Hormones play a crucial role in aspects of health including appetite, fat storage, energy levels and moods. Therefore, maintaining a healthy balance of hormones is very important.
But what hormones are key in keeping us healthy and happy? And how do we manage them?
What are hormones?
Hormones are chemical messengers that are secreted into the blood. They are transported to different parts of the body to carry out their specific functions. There are many different hormones responsible for a number of roles in the body. Key hormones include Oestrogen, Testosterone, Cortisol, Adrenaline, Glucogen and Insulin.
Oestrogen is considered the most important female sex hormone; it is produced in the ovaries to help regulate the female reproductive system. Research suggests that either very high or low levels of Oestrogen can lead to weight gain. However, other hormones and age can have a significant impact as well.
Oestrogen plays a role in fat storage during puberty to promote fertility. Studies into obesity showed obese women to have higher levels of Oestrogen.
To help manage Oestrogen levels it is important to consume recommended amounts of fibre, vegetables and exercise.
Testosterone is the primary male sex hormone and plays a critical role in metabolism. Research shows that low levels of testosterone are associated with an increase in body fat. Body fat is thought to contain an enzyme that converts Testosterone into Oestrogens.
The most effective way to combat low levels of testosterone is through resistance or weight training. This type of exercise stimulates muscle growth, which triggers testosterone production. A diet low in saturated fat will also help to maintain testosterone levels.
Cortisol is known as the stress hormone, it is secreted by the adrenal glands during stressful situations. Although cortisol is a vital hormone, there is evidence to suggest increased levels have been linked to weight gain and overeating.
Eating a balanced diet, managing stress levels through activities like meditation and getting enough sleep, are all thought to help maintain normal levels of cortisol.
Adrenaline (also known as epinephrine) is produced in the adrenal glands and is secreted as part of the body’s response to danger. It is an important part of your body’s survival mechanisms but can be released under stress when there is no real threat.
High levels of adrenaline can cause dizziness, insomnia and possible heart damage, as well as a release of glucose. The body would normally utilise the extra glucose during a fight-or-flight response. However, when the energy is not used for this purpose it can cause irritability and restlessness.
Minimising stress, taking part in activities like meditation and avoiding a diet high in sugar will help to control Adrenaline levels.
Insulin and Glucagon
Working together, Insulin and Glucagon balance your blood sugar levels to ensure it remains within normal ranges.
Insulin is produced by the pancreas and is secreted in larger amounts shortly after eating. It allows cells to take in excess sugar from your bloodstream for use as energy or storage, depending on your body’s requirements at the time.
Glucagon works to counterbalance the actions of insulin. Four to six hours after a meal, blood sugar levels drop, triggering your pancreas to produce Glucagon. This stimulates the liver and muscle cells to release sugar back into your bloodstream to ensure your cells have a continued supply of energy.
By eating a healthy balanced diet and leading an active lifestyle will help to ensure insulin and glucagon levels stay, as they should. Studies have shown high intakes of sugar are linked to elevated levels of insulin that can lead to cells becoming resistance and potentially resulting in type 2 diabetes.
Overall, many hormones in the body are working together to increase or decrease fat storage and influence satiety. If the system doesn’t function properly, you may find yourself experiencing weight issues. Nevertheless, eating a balanced diet and leading a healthy lifestyle can have major effects in stabilising these hormones.