Save 50% off your first week of the 4 Week Challenge with code GOAL50

Hormones & Health: Key Facts for Both Men & Women

What are hormones and what do they do?

Hormones are your body’s chemical messengers produced via your endocrine glands. Following their release, they travel through the bloodstream to specific target organs, altering the activity of these organs. This process coordinates various vital bodily functions such as the metabolism, growth and development, and reproduction.

They can also significantly impact our mood and overall sense of wellbeing. This is especially true for feel-good hormones like dopamine, serotonin, endorphins, and oxytocin. For hormones to work, they must bind to hormone receptors, which are proteins located either inside the cell or on the cell membrane of target cells in target organs. This binding triggers a biological reaction.

Importantly, a hormone can only bind to a cell if that cell has the specific receptors for it. However, many cells can have receptors for various hormones. Once their job is complete, they are broken down by the liver, and unlike the effects of the nervous system, which commences quickly, hormonal effects take longer to appear but last longer.

What are hormones made from?

Hormones can be classified into three main groups based on their chemical structure: amines, peptides, and proteins. This classification affects their distribution, the type of receptors they bind to, and various other functional aspects.

 

  1. Amine hormones are made from the amino acids tryptophan and tyrosine. For example, melatonin, a well-known amine hormone made from tryptophan, is secreted by the pineal gland and plays a crucial role in regulating the circadian rhythm, in other words, promoting healthy sleep patterns.
  2. Peptide and protein hormones are categorised based on the length of their amino acid chains. Peptide hormones, which have short chains, include antidiuretic hormone (ADH), produced by the pituitary gland, which is essential for fluid balance in the body. Protein hormones have longer chains of amino acids. Examples include growth hormone, also produced by the pituitary gland, which regulates growth and development, and follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), which stimulates egg maturation in the ovaries, prepares them for ovulation, and controls sperm production in the testicles (testes).
  3. Lipid hormones, also known as steroid hormones, are made from the lipid cholesterol. This group includes the primary reproductive hormones, testosterone and estrogens, which are produced by the testes and ovaries. Additionally, the adrenal glands produce aldosterone, which regulates blood pressure by managing sodium and potassium levels in the bloodstream, and cortisol, known as the stress hormone, which is crucial for regulating the body’s stress response and metabolism.

Difference between female and male hormones

Contrary to popular belief, there are no separate hormones for men and women; both share the same hormones in their bodies. The differences lie in where these hormones are produced, their concentrations in the blood, and how they function in the body. For example, oestrogen and progesterone are the primary sex hormones in women, while testosterone is the primary sex hormone in men. However, women also produce small amounts of testosterone, and men produce small amounts of oestrogen and progesterone. In specific terms, men after puberty are known to produce twenty times more testosterone than women.

Hormones and women’s health

In women, oestrogen and progesterone are the primary sex hormones produced in the ovaries, with smaller amounts made by the adrenal glands and fat cells. Oestrogen influences various life stages from puberty to menopause and impacts several aspects of health, including bone strength, skin health and elasticity, mood regulation, cholesterol levels, and heart health. It also plays a crucial role in regulating the menstrual cycle and promoting the growth and maintenance of the uterine lining. Progesterone, another key female hormone, prepares the uterine lining for the implantation and growth of a fertilised egg and supports pregnancy. Women also have testosterone, which is important for reproduction, growth, and overall health. However, in women, most testosterone and other androgens are readily converted into female sex hormones, unlike in men. Levels of oestrogen and progesterone can fluctuate monthly due to lifestyle, genetic, and medical factors. Signs that these hormones might be off-kilter for women include excessive weight gain, sweaty skin, decreased sex drive, hair loss, extreme fatigue, persistent acne, loss of muscle mass, digestive issues, and hot flashes or night sweats.

Which foods might help balance hormones in women?

Diet, exercise, and lifestyle are crucial for maintaining hormonal balance. To support your health, consume a variety of whole fruits and vegetables to nourish good bacteria in your microbiome and ensure your body receives essential vitamins and minerals, such as magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, and vitamin D. Maintain a regular exercise routine to help control insulin levels and reduce the stress hormone cortisol, and prioritise quality sleep to regulate stress, manage appetite, and aid in sugar metabolism. Additionally, manage stress levels through activities like acupuncture, yoga, meditation, and mindfulness to boost feel-good hormones like serotonin and dopamine.

To support female sex hormones like oestrogen and progesterone, include high-fibre foods like vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains, nuts, and seeds. These foods promote regular bowel movements, helping clear metabolised hormones from the body and preventing their reabsorption. Additionally, fibre helps maintain balanced blood sugar levels and increases insulin sensitivity, both important for hormonal balance. Research indicates that vitamin B6 deficiency might be linked with hormonal imbalances in oestrogen and progesterone. To address this, consuming foods rich in vitamin B6, like whole grains, dark leafy greens, bananas, carrots, potatoes, sunflower seeds, walnuts, pulses, beans, and lentils, or taking vitamin B6 supplements could be helpful. If you’re looking for an easy way to meet your daily vitamin B6 needs, you might want to try our new Beet Balance Juice Shot, which provides 100% of your daily requirement.

For oestrogen dominance, cruciferous vegetables like broccoli, Brussels sprouts, and cauliflower naturally facilitate the production of indole-3-carbinol. This compound is further broken down into diindolylmethane (DIM), which is thought to enhance the clearance of excess oestrogen in the liver.

Hormones and men’s health

In men, the main sex hormone, testosterone, follows a twenty-four-hour cycle with the highest levels in the morning, gradually decreasing after 9 AM throughout the day. These fluctuations can affect mood, attitudes, and behaviour. Testosterone levels build up overnight, peaking in the early morning. This hormone is crucial for men’s health, as it regulates sex drive, contributes to bone mass, muscle mass and strength, and aids in the production of red blood cells and sperm. A small amount of testosterone is converted into estradiol, a form of oestrogen, which is necessary for regulating libido and sperm formation. Men also produce small amounts of progesterone, which helps prepare sperm for fertilisation and may improve sleep and immune function.

Imbalanced testosterone levels can be caused by various lifestyle, medical, or psychological factors. Signs of hormonal imbalance in men, particularly low testosterone levels, include depression, low libido, mood swings, loss of muscle mass, lack of motivation, poor concentration, and short-term memory loss.

Which foods might help balance hormones in men?

To maintain balanced hormone levels, similar to women, it’s crucial to prioritise the health of the microbiome, include a varied, colourful diet rich in fresh fruits and vegetables, stick to a consistent exercise regimen, ensure sufficient quality sleep, and effectively manage stress levels. In men, testosterone levels may gradually decline due to factors like medications, injuries, and stress. Natural methods to enhance testosterone levels involve focusing on foods rich in three key nutrients: zinc (found in beans, nuts, and pumpkin seeds), magnesium (available in nuts, seeds, dark leafy greens, legumes, and whole grains), and vitamin D (obtained from sunlight, sunflower seeds, mushrooms, and chlorella).

 

Author: Plenish Nutritionist, Katie Morley

DipNT, mBANT, mANP, CNHC

Email: [email protected]

Website: www.holsome.uk