It’s hard to believe, but every second of every day our bodies produce an incredible number of hormones. Hormones are chemical messengers that play a major role in regulating everything from our moods and stress levels to our metabolism and muscle growth.
While scientists have identified over 50 hormones, only a small handful are considered truly essential for human life. Here’s a list of the most important hormones in the human body.
Estrogen is responsible for many different things in the body, including the development and function of the reproductive system, and it also helps to regulate other hormones. Estrogen levels fluctuate throughout a woman’s life, depending on her age and stage of life.
For example, during puberty, estrogen levels increase as the body prepares for reproduction. And after menopause, when ovarian production of estrogen decreases, some women may experience symptoms like hot flashes and night sweats because their body isn’t getting enough estrogen.
Too much estrogen can lead to weight gain, water retention, and bloating. It can also make you feel anxious and irritable. On the other hand, women with low estrogen levels are at a higher risk of osteoporosis and experience fatigue, hot flashes, and night sweats.
Estrogen levels that are out of balance can also lead to more serious health problems like endometriosis and uterine cancer.
You might think of testosterone as a “male” hormone, but both men and women produce this important hormone. In men, testosterone is responsible for sperm production, sex drive, and the development of muscle mass and bone density. Testosterone levels generally peak in early adulthood and then decline with age.
Low testosterone levels in men can lead to decreased sex drive, erectile dysfunction, and muscle weakness. In women, low testosterone levels can cause fatigue and low libido.
Too much testosterone can also be problematic. Men with high levels of testosterone may experience acne, aggressive behavior, and enlarged breasts. Women with high testosterone levels may develop male characteristics such as facial hair and a deep voice.
Excess testosterone can also lead to fertility problems in both men and women.
Human Growth Hormone
Human growth hormone (HGH) is produced by the pituitary gland and is responsible for cell growth and regeneration. HGH levels peak in adolescence and then decline with age.
Also, growth hormone is responsible for promoting muscle growth and preventing the accumulation of fat in adults. This leads some people to think that HGH is a steroid hormone because of its ability to enhance performance, but this is inaccurate. Unlike steroid hormones such as testosterone, growth hormone is a peptide hormone, meaning it’s made up of a chain of amino acids.
Low HGH levels can cause a decrease in muscle mass, bone density, and stamina. It can also lead to fatigue, depression, and anxiety. On the other hand, high HGH levels can cause joint pain, carpal tunnel syndrome, and insulin resistance.
Insulin is a hormone that helps the body use sugar for energy. It’s produced by the pancreas and released into the bloodstream after you eat. Insulin helps to regulate blood sugar levels by moving sugar into your cells where it can be used for energy.
If you have too much insulin in your blood, it can lead to low blood sugar levels (hypoglycemia). This can cause symptoms like dizziness, sweating, shaking, and confusion.
On the other hand, if you don’t have enough insulin, your blood sugar levels can become too high (hyperglycemia). This can lead to symptoms like fatigue, blurred vision, and increased thirst.
If not properly managed, both hypoglycemia and hyperglycemia can be dangerous.
Cortisol is sometimes called the “stress hormone” because it’s released in response to stress. Cortisol helps to regulate blood sugar levels, metabolism, and immune system function.
Cortisol levels are highest in the morning and then decline throughout the day. This natural rhythm is known as the “cortisol curve.”
If cortisol levels are too high, it can lead to weight gain, anxiety, and depression. High cortisol levels can also suppress the immune system, making you more susceptible to illness.
Low cortisol levels can make it difficult to handle stress. Also, it can cause fatigue, weakness, and low blood pressure.
The thyroid is a small gland in the neck that produces hormones that regulate metabolism. Thyroid hormone levels can affect everything from weight and energy levels to body temperature and heart rate.
An overactive thyroid (hyperthyroidism) can cause symptoms like weight loss, anxiety, and heart palpitations. An underactive thyroid (hypothyroidism) can cause fatigue, weight gain, and depression.
Both hyperthyroidism and hypothyroidism can be dangerous if left untreated. That’s why it’s important to see a doctor if you think you may have a thyroid problem.