Hormones and Health

I have noticed over the past few years how health conscious individuals are now more aware of how influential hormones are when it comes to achieving their physical and performance goals. I have certainly enjoyed updating my knowledge with this week’s blog.

Before going any further, its important to define what hormones actually are, here is a definition I found on www.medicinenet.com “Hormone: A chemical substance produced in the body that controls and regulates the activity of certain cells or organs. Many hormones are secreted by special glands, such as thyroid hormone produced by the thyroid gland. Hormones are essential for every activity of life, including the processes of digestion, metabolism, growth, reproduction, and mood control. Many hormones, such as neurotransmitters, are active in more than one physical process.”
For the purpose of today’s blog, I am going to concentrate on a handful of commonly known hormones and briefly describe them.
– Testosterone

– Oestrogen

– Insulin

– Cortisol

– Leptin & Ghrelin
Testosterone

This hormone is created in the Testes for Males and in the Ovaries for females. It is also created in small amounts in the adrenal glands for both sexes. Men generally have larger amounts of testosterone than females and as such genetically have bigger muscle mass and bones.

Regular weight based training has shown to help maintain good testosterone levels, which assists in increased muscle development, energy levels and mood.
Extremely high levels of artificial testosterone in men can lead to mood changes, and potential reproductive problems whereas women can suffer from Acne, voice deepening and hair loss.

Oestrogen (Estregen)

Oestrogen is primarily a female development hormone responsible for their reproductive system. Men generally do have this hormone but in small amounts. “Estrogen is produced primarily in the ovaries, the organ that produces the woman’s eggs. Adrenal glands also make some estrogen, which is why men will have estrogen in small amounts. Fat also creates estrogen. Once it is created, estrogen is transported to the body’s tissues through the blood.” As well as the everyday benefits for females, maintaining good levels of Oestrogen can also benefit Cholesterol control, bone health, and also brain health.
Specifically in women:

High levels of Oestrogen has been known to lead to weight gain and low energy levels.

Low levels of Oestrogen can cause mood swings as well as hot flushes.

Regular exercise does have benefits for maintaining good Oestrogen levels but again this depends on the individual and state of health.

Insulin

Having looked a various definitions and descriptions for Insulin I can best come up with the following way to define it keeping it relative to today’s blog

Insulin is a hormone released by the pancreas whenever we eat. Its job is to help distribute the nutrients from our bloodstream into our body’s muscle, liver and fat cells.

Precision Nutrition describe the importance of insulin well in the fact that

“Without enough insulin, you lose all of the anabolic effects, since there is not enough insulin to transport or store energy or nutrients. Individuals with type 1 diabetes don’t produce insulin; if left untreated, they die.

On the other hand, if blood levels of insulin are always high, we also have trouble.

Continual elevation of insulin leads to large amounts of fat gain and risk for cardiovascular disease. This can lead to the development of type 2 diabetes.

Type 2 diabetes is characterized by obesity (particularly central deposition adiposity, or fat around the middle and deep in the abdominal cavity), cardiovascular disease, systemic inflammation, and the poor ability of muscles to store nutrients, which leads to muscle wasting and fat storage as well as nutrients circulating in the blood.

Insulin resistance, and its associated metabolic syndrome, is a step along the road to type 2 diabetes.”
Type 2 Diabetes is lifestyle related and is commonly as a result of regular overconsumption of sugary/processed foods and drinks/alcohol. Type 2 Diabetes can be avoided and improved as research has shown benefits of a regular health and exercise regime will maintain/reduce blood sugar levels.
Cortisol

Cortisol is a steroid hormone and is released from the adrenal gland as a result of stress and low blood sugar levels. Cortisol is released to assist your body during these times under stress. This can be seen as a short term benefit to keep us functioning but long term constant and regular release can lead to weight gain, water retention as well effects on mood. Ways to control your levels of cortisol include regular sleep patterns, a controlled diet and taking time to relax.

Briefly I’ll touch on:
Leptin and Ghrelin

Referring back to Precison Nutrition they best describe these

“Leptin and ghrelin seem to be the big players in regulating appetite, which consequently influences body weight/fat. When we get hungrier, we tend to eat more. When we eat more, obviously, we maintain our body weight or gain that weight back.

Both leptin and ghrelin are peripheral signals with central effects. In other words, they’re secreted in other parts of the body (peripheral) but affect our brain (central).

Leptin is secreted primarily in fat cells, as well as the stomach, heart, placenta, and skeletal muscle. Leptin decreases hunger.

Ghrelin is secreted primarily in the lining of the stomach. Ghrelin increases hunger.

Both hormones respond to how well-fed you are; leptin usually also correlates to fat mass — the more fat you have, the more leptin you produce.”
Sleep deprivation is commonly associated with raised levels of Ghrelin leading to increased hunger.
Dieting can also be associated with Leptin issues. If fat mass is lost then leptin is reduced and can lead to increased hunger and risk of binge eating causing excessive weight gain long term. In my opinion the long term lifestyle change approach is a more sensible approach allowing your habits and hormones to adapt as well.
As with any lifestyle change I would always recommend consulting a medical professional if you have any questions or concerns about your body’s hormones and the effect of a health and exercise routine on them.

References:

http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/what-do-hormones-do/testosterone

http://www.hormone.org/diseases-and-conditions/womens-health/what-is-estrogen

https://www.muscleforlife.com/how-insulin-works/

http://www.hormone.org/hormones-and-health/what-do-hormones-do/insulin

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/all-about-insulin

http://www.precisionnutrition.com/leptin-ghrelin-weight-loss

https://authoritynutrition.com/leptin-101/

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