Hormones basically exist to tell the body what to do. They travel around the body carrying important messages about how the organs should grow and function. If one hormone is out of balance, it can throw everything upside down.
It’s hormones that drive puberty, turning us from children into adults. Whether you have the physical characteristics generally described as male or generally described as female is heavily influenced by testosterone and estrogen. We all have these hormones, but in different levels, and that makes us look and act differently from other people.
Then there are the hormones that control the way in which our bodies respond to stress or pain, the ones that regulate our blood sugar and the ones that make us happy. That is really just a small part of what hormones can influence. Height, weight, body hair, bone density, muscle mass, digestion, sensory perception, sleep habits, and mood are all changed by our hormone levels.
Some people who don’t have enough of a hormone or those who have too much may embark on some form of hormone therapy. This includes the hormone replacement therapy used by people going through menopause, or cross-sex hormone therapy for transgender people. Some forms of contraception are hormone-based. It may even include some treatments for cancer. On the less-good side, some athletes will take hormones to illegally boost their performance.
The specific hormones you need may depend on where in the body your problem begins. Hormones are produced by what are known as endocrine glands, including but not limited to the pituitary gland, adrenal glands, pineal gland, thyroid gland, pancreas, hypothalamus and, depending on your biology, the ovaries or testes. They’re found throughout the body and have a variety of roles.
There are pills, creams, gels, injections and implants that can be used in hormone therapy, so what works best for you may vary. If you are having hormone-related problems, you need to discuss your specific circumstances with your doctor to figure out the best approach.
Hormones are so complicated and so involved in every part of the body’s physical, mental and emotional well-being that it’s not surprising that even a tiny imbalance can cause all sorts of problems. Getting your hormone levels checked can often be an important part of diagnosing a range of medical conditions.