WHAT ARE HORMONES?

This week ADOFitness trainers will be dressing a topic that gets commonly asked about. Coach Jen discusses hormones.

 

What are hormones? By definition, hormones are “a product of living cells that circulate in body fluids and produce a specific, often stimulatory, effect on the activity of cells”. To someone who isn’t in the medical field or has a scientific background in chemistry or biology, that definition is probably rather confusing.

So, what are hormones? Well, our body makes hormones naturally but there are also synthetic hormones that we can put into our body. These hormones, whether natural or synthetic, travel around in our body fluids, like our blood. They are made in one part of our body, travel to another part via our body fluids, and then act on another part of the body in order to cause some sort of change. One example of this is with Insulin. The Beta cells in our pancreas make insulin, which then travels through our blood and to our cells where it helps our body regulate blood sugars.

Hormones are made to help our body perform certain tasks. Hormones can come from almost anywhere in our body and they play a role in how our organs function. Hormones play such a major role in the proper functioning of our bodies, so it’s going to be extremely important to make sure we are feeding our body correctly and moving our bodies in a way that is going to allow our hormones to stay balanced.

When speaking scientifically, “balance” in our body is often referred to as “homeostasis”. If something in our body gets out of whack, our body automatically responds to this problem in order to fix it. Thinking back to our example of insulin, when our blood sugar is too high, our body responds by stimulating the Beta cells in our pancreas to produce insulin, which then travels through our blood to our body’s cells to lower our blood sugar back down to a normal range. The things we do everyday cause our bodies to leave homeostasis almost constantly, so it is crucial to treat our bodies well so they can continue to function smoothly.
Hormones play a vital role in almost every function of our body including our metabolism, immune health, and reproduction. Even things that you eat can throw off or help restore homeostasis. Similarly, how you exercise will affect your hormone balance. Other things like stress and sleep will also greatly affect your hormones. Cortisol is a great example of a hormone that is easily effected by your everyday activity. Cortisol is an important hormone in your body that causes the “fight or flight” response when we are in danger. Often referred to as the “stress hormone”, Cortisol is released by your adrenal glands when your body perceives a threat. Having chronically high levels of cortisol in your body means your body constantly feels stressed, which can negatively affect your health by causing things like increased blood pressure and increased amounts of visceral fat around your abdomen. To help maintain cortisol levels, it is important to make sure you are eating a well balanced diet, getting enough exercise, and getting enough sleep. Caffeine and alcohol have been shown to increase cortisol levels in your body and it is recommended that these items are best had in moderation. Exercise has been shown to reduce cortisol levels, so it is important to make sure you staying active, especially if you have a sedentary job. Not getting adequate sleep can also cause cortisol levels to rise, which is why having a goal of 8 hours of sleep per night is usually recommended.

Chronically imbalanced hormones can lead to common diseases and health problems like diabetes (when your Insulin is imbalanced), insomnia (when your Cortisol is imbalanced), and infertility (when your sex hormones are imbalanced). Having imbalanced hormones can also fatigue, irritability, and anxiety. As you can see, hormone balance is extremely important for quality of life.

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