – along with other hereditary factors. All these ailments can have a multiplicative effect on the heart.
We have to get our doctors’ help to be alert to signs and symptoms of diabetes, know how to lower cholesterol, control blood pressure symptoms, and understand obesity causes and effects.
According to Mayo Clinic, if you have far lower-than-normal hormone levels, your doctor may suggest a short stint of hormone replacement therapy. You may be given oral or injected medication depending on which hormone is deficient. But in most cases, women and men can aim to regulate their hormones naturally. There are excellent ways to do this.
According to Karishma Chawla, writing in Health Shots, “It is interesting to know that the foods we eat have a deep impact on our hormonal health. The right foods can help create the best-quality hormones that have a profound impact on our mental, physical and emotional well-being.”
Within the ambit of nutrition, there are five tenets to remember.
Physical activity helps strongly influence hormonal health. It improves blood flow to your muscles and increases hormone receptor sensitivity (i.e., enhances the delivery of nutrients and hormone signals).
According to Angelo Sabag et al., in their medical paper in PubMed Central, being physically active may also help boost muscle-maintaining hormones that decline with age, such as IGF-1, DHEA, and human growth hormone (HGH).
Even regular walking may increase these hormone levels for people who cannot perform vigorous exercise, thus improving body strength and quality of life.
According to Marnie Vinall, writing in Healthline, various hormone functions and their release are impacted by sleep (or our circadian rhythms). Getting adequate sleep is essential for regulating a number of hormones, including cortisol, estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, insulin, leptin, ghrelin, melatonin, thyroid hormones, and growth hormones.
The ideal amount of sleep required for most adults is around 7 to 9 hours, without which hormonal imbalance begins to creep in.
According to Salam Ranabir et al., in their medical paper in the Indian Journal of Endocrinology & Metabolism, “Stress can lead to changes in the serum level of many hormones including glucocorticoids, catecholamines, growth hormone and prolactin. Some of these stressful responses can lead to endocrine disorders like Graves’ disease, gonadal dysfunction, psychosexual dwarfism, and obesity. Stress can also alter the clinical status of many preexisting endocrine disorders such as precipitation of adrenal crisis and thyroid storm.”
The stress response in humans is best dealt with using “relaxation response” techniques. These include practices like meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, mindfulness, deep breathing, autogenic relaxation, progressive muscle relaxation, biofeedback, acupressure massages, or aromatherapy.
Hormones affect more than just our mental makeup and emotions – they can profoundly impact our overall health if they are imbalanced. We can do a lot by following sensible and healthful eating, exercise, sleep, and stress management. Don’t let your hormonal imbalances exacerbate your other ailments or disturb your peace. Stay heart-healthy. Be a Zinda Dil.