Hormones and How They Work Within the Human Body
A while ago I was asked what I thought about
steroids. And body building. I know absolutely nothing about body building
and discovered I know the same about steroids. So I decided to learn
something in case I was ever asked that question again. Little did I know
what would follow. As I write health articles, mainly about Meniere's
disease, I try to use subjects or
topics that interest both the reader and me. I didn’t appear to have much of
an interest as I promptly forgot to learn anything about steroids, but as
you know, it’s really been in the news. And each time I heard more, I
realized I had no idea what anyone was talking about. (This sounds like the
true confessions of a nurse, doesn’t it?) Until I started to look for
definitions of a steroid, I really couldn’t figure out how it fit into my
knowledge of physiology and anatomy. I had taught some basics of the
Endocrine system, but this didn’t seem to fit. Then “the penny dropped”! I
figured out it was part of the endocrine system, but as so often happens,
the focus is on a very specific outcome.
That led me to look at all the hormones, of
which steroids are but one classification. The next struggle I had was to
decide if I wanted to do some in-depth research into steroids or would it be
more helpful for a health article, to give an overview of all hormones. And
that’s what I decided to do. I felt some insight about hormones would help
people understand their bodies more clearly. And as hormones are essential
to your wellbeing, the more you know, the better off you are. Eventually I
will show how steroids relate to your body, and I will include a few links
to sites that I found very helpful and interesting. As I read information on
these sites, it amazed me how people would take one idea and transform it
into something greater than what it was meant to do. By that I mean, someone
discovered anabolic steroids, found they enhanced a part of the body, and
then decided to use more of it. I shudder when I hear people “drugging” up
their bodies. We know so much now about chemical effects on it. So why would
a person want to ruin their liver or other parts of their body? It’s beyond
me. I hear the word steroid and I think cataract. Scary stuff!
So let’s get on with hormones. Nine in fact. And
any of them, when they are out of balance, can cause all sorts of problems.
Therefore each creates a specialty area for the medical community. Entire
careers are built around this knowledge and subsequent treatment methods.
In this article we are going to see what each
hormone is and how it relates to your everyday living. You will learn their
“area of responsibility” and what happens to you when there is an imbalance.
The easiest way to create an orderly discussion is to start at the top of
your head and work “southward”. We’ll start with your pineal gland; go to
the pituitary, then the thyroid and parathyroid glands, the thymus and
adrenal glands, the pancreas, and lastly the reproductive glands, your
gonads. I will include definitions as we go along. I won’t go into much
detail about health (or unhealthy) conditions. Suffice to say they are all
degenerative conditions. And if you recall the American Medical
Association’s recommendations on the use of nutritional supplements, you may
also recall that these conditions might well be reversible. That would
require some further research and would depend on other things, but it could
well be possible. You have to know where to look.
Just as your skin is part of the integumentary
system and your heart is part of the cardiovascular system, your hormones
are part of the endocrine system. This system has two parts: 1) glands and
organs and 2) the hormones that are created and secreted by them. The
function of the hormones, which is a chemical, is to regulate your body. It
all sounds so simple, yet it’s a vastly complex scenario. However each gland
is assigned a job and it does it automatically. It “pulls out” of the blood
stream all the ingredients it requires to manufacturers the appropriate
hormone, and then releases it back into the blood stream for delivery to the
“targeted area”. Simple, very practical, effective, and it works. But you
KNOW that there is so much more to this process! This is a complete
oversimplification, but in essence, that is what happens.
Before I go any further, I need to make sure you
don’t use this information for anything more than just learning a little
more about your hormones. Please don’t start diagnosing or treating
yourself. These are chemicals and when they are imbalanced, they will affect
all of your body. Your body craves balance. This information is written to
help you learn about your body, but just for interest: not to do more. It
will help you to understand your body and its interactions, and will help
you to ask better questions, should you need medical support.
You will quickly recognize some of the major
health conditions (possibly even Meniere's disease) as you read about these hormones. The presence of these
conditions is all to do with a lack of balance or chemical interactions. I
am sure that this little knowledge and your interest will not make you an
expert. If you have any concerns, please contact your primary care health
care professional. However, as endocrinology is a specialty with
sub-specialties, you will most likely be sent to a clinical specialist. I’m
sure you have heard that many health care students in their medical studies
have “contracted” all sorts of diseases. What they studied, they had. You
might feel the same. You probably do not anything remotely similar. So don’t
imagine the worst. Just read for interest.
Let’s go back to the blood stream and hormones
being transported to their target area. I need to digress once more here. I
deal so very frequently with blood pressure situations: high, low, or
normal. I want to make you aware how important normal blood pressure is.
Blood distributes everything throughout your body and if the pressure is too
high or too low, it changes when the “items” reach their destination. Normal
blood pressure is around 120/80
Your blood pressure will most likely never be
the 120/80 reading. Common sense dictates that sometimes it changes. AND it
does that all day long. That is normal too. There is much you can do to deal
with high blood pressure (hypertension) before you need to resort to drugs
which are more chemicals being distributed throughout your body. Another big
problem I see, and this leads me back to the hormone issue, is that many
people have low blood pressure. Low pressure will slow down the distribution
of “items” in the blood stream. And it will also make the blood more
sluggish. Two of the major components of blood are oxygen and nutrients. And
a low blood pressure will not deliver these adequately. That might result in
light headedness, fatigue, or dizziness. If your blood pressure is low,
would it not follow that all your hormones might not be delivered in a
timely fashion? Again just think about these issues.
Now Let’s Cover The
Hormones are chemical
messengers. Most go directly into your bloodstream. Their job is to regulate
your body’s activities and its chemistry: hence the messenger role term. It
is important to remember that all of these hormones work in unison and
interact. Nothing in your body works in isolation. I often tell people that
your blood doesn’t just go to one area: it connects to every cell in your
body, all day and all night long.
The major glands that make
up the human endocrine system are the pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid,
parathyroid, pancreas, adrenals, and the ones of lesser importance include
the pineal body, and the reproductive glands (gonads), which include the
ovaries and testes. There are also some digestive ones, but they pertain to
the digestive system. Here are some sites to give you more detailed
Barron’s Anatomy And Physiology Made Easy
For our information to flow a little more naturally, I will start at the
head and work to the reproductive glands.
The Pineal gland is
a small gland located in the middle of the brain. Its function is to secrete
melatonin, the hormone that regulates your wake-sleep cycle. As it controls
this sleep pattern, any change it its quantity might well change the sleep
pattern. But do remember that the body is very good at adjusting its needs.
It is also thought to delay sexual maturity until the body is ready for
reproduction. Little is known about the actual activities of melatonin. For
a while, everyone seemed to be using it, but I would use it very cautiously.
A healthy body should produce adequate amounts.
The Pituitary gland is called the master gland. It is found at the
base of the brain, near another important gland, the hypothalamus.
It plays a central role in regulating the secretions from many other
hormone-secreting glands of the body. It is very small (pea-size) in
relation to some structures of equal importance, i.e. the heart. It
influences so many areas of the body! Directly and indirectly it controls
your growth, urine production, blood chemistry and reproductive activities.
It also stimulates the growth of bone and other body tissues. It plays a
role in the body's handling of nutrients and mineral in electrolyte balance.
It stimulates the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones and it
stimulates the adrenal glands to produce other hormones. It triggers the
contractions of the uterus that occur during labor and activates milk
production at birth. You can see how it affects so many areas of your body.
An interesting point to
note is that emotions and seasonal changes have quite an effect on producing
these hormones. HGH
stimulating hormone: thyrotropin) and ACTH
(Adrenocorticotropic hormone: corticotrophin) are the most well known
of the pituitary hormones.
They all have to do with
growth, and you can see an over-abundance or a lack would certainly affect
growth. Two other important hormones are ADH (anti-diuretic) and oxytocin.
The first is responsible for affecting blood pressure. The second is very
important for muscle control in the uterus and milk production at birth. Any
changes in the production of these hormones would affect your growth. You
could have dwarfism or you could be really tall. Your urine production could
be altered. This could well affect your blood pressure. You might be
retaining fluids and get puffy ankles. Your kidneys could be excreting
elements it should keep. Normally a lot of the toxins leave your body
through your kidneys. So you need to have them functioning properly. The
pituitary hormones responsibilities are very widespread indeed!
The hypothalamus is located in the lower part of the central of the
brain, just above the pituitary gland. It is the primary link between the
endocrine (hormones) system and the nervous system. This makes it a very
important hormone. It activates and controls the part of the nervous system
that in turn controls involuntary body functions, the hormonal system,
regulating sleep and appetite and body temperature and others body
processes. Remember that it isn’t the gland that does this work: it’s the
hormone (messenger). This is done by producing chemicals that either
stimulate or suppress hormone secretions from the pituitary. (It seems to
regulate the regulator.) You can appreciate if this hormone is out of
balance, the messages would be much distorted. For example, getting messages
not to eat as much or to eat more, could result in unhealthy body weights.
Or you would be sleeping too little or too much. Or you could get incorrect
messages that your body temperature is too hot or too cold when in fact it
is just comfortable.
The thyroid is situated in the front of your neck and cushions the
parathyroid glands. Feel your way down your throat (trachea), and come to
the space just above the V. stay on the “rings” and you will feel the
thyroid gland. If it’s in good working order (and that’s what you want,) you
would need to guess at the exact location. It is soft and blends into the
throat area. The thyroid is responsible for growth hormones (can you see how
there is much cross-over in hormonal activities?) Not only do these control
growth of your body, but also the growth of your cells. Two important
hormones are secreted by the thyroid gland: thyroxine and thyrocalcitonin.
They are common in our medical language now. Thyroxine helps to regulate the
metabolic rate of all body cells. This is the rate at which cells burn fuels
from food to produce energy. Metabolism is the physical and chemical
processes and reactions happening in your body. It is the generation of heat
and energy by your cells. Energy production is important as it relates to
the ability of your cells to use oxygen. And you know that oxygen is
essential for life. Thyrocalcitonin helps regulate the calcium (and
phosphorous) levels, mainly in the bones of your body. (This has to do with
balance of the electrolyte system in your body.)
Here is a very important point. As the level of thyroid hormones increases
in the bloodstream, so does the speed at which chemical reactions occur in
the body. Can you see how relatively easy it would be to test for abnormal
thyroid conditions? A decrease in thyroid hormone production can result in
decreased energy (lethargy), slow heart rate, dry skin, weight gain,
constipation, and feeling cold all the time. You can feel this sluggish
metabolism. This condition is called hypothyroidism. Remember that a slow
pulse reflects a slow heart rate and that can translate into too little or
inadequate amounts of red blood cells carrying oxygen and other
life-sustaining elements throughout your body. But if you have too much
thyroid hormone being secreted, it creates the opposite result. Too much
thyroid hormone may result in weight loss, nervousness, tremors, excessive
sweating, increased heart rate and blood pressure, protruding eyes, and a
swelling in the neck, a very noticeable Adam’s apple (goiter). This
condition is called Hyperthyroidism. If you think this through, you would
understand that your entire body functions would be speeded up, using moiré
fuel that normal.
Thyroid hormones also play a key role in bone growth and the development of
the brain and nervous system in children. The production and release of
thyroid hormones is controlled by thyrotropin which is secreted by the
pituitary gland, as opposed to the thyroid gland. Can you see how
interrelated your body’s workings are? These messengers constantly work as a
team to rebalance the chemicals in all of your body.
Parathyroid glands are like four little buttons attached to the front
of the thyroid gland. These function together and are called the
parathyroids. They release the parathormone hormone, which, with the help of
thyrocalcitonin (from the thyroid gland) regulates the level of calcium and
phosphorus in the blood. This has to do with electrolyte balance. This
system is essential for the chemical functioning of your body. Know that
your body craves balance. This is the system that maintains it and this is
Two common problems in your body that can create this imbalance are
too much salt and too little potassium. Too much salt causes fluid to be retained in
your body, most often in your legs, and is identified as swelling. It can
also cause fluids to be retained in your lungs, causing respiratory
“distress”. This imbalance is often corrected by drawing off the fluid.
However, this might then cause a depletion of potassium that goes along with
the salt (sodium). A low potassium level can lead to slow heart rates,
weakness, and lack of motivation. It may also cause arrhythmias (abnormal
heart beats) because of chemical imbalances that may be caused in the
heart’s electrical system.
Thymus: the thymus is a gland needed early in life for normal immune
development and function. The thymus gland secretes hormones called “humoral
factors”. These hormones help to develop the lymphatic system. This is the
system throughout your body that helps it to reach a mature immune response
in cells to protect them from invading bodies, like bacteria, viruses and
other intruders. The thymus hormone, thymosin, is responsible for the growth
and development of the lymphocytes, which are becoming more researched and
known to be important.
This hormone is directly
related to your body’s ability to withstand many “intruders”. I have always
questioned the need for tonsillectomies and adenoidectomies. I saw them as a
protective mechanism of the body. Research is now encouraging the end to
this practice. I digress, but it makes more sense to me to keep your body
parts inside of you and as healthy as you can make them. Somehow cleaning
them out and restoring their functions makes more sense to me now more than
ever. If you do any research on the thymus gland, you will very quickly be
overwhelmed with information on the deficiency to the immune system and its
are frequently given “immunosuppressant drugs. Why would someone want to
suppress the body’s natural response to anything unwanted? Would it not be
wiser to rebuild it? And you know now that as the American Medical
Association says, it is possible. Please research this closely if you feel a
need. Consider strengthening your body naturally.
what I want of discuss next is an OVERVIEW. Please do NOT use this for a
school project or to make any final decisions. These hormones are very
complex. I will try and simplify this topic, but that's all it will be: an
oversimplification of a very important part of our body. I thought it would
be interesting to share my experiences in doing research for this particular
part. I used four medical texts (here in my office) and five online medical
research sites. No two resources gave the identical information! I was
surprised to come across to this lack of definite descriptions. I say this
so you will not use this as the final answer. There doesn’t seem to be one.
Sites used such terms as “apparently” and “it seems”. That told me this was
still subject to interpretation. So I will try to share what I learned.
Your adrenals are very
important in your life. You have two. One lies on the top of each kidney. If
you don’t know where your kidneys are, run your hand to the bottom of your
ribs at your back. Then run your hand up from the hip on the same side: in
between lie your kidneys. You have to use your imagination a bit, but if you
were having kidney surgery, you would be placed on your side and a little
bar would be elevated under this area to “expose” that portion of the
Each adrenal gland has two distinctive parts: the cortex and the medulla. I
will digress here for a moment to show how important medical terminology is
and how it can pinpoint a location. The word cortex will be adjusted to
“corti” or “cortico” or “cortical”. They all give a hint that this word is
somehow related to the outer part of something: and in this case the
adrenals. It immediately gives the health professional some insight and
knowledge of what “thread” or subject to look for next. Medical terminology
says a lot in a few words!
Each produces different
hormones and each has a different function. (Some medical texts divide this
into three parts, but that's too complex for our needs.) Together both
parts produce hormones such as the precursors to male & female sex hormones,
glucocorticoid hormones, and mineralocorticoid hormones and chemicals such
as adrenalin and dopamine. Situations where the glands produce either too
many or too few hormones than required by your body, is where you can run
into health problems.
You need to remember that
the pituitary and reproductive glands are also very closely involved along
with the adrenal hormones. A precursor is an element required for the
manufacture of the main “item”.
These hormones influence or regulate many functions such as salt, potassium
and water balance in the body (electrolyte concentration). Each one controls
part of the body's response to stress, metabolism, your immune system, and
sexual reproductive functions. These hormones help the body control blood
sugar, and increase the burning of protein and fat. They respond to
stressors like fever, major illness, and injury. They control blood volume
and help to regulate blood pressure by acting on the kidneys to help them
hold onto enough sodium and water. They support the body's immune system.
Chemically, all the cortical hormones are steroids. Steroids are hormones
that affect the development and growth of sex organs. Testosterone (male)
and estrogen (female) are examples of such steroids, i.e. hormones.
Incidentally, synthetic steroids are useful for cancer treatments, but they
might have undesirable side-effects. When they are used for this purpose
their function then is to alter the metabolism of the cancer cell growth. It
would also have an effect on the regular cells as well.
Let's look at the hormones produced by the inner area of the adrenal gland
(medulla). This area produces epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine.
They increase your heart rate, open your airway to improve oxygen intake,
and increase the blood flow to your muscles, when you are scared, excited,
or under stress. In effect, epinephrine increases blood pressure and heart
rate when the body experiences stress. Norepinephrine also is made by the
adrenal medulla, but this hormone is more related to maintaining normal
activities as opposed to emergency reactions. But too much norepinephrine
can cause high blood pressure.
If the adrenal glands are not functioning properly, the cause could be due
to a problem in another gland. For instance, the hypothalamus or pituitary
glands could fail to produce hormones that control the adrenal glands. Or a
problem inside the adrenal gland could be caused by some kind of disease or
infection in or around it. As mentioned before, major problems will occur
when the adrenal glands produce too many or too few hormones. A lack of
hormones from the adrenal medulla (the inner part) produces no significant
effects. On the other hand, an increase amount, usually from a tumor, causes
prolonged or continual nerve responses. It would be like always being in a
fight/flight readiness: tense and anxious.
There are two important disorders caused by problems with the adrenal cortex
(outer area): Cushing's syndrome and Addison's Disease.
Cushing's syndrome is a disease diagnosed by increased production of
cortisol or by excessive use of cortisol. If you recall, the role of the
pituitary gland (in the brain) is to regulate glands and other functions. In
this case, it is allowing excessive secreting of the adrenocorticotropic
hormone (ACTH) (growth). This hormone, normally released during stressful
situations, controls the body's use of carbohydrates, fats, and proteins.
When ACTH is secreted by the pituitary gland, the adrenal glands release
cortisol. Now you have too much cortisol. This can lead to all sorts of
complications such as hypertension, diabetes, infections, kidney stones,
etc. They all relate to the areas that they control with their hormone
Addison's disease is a hormone deficiency caused by damage to the outer
layer of the adrenal gland (adrenal cortex). The problem in this situation
is that if a person gets into a stressful situation, they have few normal
resources available to provide fight/ flight responses. So stress has to be
kept to a minimum. And how easy is that to do?
Pancreas: again I want to make sure this information is used only for
interest. I'll try to make this simple although it is enormously complex.
The pancreas and its elements are very complicated. All I am doing here is
creating an overview. Because of the very actions of these hormones, you
must not try to diagnose or treat yourself. However you have a chance to
understand the reason behind diabetes and you can choose to do something
about it. Be aware of the close spelling of glycogen, glucose and glucagon.
Glucose is a "simple" sugar. Glycogen is another sugar. (It is derived from
glucose.) Glucagon is a hormone. The pancreas is a large longish gland that
sits a little behind your stomach, but also around the top of it. The Islets
of Langerhans produce two hormones: insulin and glucagon. They are needed to
metabolize glycogen into glucose within the body to provide fuel for life.
While the pancreas is also part of this hormone-secreting system, it is also
associated with the digestive system because it also produces and secretes
Your body needs fuel to run. This process is called metabolism. Without it
you cannot live. You eat an egg with some toast, but your body cannot use
the egg and toast in that form. So it needs to be transformed into something
that can be transported by your blood stream to each and every cell in your
body. (You can't have an egg on a piece of toast flowing through your
That egg and toast are made up of many "ingredients: fats, carbohydrates,
proteins (macronutrients) plus antioxidants, minerals etc. (micronutrients).
In order for these to be changed into usable fuel, the pancreas gets an
automatic message to release a hormone called insulin. The insulin converts
this meal into a good "sugar" and you now have fuel that flows through your
bloodstream to give you energy for your activities, including all those
activities your body does that you don’t know about. Extra sugar (glycogen)
that is not “matched” with insulin will now be stored in your liver or in
your muscles. (The extra donut and fries.)
But imagine you feel hungry. If you don't have any food to give it, it means
your the body is short of fuel. The pancreas then sends a message via
glucagon to the liver to release some glycogen. This glycogen is then
converted into glucose which is now your fuel. If you continue to "borrow"
from your storage supply, its load will eventually be depleted. Your
muscles, another source of glycogen, will then be depleted. They will become
emaciated. If you don't continue to fuel your body (starvation), you will
eventually die. So the roles of insulin and glucagon are to be messengers in
keeping your fuel supply even. Glucagon is the opposite hormone of insulin.
It essentially takes stored fat and changes it into sugar as means of
increasing blood sugar levels (fuel).
As long as you provide good food, the hormones will work together to
maintain a steady level of glucose, or sugar, in the blood and to keep the
body supplied with fuel to produce and maintain stores of energy. Amazing
findings are being revealed about what takes place in our bodies when we eat
what is now referred to as a high glycemic meal. I urge you to study this
reseouce and use it to keep your body healthy.
The medical term for high blood sugar is called hyperglycemia (too much
sugar in the blood). Too little sugar in the blood is called hypoglycemia.
(too little) There are many people who have hypoglycemia and need to carry
some form of digestible food with them at all times. Hypoglycemia can affect
your body more quickly. It can be life threatening. Hyperglycemia shows up
much more slowly. It builds up in your body over time.
Your body is always trying to rebalance itself. In order to handle an extra
"sugar" load, it needs to produce more insulin. There are two (amongst many)
challenges here. One involves the continual production of the body's
adequate supply of insulin. At some point it can't do it any longer. Or the
production is very slow and you end up with excess sugar in the blood
stream. That leads to the next problem. Research is now showing that this
excess is causing oxidative stress and irritation of the blood vessel walls.
That is not healthy. Insulin lowers blood sugar. It is essentially your
"storage hormone" as it drives the extra sugar into the cell to be utilized
or stored as fat. It is this storage load that the glucagon will use when
your blood sugar is too low.
If your blood glucose levels rise for a prolonged period of time, kidney
failure, blindness, and hardening of the arteries can result. This is
hyperglycemia. If one’s blood sugar drops to very low levels, coma, seizure,
or even death may occur. Therefore, our bodies have this very sophisticated
hormonal system that is continuously working to maintain blood sugar levels
between 80 mg/dL and 180 mg/dL.
Problem conditions for
Diabetes is the major disorder of the pancreas. It represents an
imbalance of blood sugar levels. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas does not
produce enough insulin (Type 1) or the body is resistant to the insulin in
the blood (Type 2). Without enough insulin to keep glucose (fuel) moving
through the metabolic process, the blood glucose level rises too high. In
Type 1 diabetes, a patient must take insulin shots. Their pancreas is not
producing insulin or in such small amounts, that it doesn't really have any
affect. In Type 2 diabetes, a patient may not necessarily need insulin and
can sometimes control blood sugar levels with exercise, diet and other
medications. This condition would have developed over time and insulin
production may be chronically short. In order not to take any drugs, the
person would be advised to cut back on normal eating habits and change to
foods low in sugar. A word of warning. Before you buy any artificial
sweeteners, please do research on them. They can be “problematic”. We have
advertising that leads us to believe they are healthy, but they are more
Sometimes a condition called hyperinsulinemia (HI) is caused by too
much insulin and leads to hypoglycemia (low blood sugar). Symptoms of low
blood sugar include anxiety, sweating, increased heart rate, weakness,
hunger, and light-headedness. Low blood sugar stimulates release of
epinephrine, glucagon and growth hormone, which help to return the blood
sugar to normal. Although the endocrine glands are the body's main hormone
producers, some non-endocrine organs - such as the brain, heart, lungs,
kidneys, liver, thymus, skin, and placenta - also produce and release
hormones. Again we see the interactions of all body systems and the effect
of one part of your body can have on a part "far removed", as in the
pituitary gland influencing the pancreas near the stomach.
Please realize that this information on the pancreas is only an overview and
should be researched much further.
The hormones, that are responsible for reproduction, come from two sets of
glands and as a group they are called the gonads. In the female they are the
ovaries and in the male they are testes. Let's look at them separately.
Reproductive hormones: Female
The ovaries are located in the "pelvic cavity". That is the space "below"
your abdomen. We think all parts of our body "below the belt" as being
contained in one large space in our abdomen. In fact, we have several spaces
(cavities) in there and the lowest one is the pelvic cavity. It holds the
uterus, fallopian tubes and ovaries. The uterus can be described as a
thick-walled hollow vase-shaped structure. The lower end of the uterus is
called the vagina and it ends with the cervix. The main part of the uterus
is a wider structure. And attached at the top end of both sides is a long
thin tube called the fallopian tube, which ends with an ovary. This is the
source of the hormones: estrogen and progesterone. If you can imagine
looking directly at the face of a long-horned bull, it would give you an
idea of what I am trying to convey. :)
These steroid hormones contribute to the development and function of the
female reproductive organs and sex characteristics. They are responsible for
several functions throughout the life of a female. And as with other
hormonal action, the pituitary gland and others glands will also contribute
hormones. The ovaries secrete two hormones, estrogen and progesterone.
Estrogen is involved in the development of female sexual features such as
breast growth, the accumulation of body fat around the hips and thighs, and
the growth spurt that occurs during puberty. It also contributes to the
maturing of reproductive organs such as the uterus and vagina, making them
ready for pregnancy. The other hormones: progesterone causes the uterine
lining to thicken in preparation for pregnancy. Together, progesterone and
estrogens are responsible for the changes that occur in the uterus during
the female menstrual cycle.
The most common female hormonal change is caused by the start of menopause.
This is not a disease or a negative condition. This is part of the normal
aging process. (The ovaries, if diseased, can also be removed surgically:
thus menopause will begin immediately). If the ovaries are no longer
present, there is no other way for the body to produce these hormones. Thus
all the related functions of a pregnancy cannot happen. The message to get
the body ready for pregnancy will not be sent. Some side effects of the lack
or absence of the estrogen hormone are hot flashes, thinning vaginal tissue,
lack of menstrual periods, mood changes and bone loss (osteoporosis). One
not too uncommon condition to these hormones is a condition called
polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
Reproductive hormones: Male
The male sex gland is the testis. There are two testes and each is located
in the scrotum, which is a small bulb-like structure outside the lower
abdomen. These glands are the main source of sex hormones called
testosterone but you will recall the pituitary and other glands (adrenals)
also send chemical messengers to enhance the these activities. In this
instance, working with hormones from the pituitary gland, testosterone is
also involved in the production of sperm by the testes. The hormones that
are secreted are called androgens. They regulate body changes associated
with sexual development, including enlargement of the penis, the growth
spurt that occurs during puberty, and the appearance of other male secondary
sex characteristics such as deepening of the voice, growth of facial and
pubic hair, and the increase in muscle growth and strength.
Any change in the production of the hormone, androgen, will result in fairly
obvious changes. A lack of androgens would result in less masculine
characteristics or behaviour. And increase of androgens would enhance these
characteristics. It is relatively easy to understand that the undesirable
"steroid" notoriety is based on people taking these products to enhance
their masculinity. But this practice seems to be done because the person
feels inadequate abut their appearance or strength. Thus they have to
support their negative self image by taking synthetic male hormones
What is a little harder to understand is the lack of fear about the side
effects of this practice. Here are some possible side effects in using
synthetic steroids. They include changes in appearance (acne or increased
facial hair), development of a round or moon-shaped face, thin, fragile skin
that bruises easily, or changes of body fat to the trunk. You might also
experience mood changes, personality changes, irritability, agitation, or
depression. Other possible side effects include increased appetite and
weight gain, poor wound healing, headache, glaucoma, irregular menstrual
periods in women, peptic ulcer, muscle weakness, osteoporosis,
steroid-induced diabetes, and osteonecrosis (damage to the hip joint that
leads to severe arthritis). This is obviously a very serous undertaking and
should not be done without a lot of medical support and recommendations.
Steroids and steroid abuse,
“There are several types of steroid (sex) hormones. Anabolic steroids are
hormone-like substances related to testosterone, the major male sex hormone.
Anabolic steroid hormones are different from the steroids produced by the
adrenal glands that are similar to "cortisone" and are often prescribed to
treat inflammation, asthma and rashes. The abuse of anabolic steroid
hormones among young people has been rising over the past several years.”
“Unfortunately, we still don't know how great the problem is throughout all
of society, and don't know what the effects steroid abuse ultimately will
be.” The Hormone Foundation.
Steroids were very useful and practical when administered by qualified
medical practitioners, but this has now turned into a cultural pastime. Here
are two very helpful and easy to understand sites to learn more. If you look
at the psychological changes and the health risks, you wonder why anyone
takes these willingly. Psychological symptoms include: Mood swings, Sleep
disruption,Aggressive behavior, Extreme irritability, Delusions, Impaired
judgment because of feelings that nothing can hurt you, Paranoid jealousy,
Euphoria (exaggerated feeling of well being), Depression (after stopping
steroids),Lack of sexual drive (after stopping steroids)
Conclusion: I hope this
has been an interesting overview into the actions of your hormones. They,
like the rest of your body, require tender loving care and respect. Now you
can appreciate that if there is a problem with inappropriate or useless
nutrients (empty calories) coming into your body, this would have a major
effect on your health. Remember that the only way your body gets any energy,
is through nutrition/foods. We don’t often think in terms of what we feed
it. We simply expect it to run all the time, in good health. But here you
can see if you don’t feed it proper “usable” foods, it simply can’t get the
fuel it needs. And then the vicious cycle starts. Without nutrients in your
bloodstream, you are not feeding each individual cell of your entire body.
Result? Now you get fatigue and a slowing down of all your systems. This is
only a brief overview and it certainly is not complete. If this hormone
interests you please follow up with a lot of research. The above links are
very helpful. May I remind you not to use this information for anything
other than to recognize your body’s importance in your life?
By Karin Henderson - Nurse, Retired.
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