All About Your Hormones

Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that travel in the blood to organs and tissues signaling them to do the work they were designed to do. They can affect many different processes in the body, including reproduction, sexual function, metabolism, growth and development, and even mood. Men and women both have hormones, and hormone levels change and develop as the individual grows and ages.

Hormones and Their Effect on Female Development

Hormones are sometimes connected to women because of the way mood swings often occur in females. In young girls, hormones trigger bone growth and health, and signal the beginning of puberty as the body matures. This can cause breast tenderness, acne, mood changes and menstrual cramps. Hormones are also crucial for the start of menstruation. Puberty typically occurs between the ages of 12 and 14.

As the body grows and the woman enters her childbearing years, her hormones are responsible for muscle mass changes and weight control. They also play a fundamental role in pregnancy. Hormone imbalances during this stage may cause:

  • Skin changes
  • Mood changes
  • Weight gain
  • Low energy
  • Low libido

At about age 45, most women begin to leave their childbearing days behind, entering a stage known as menopause, wherein hormone levels begin to change to prevent pregnancy. Estrogen and progesterone levels drop during menopause, and infertility eventually sets in. Some women will experience bone loss. During this time, mood swings, hot flashes, sleep problems, and urinary or vaginal discomfort are common.

Hormones and Their Effect on Male Development

Men and boys are also affected by hormones. During puberty, testosterone production increases in boys, causing bone growth, muscle mass changes and body maturation — also signaling the sexual changes that lead to adulthood. During this time, boys will notice new hair growth, acne development, a deepening of the voice, and a widening of the shoulders. Male puberty typically occurs between the ages of 9 and 14.

Between the ages of 18 and 40, men may notice their testosterone levels dropping. During this time, hormone changes can help contribute to weight control and muscle mass changes. Hormone imbalances in this time may cause:

  • Weight gain
  • Low energy levels
  • Low libido
  • Mood changes
  • Skin changes

As men start to approach 50, testosterone levels will drop further. Some men will struggle with brittle bones. Infertility can occur as sperm count levels drop. Erectile dysfunction, reduced energy, loss of hair, and low libido can occur because of hormones later in a man's life.

Keeping Hormones in Balance

Natural hormonal development is essential for the health of men and women. Individuals can support their hormones by following a healthy diet and getting about 30 minutes per day of moderate physical activity. Both men and women should strive for three meals per day that are low fat and low sugar, focusing on fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats.

Hormones are a vital part of your body's overall health. If you are struggling with your hormones or have symptoms that could be related to hormone problems, find an endocrinologist to help.