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lisa fournace winn, dnp, aprn

Hormone Series Part 1; What are hormones anyway?

Hormones are a “Vytal” part of the body, and the range of functions they affect is evident throughout the body. Think of them like messengers that tell your body what to do and when to do it. Hormones are made by several different glands, organs and tissues, many of which belong to the endocrine system.

First, what is a hormone?

Hormones are chemical messengers that allow the body to interact and respond to its environment. They also help control or regulate many biological processes such as growth and development, mood, sexual function, and reproduction. Proper balance of your hormones is needed in order for the body to function properly. 

Where are hormones made?

They are made in glands and organs, mostly from the endocrine system. For example, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol (helps regulate the body’s response to stress). The pancreas (organ) secretes insulin (allows the body to use glucose for energy). The hypothalamus gland produces 7 different hormones including anti-diuretics (regulate water levels) and oxytocin (regulates the body’s response to stress)! But adipose tissue, lymph nodes, and sweat glands are examples of tissues and glands that release hormones, but are not part of the endocrine system.

What happens once these hormones are secreted?

Once the hormones have been made, they are transported to their target cells. The cells have hormone receptors specific to that hormone, enabling them to bind with the receptors (think lock and key). A receptor is a protein located either inside the cell or within the cell membrane. This process usually involves the activation of an enzyme or modulation of a gene expression. This complex turns on or off specific biological processes in organs, tissues, and cells. But the good news is that cells that do not have receptors specific to that hormone cannot be directly affected by that hormone.

Why do we need hormones?

As mentioned earlier, hormones help control many biological processes important to the maintenance of proper body function. Some examples of this are:

☑️ Metabolism

☑️ Body growth 

☑️ Blood Sugar

☑️ Growth, function, and differentiation of sex hormones

Without hormones, or even an improper balance of them can affect your quality of life. There are dozens of medical conditions caused by an improper balance of hormones like diabetes, female infertility, and thyroid disease to name a few.

How many hormones do we have?

There have been over 50 different types of hormones identified in the human body! Each one has a unique and important role to keep our body functioning correctly. 

Is more, better?

Hormones are extremely powerful and produced in very small quantities in the body. So no, more is not necessarily better and all hormone supplementation should be carefully managed by a skilled provider. Any increase or decrease in hormone levels has the potential to create undesired side effects. 

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