We often spend quite a bit of time concentrating on external factors of well-being like exercise and nutrition.
However, the internal factors like hormones, have a huge say in whether you get to stay and feel great or not.
Hormones function as messengers between body systems to order your physiology and behavior, such as digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sleep, stress, growth, movement, reproduction, mood, etc…
Hormones tell your body when you are hungry, or sleepy or stressed and such like.
It also tells you when to stop eating, when you need to wake up when you need to calm down, and so on.
The sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone are very popular, but there are many other hormones too, such as insulin, growth hormone, leptin, cortisol, and melatonin.
Hormone Key Facts
- Hormones play a critical role in our body’s chemistry, transporting messages between cells and organs.
- Hormones affect our body’s functions, from growth and sexual development and mood to how well we sleep, and how our body digests food.
- When they are in proper balance, hormones help the body flourish.
- But when hormone levels are too high or too low (imbalance), it can cause serious health problems necessitating medical management.
Hormonal imbalances trigger fat storage and weight gain, and many other nasty symptoms like PMS, acne, painful breasts, migraines, cellulite, and loss of libido, etc…
Your hormones dictate virtually every part of your life: from your state of mind to your behavior, body shape, eating habits and even your reaction to stress.
Sex hormones control some of the most influential processes in the body such as pregnancy, puberty, regulating your cycle, menopause, hair growth, skin complexion, etc…
Unfortunately, they also play a part when it comes to fat storage and muscle development.
This is so important for males, even though females have it too, but at much lower levels.
The hormone is secreted by the testes in males and in much smaller doses in the ovaries in females, and in the right amounts, it can help to increase muscle mass and strength.
It might also increase brain functions. However, low levels can be detrimental.
As with most hormones, everyday lifestyle factors like getting proper sleep and maintaining a healthy weight through a balanced diet and regular exercise can go a long way in keeping your hormonal balance in place.
One study showed that saturated and monounsaturated fat were powerful predictors of testosterone levels, and intense exercise, particularly interval training, has also been shown to be a reliable Testosterone booster.
The Signs and Symptoms of Low Testosterone Levels
These signs are both physical and psychological, and they include:
- Decreased Strength
- Pale Face
- Muscle Mass Loss
- Infirm Skin
- Dry Eyes
- Fat Gain in Abdomen
- Fat Gain on Chest
- Inability To Build Muscle
- Hair Loss
- Difficulties in achieving Orgasm
- Decrease In Bone Mass
- Female-Like Features in men
- Erective Problems
- Low Libido
- Depressive Feelings
- Lack of Energy
- Feeling Stressed
- Irritability and Mood swings
- Sleeping Problems
This hormone, made by the pituitary gland, works better with testosterone. In the right amounts, growth hormone helps to increase muscle mass and decrease body fat and is thought of as the anti-aging hormone.
To stave off signs of aging and increase muscle growth, the quickest method for increasing growth hormone is an injection, but, that is not the safest route to go.
Most individuals will likely have normal levels of growth hormone, particularly if they have proper nutrition and sleep patterns.
High-intensity interval training is one of the more reliable forms of exercise to increase levels of growth hormone and potentially reduce the effects of aging.
Normally thought of as a female hormone, estrogen is, however, present in males as well.
At regular levels, estrogen helps to regulate female reproductive cycles, and in males, estrogen is important for sex drive.
Estrogen levels can impact how fat is stored in the body, and excess fat tissue can have a harmful side effect in both males and females.
Excess fat in males helps to turn testosterone into estradiol, a form of estrogen, and also convert androgens to estrogen.
This is not good when you are trying to build muscle and maintain a lean physique.
The resulting estrogen imbalance can lead to more fat storage in both males and females body, creating a negative effect.
Eating properly and engaging in regular exercise are likely the best move against estrogen imbalances.
Moderating the consumption of phytoestrogens like soy may help to keep estrogen levels balanced as well, as they tend to bind selectively to various estrogen receptors in the body.
Since fat tissue is a powerful influencer of estrogen, keeping body fat composition levels in healthy ranges can also help maintain optimum estrogen levels.
The Signs and Symptoms of Estrogen Dominance
These symptoms include external bodily symptoms, internal bodily symptoms, and psychological symptoms, and can be found in male or female or both:
- Weight gain
- Increased body hair
- Increased facial hair
- Thinning skin
- Thinning hair
- Brittle hair and nails
- Belly Fat
- Puffy Eyes
- Night sweats
- Water retention
- Tingling hands and feet
- Decreased energy
- Hot flashes
- Sugar/carb cravings
- Vaginal dryness
- Hot flashes
- Heavy menstruation
- Tense breasts
- Cysts in ovaries/breasts
- Low libido
- Inflamed joints
- Less energy
- Panic attacks
- Concentration problems
- Depressed mood
- Excessive worrying
- Irritability and Mood Swings
Insulin is well known for its role in diabetes, and it also plays a huge role in metabolism.
Insulin is an anabolic hormone, helping the body to build complex molecules.
When you eat during the day, the carbohydrates in the food enter your bloodstream, and the body then secretes insulin, which opens up the body cells to uptake blood sugar (glucose).
This process enables the cells to build up their energy stores, and help maintain blood sugar in check.
The danger, however, comes with over-releasing of insulin, which can happen with poor dietary habits, resulting in our body developing insulin resistance.
This means that the cells aren’t as sensitive to insulin anymore, and can lead to type II diabetes.
Besides careful eating practices, exercise is one of the most powerful medicines for a diabetic, since a single workout session can mimic the effects of insulin on the body, helping to open up cells and shuttle in glucose.
In the long run, you can increase your insulin sensitivity with exercises, and that can help mitigate the symptoms of insulin resistance with your work in the kitchen and in the gym.
Cortisol controls energy levels in times of stress, and periods of stress cause the body to break down proteins and release glucose into the bloodstream, as the body thoughts that the increased amounts of energy will help you escape danger or recover from the extreme effort.
Cortisol spikes can also be experienced during intense exercise and continue to rise as the workout session intensifies.
The good is that exercises like running, strength training and other forms of exercise can help decrease stress levels.
However, too many hard sessions in a row could lead to overtraining, resulting in high levels of cortisol.
Outside of the gym, meditation is another powerful remedy for combatting stress.
Though trivial it may appear, hormones can have a powerful effect on your body.
The good news is that you are not powerless against them, since understanding how and why they affect your health can help you in fixing their negative impacts.
Healthy behaviors like regular exercise, proper nutrition, and adequate sleep can go a long way in keeping hormone levels balanced, and it is unfortunate that hormonal imbalances are often ‘treated’ with hormonal replacement therapy.