Brainy Hormones

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Brainy Hormones

Known as the body’s messengers, hormones affect the way the body feels and functions, and are produced by many different parts of the body. The hypothalamus, a part of the brain, is responsible for many hormones. Understanding these "brainy hormones" will help you take control of your body and your health.

The hypothalamus produces hormones that control the production of hormones in the pituitary gland. These two parts of the body work together to tell the other endocrine glands when it is time to release the hormones they are designed to make. Because of this, hypothalamus function is directly related to overall hormone health. If the hypothalamus is damaged due to traumatic brain injury or genetic factors, overall hormonal health will suffer.

Hormones Secreted by the Hypothalamus

The hypothalamus produces seven different hormones:

  • Anti-Diuretic Hormones — The hormones that regulate water levels in the body, including blood volume and blood pressure
  • Oxytocin — A hormone that controls some human behaviors and the reproductive system.
  • Corticotropin-Releasing Hormone — Controls the body's response to physical and emotional stress, and is responsible for suppressing the appetite and stimulating anxiety.
  • Gonadotropin-Releasing Hormone — Stimulates the release of hormones connected to reproductive function, puberty and sexual maturation.
  • Somatostatin — Inhibits growth and thyroid-stimulating hormones.
  • Growth Hormone-Releasing Hormone — Controls growth and physical development in children as well as metabolism in adults.
  • Thyrotropin-Releasing Hormone — Stimulates production of the thyroid hormone, which in turn controls the cardiovascular system, brain development, muscle control, digestive health and metabolism.

Symptoms of Problems with the Hypothalamus

Each of these hormones must be in careful balance in order for the body to function properly. Too much or too little of any of these will affect the body's health and well-being. For example, too much of the anti-diuretic hormone can lead to water retention, while levels that are too low can cause dehydration or a drop in blood pressure.

The corticotropin-releasing hormone can lead to problems with acne, diabetes, high blood pressure, osteoporosis, infertility and muscle problems if the body has too much of it. Low levels can cause weight loss, increased skin pigmentation, gastrointestinal distress and low blood pressure.

People struggling with gonadotropin-releasing hormone levels may notice problems with poor bone health or a lack of fertility. Low levels can cause infertility, while high levels can disrupt communication between the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.

The growth-hormone releasing hormone, in high levels, can cause abnormal enlargement of the skull, hands and feet, as well as problems with menstruation or diabetes. Low levels can delay puberty in children or decrease muscle mass in adults. Somatostatin, the growth-hormone-inhibiting hormone, can cause digestive problems, diabetes and gallstones — while low levels of this hormone can cause uncontrolled growth hormone secretion, leading to psychological problems.

High levels of oxytocin have been linked to enlarge prostate glands, while low levels can cause breastfeeding difficulties and symptoms of autism or a lack of social development.

Finally, patients with high levels of the thyrotropin-releasing hormone may experience fatigue, depression, weight gain, constipation, dry skin and hair loss. Weight loss, weak muscles, excessive sweating and heavy menstrual flow are symptoms of levels that are too low.

If you suspect that you may have problems with your hypothalamus function, talk to your doctor and endocrinologist about the proper testing, so you can get back to a normal life free from the problems caused by a poorly functioning hypothalamus.

Brainy Hormones of this infographic.