HORMONES 101 – The Big 3 for Men & Women
Men and women vary tremendously when it comes to hormones and their corresponding levels. When we hear the word hormones, we typically think they are only associated with women, but men have certain hormones that should be monitored as well. I have found each sex should focus on the following 4 hormones and balancing them for a better quality of life. For women the big 3 are: cortisol, insulin, and estrogen. For men, the big 3 are cortisol, insulin, and testosterone.
Cortisol is a steroid hormone produced by the adrenal gland. This hormone is released in response to stress as well as when blood glucose levels are low. In today’s world, most of us are pumping with an excess of this hormone because of high levels of stress. We wake up, we are in a hurry to get the kids off to school, rush to work, get home and are exhausted. Repeat, repeat, repeat! Some stress is good, but for the general population I have found we have an excess of this hormone and it can only lead to such problems as weight gain, suppressed immunity, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, food cravings, type 2 diabetes, as well as decreased libido and bone loss. Fortunately there are ways to naturally lower cortisol such as getting enough sleep, meditation, having a positive attitude, sex, exercise, social activities with good friends and family, healthy eating, and most importantly re-prioritizing what is important to you in your life. We only have but so many hours in the day, so pick and choose wisely what you want to do and can do well…we certainly can’t do it all!
Insulin acts in an opposite way as cortisol, and is released when blood glucose levels are high after eating. The pancreas releases this hormone from the beta cells and its main role is to absorb the glucose from your blood after eating and deliver it into skeletal muscles and fat tissues. In our modern world, most of us have an excess of this hormone which can lead to increased triglyceride levels, increased LDL cholesterol, high blood pressure, insulin resistance, increased appetite, weight gain as well as an increase in developing type 2 diabetes. Last time I checked, none of these are positive and all can have detrimental effects on your body. Eating low glycemic foods, exercising, getting enough sleep as well as not eating calories in excess are all ways to naturally decrease insulin levels in our bodies.
Estrogen, a steroid hormone is the primary female sex hormone in the body and is responsible for the secondary sex characteristics, regulating the menstrual cycle, lactation in breasts, formation of bones, and blood clotting. Men produce some estrogen, but in lesser quantities. Finding the right balance with how much of this hormone a woman needs can be tricky, but vital. Excess estrogen is often caused by estrogen replacement therapy and birth control, obesity, cardiovascular disease, and insulin resistance. Symptoms include bloating, decreased sex drive, headaches, irregular menstrual periods, mood swings, low energy, weight gain and difficulty with memory. On the flip side, having decreased estrogen levels in the body is caused by menopause, ovary problems, stress, eating disorders, and extreme exercise and diet. Symptoms of LOW levels of estrogen include sleep disturbances, fatigue, heart palpitations, loss of libido and mood swings. Obviously having too much or too little estrogen can affect your ability to live the best quality of life possible. Finding the right balance in your body is key to helping your body run efficiently and at it’s best!
Testosterone, another steroid hormone is known as the male hormone. Women produce this hormone also, but men tend to have 7x as much. This hormone plays a role in promoting secondary sexual characteristics such as increased muscle, bone mass, growth of body hair, as well the production of sperm in men. Low testosterone is very common as men get closer to middle age. Causes of low testosterone are too much exercise, poor nutrition, aging, obesity, type 2 diabetes, as well as thyroid function. Common symptoms are loss of libido, fatigue, weight gain, lack of mental clarity and depression. Excess testosterone, which is not as common as low testosterone, is caused by anabolic steroid abuse 99% of the time. Athletes and bodybuilders often times will use this as a performance enhancing drug in their sport. Symptoms of excess testosterone are acne, prostate swelling, fluid retention, as well as decreased testicle size and sperm count.
For men and women alike, finding the perfect balance of these hormones are key in feeling your best. If you are not able to regulate them naturally, seeing a healthcare professional would be the next step. But do your research when it comes to finding aa health care professionals whose speciality is hormone therapy, called an Endocrinologist. This is literally when you want to choose the best of the best! Many healthcare professionals will read your blood results and tell you that your hormones levels are within normal ranges, however, this is VERY individual and what is considered a normal range for one, may not be normal for another.