Hormones are special chemical messengers in the body that are created in the endocrine glands. These messengers control most major bodily functions, from simple basic needs like hunger to complex systems like reproduction, and even the emotions and mood. Understanding the major hormones and what they do will help you take control of your health.
The main hormone-producing glands are:
- Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is responsible for body temperature, hunger, moods and the release of hormones from other glands; and also controls thirst, sleep and sex drive.
- Parathyroid: This gland controls the amount of calcium in the body.
- Thymus: This gland plays a role in the function of the adaptive immune system and the maturity of the thymus, and produces T-cells.
- Pancreas: This gland produces the insulin that helps control blood sugar levels.
- Thyroid: The thyroid produces hormones associated with calorie burning and heart rate.
- Adrenal: Adrenal glands produce the hormones that control sex drive and cortisol, the stress hormone.
- Pituitary: Considered the “master control gland,” the pituitary gland controls other glands and makes the hormones that trigger growth.
- Pineal: Also called the thalamus, this gland produces serotonin derivatives of melatonin, which affects sleep.
- Ovaries: Only in women, the ovaries secrete oestrogen, testosterone and progesterone, the female sex hormones.
- Testes: Only in men, the testes produce the male sex hormone, testosterone, and produce sperm.
What is the stress response?
Allostasis is the process of how the body responds to stress, whether it is acute (short-term) or chronic(long-term).
The best-known acute stress response is the “fight or flight” reaction that happens when you feel threatened. In this case, the stress response causes the body to release several stress hormones, such as cortisol and adrenalin (also known as epinephrine), into the bloodstream. These hormones increase your concentration, ability to react, and strength. Also, your heart rate and blood pressure increase, and your immune system and memory are sharper. After you have dealt with the short-term stress, your body returns to normal.
Chronic or long-term stress, however, poses a problem. If you frequently face challenges, your body is constantly producing higher levels of stress hormones and does not have time to recover. These hormones over time can cause serious health problems.