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What Are Hormones?

Most people have heard of hormones and are aware that they can affect our every day lives, our mood, our relationships etc. What exactly are hormones and how do they work? This month I will do a general overview, and then I will do a deeper dive into a few specific hormones over the next few months.

sleeping woman

So, what are hormones?

They are chemical messengers. They travel from organs through the blood to different areas of the body. These chemicals can signal anything from time to sleep, mood regulation hunger, or even reproduction and pleasure. 

Sometimes hormones are released in a feedback loop.   

One  example is insulin. When you eat food, it is broken down into nutrients and energy. This energy is called glucose. When there is glucose in your blood stream, it signals your pancreases to release insulin. This insulin is able to bind to the glucose. It's like a little lock and key. One the insulin binds to the glucose, it can be carried into a cell to give that cell the energy. Once the glucose levels in your blood drop, there is no more signal to your pancreases to release insulin, so, it slows down.  When you eat again, the process starts all over. 

When your hormone system is working well, these chemicals allow you to be in homeostasis, where everything is nicely regulated and you feel healthy and normal. When your system is out of balance, however, it can lead to sleep disorders, mood swings, sexual disfunction, diabetes, etc. Things that can knock the hormone system out of balance include genetic predisposition, environmental factors, diet, organ damage, cancer and immune disorders. 

Sometimes, your hormones are so out of balance for so long that your body now thinks that is the new normal and you may have trouble resetting your system back to a healthy place. A common example of this is melatonin levels and sleep regulation. 

Next time I will dive into some specific hormones, how they work and how you can help keep the system well regulated. 


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