Hormones & Body Chemicals 101 – What You Should Know
Updated: Mar 5, 2021
When we think about health, many things fall on our mind. Unfortunately hormones and body chemicals are not one of them.
But, did you know that during each second of your day dozens of hormones and chemicals work hard to provide normal body functioning? They impact your mood, energy levels, strength, endurance, water and electrolyte balance, blood pressure, and so much more.
Put simply, hormones are chemical messengers that use your bloodstream to travel throughout the body to the necessary tissues and organs. With other body chemicals, hormones guide the body on what to do in order to run smoothly and efficiently.
If you’re producing too little or too much of a certain hormone, many healthy problems may arise. Luckily, in this blog you’ll be able to learn about the most important hormones and body chemicals, and how you can keep them in perfect order. Just keep reading!
Definition: Also known as epinephrine, represents an emergency hormone that is produced by the adrenal glands and brain.
Function: Adrenaline has the ability to initiate quick reactions which we have to make in certain stressful situations, hence the name “emergency hormone.” It increases the metabolic rate, dilation of blood vessels going to the heart and brain, regulates sugar metabolism...
Foods to increase: Lean meats, fish (omega-6), eggs, legumes, nuts, leafy greens, dairy, coffee, tea, citrus fruits, bananas, organic soybeans, sunflower oil, nuts/seeds.
Foods to decrease: Omega-3’s, egg yolks, dairy, spinach, garlic, avocado, honey, berries, black tea, chamomile, hawthorn, valerian, passionflower, ginseng, pumpkin seeds, turmeric, yoghurt.
Definition: Is a naturally occurring chemical that acts as both a stress hormone and neurotransmitter. Similar to adrenalin, norepinephrine is also released into the blood as a stress hormone when the brain encounter a stressful event.
Function: Together with adrenaline, norepinephrine increases heart rate, blood pumping/pressure, and blood sugar levels so we can get an immediate energy boost in stressful/life-threatening situations.
Foods to increase: lean meats, fish, nuts, organic soy products, leafy greens, and eggs.
Tip: Add more exercise, sleep, and music.
Definition: Human growth hormone, also known as somatotropin, is a peptide hormone that stimulates growth, cell reproduction and regeneration in humans and animals. HGH is produced by the pituitary gland, however synthetic growth hormone use is common due to its amazing properties.
Function: Essentially it stimulates the growth of all tissues, including bone tissue as well. Normal HGH levels are also needed for proper brain function, metabolic process, and recovery. HGH is very popular among body builders and athletes as it can induce fast muscle gains, strength, and endurance.
Foods to increase: beans, chicken, almonds, leafy greens, sweet potatoes, quinoa, eggs, salmon, raspberries.
Tip: Add intermittent fasting, L-arginine supplements, beta-alanine around exercise, more sleep. Avoid sugar, eating before bed, stress and anxiety.
Definition: Is an Insulin-like hormone that works alongside growth hormone (GH). IGF-1 is primarily produced in the liver, skeletal muscles, and many other tissues in response to GH stimulation.
Function: As mentioned, IGF-1 and HGH work together to produce normal muscle and bone tissue growth and development. IGF-1 can also regulate cellular DNA synthesis.
Foods to increase: dairy protein sources, fish, poultry, seafood, animal saturated fats.
Tip: Decrease sugar intake, low-fat diets, and low aerobic cardio.
Definition: Known as the male sex hormone, however it is also present in the female body. It is produced by the adrenal cortex, the testes (in males), and ovaries (in females).
Function: Testosterone has vital functions in both sexes, it signals the production of new blood cells, maintains and generates bone strength and muscular development. It is also responsible for libido. Low levels of testosterone in males can lead to sarcopenia, low libido, reduced bone strength, poor concentration, and depression.
Foods to increase: tuna, low-fat milk, egg yolks, oysters, shellfish, beans, pomegranates, extra virgin olive oil, onions, and fatty fish.
Foods to decrease: genetically modified soy products, phytoestrogens, dairy products, mint, bread, pastries, desserts, licorice root.
Definition: Better known as the “stress hormone” because of its connection to stress responses. It is produced by the adrenal gland.
Function: The main role of cortisol is to control physical and psychological stress. In danger conditions, it increase heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, etc. When you find yourself in a stressful situation the body secrets cortisol to cope up. However, too much stress and cortisol leads to anxiety, high cholesterol and blood pressure, ulcers, etc.
Foods to increase: dark chocolate, fruits, black/green tea, probiotics, fish oil, bananas, olive and coconut oil, low-sugar fruits, sea salt, nuts, legumes, eggs, lean meats.
Foods to decrease: sugar, white flour, alcohol, caffeine, soda, fried foods, artificial sweeteners.
Tip: Try to relax, avoid stress in relationships, get a pet, focus on spirituality, have fun, and sleep well.
Definition: Estrogen represents a group of hormones that are crucial for sexual and reproductive development, mainly in women. The term “estrogen” refers to all of the chemically similar hormones in this group, which are estrone, estradiol, and estriol. Estrogen is female sex hormone.
Function: In women estrogen is produced by the ovaries, it is responsible for reproduction, menstruation, and menopause. Man carry only a low level of estrogen in their body.
If there is an excess of estrogen present, many ailments may arise. High estrogen levels in the female body increase the risk of breast cancer, uterine cancer, depression, mood swings, etc. And low levels of estrogen bring acne, skin lesions, thinning skin, hair loss, etc. The same applies for males, but in different order. High levels of estrogen in males brings unwanted feminine characteristics, low muscle mass, lack of strength, gyno (gynecomastia), etc.
Foods to increase (for females): soybeans and edamame, flaxseeds, dried fruits, sesame seeds, garlic, peaches, berries, seeds and grains, wine.
Foods to decrease (for females): dairy, meat, cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower, mushrooms, whole grains, broccoli, Brussels sprouts.
Tip: Try to avoid birth control pills as much as possible. Males should avoid soy based products and foods rich in phytoestrogens. Sleep and exercise more.
Definition: Is also a female sex hormone. Progesterone is produced in the ovaries, the placenta when a women gets pregnant and the adrenal glands.
Function: Progesterone has a crucial part in the menstrual cycle and in the maintenance of pregnancy. It helps the body prepare for conception, pregnancy, and monthly cycles. This hormone also influences sexual desire. Inadequate progesterone levels can lead to weight gain, decrease in sex drive, mood swings, irregular menstrual cycle, heavy bleeding, breast tenderness, and gallbladder problems.
Foods to increase: beans, cruciferous vegetables, nuts, whole grains, dark chocolate, leafy greens, salmon, grass feed beef.
Foods to decrease: bananas, cabbage, shellfish, walnuts.
Tip: Maintain a healthy body, reduce stress, and avoid overtraining. Watch out for B and C vitamins, and Zinc.
Definition: Is a neurotransmitter known as the “happy chemical.” Dopamine plays several important roles in the brain and body, including cognition, attention, memory, sleep, mood, and much more.
Function: Dopamine is one of the few chemicals which impact mood and the way you feel. It is directly released in the brain in response to rewards after an accomplishment. It promotes feelings of happiness, pleasure, motivation, and well-being.
Foods to increase: beans, grass feed beef, chicken, eggs, ricotta cheese, oats, mustard greens, edamame, dark chocolate, seaweed, nettles, red clover, and other Tyrosine rich foods.
Foods to decrease: bacopa (Indian herb), white mulberry, Tryptophan which is present in citrus fruits, magnolia, and licorice root.
Tip: Focus on the healthy foods you really like eating, avoid stress and tension.
Definition: Besides dopamine, serotonin is the second neurotransmitter with mood-boosting properties.
Function: Serotonin is associated with learning and memory, digestion, mood, and muscle function. This chemical is crucial for your well-being, due to imbalance of serotonin one can feel depressed, anxious, and stressed.
Foods to increase: salmon, nuts, seeds, poultry, chicken, eggs, tofu, soy milk, cheese, pineapple, sardines, turkey, spinach, asparagus.
Foods to decrease: coffee, fizzy drinks, caffeine in general.
Tip: Don’t be lazy, move more, spend more time in nature, don’t eat between meals, and sleep regularly.
Definition: A hormone produced by the pineal gland with a dominant role in the natural sleep-wake cycle. It’s suggested that melatonin may be the “fountain of youth”, since experts believe it could slow down aging.
Function: Darkness causes the body to produce melatonin, which is the signal for sleep. Melatonin production starts at around 22 pm, with its highest point at around 02-03 am. People with sleeping problems could experience low melatonin levels, which could lead to serious issues in the future.
Foods to increase: dairy products, poultry, seafood, nuts and seeds, grains, legumes, fruits and vegetables.
Foods to decrease: caffeine, teas, energy drinks, spicy food, alcohol, watermelon.
Tip: Go to bed early and start a sleeping schedule.
12. Nitric Oxide
Definition: Is an essential molecule that is naturally produced in your body. Nitric oxide is the end result of a conversion process that takes dietary nitrates and turns them into a useful chemical.
Function: Nitric oxide has many functions, however the most important one is vasodilation, meaning it relaxes the inner muscles of your blood vessels, providing normal circulation. Nitric oxide is also found to positively impact memory, blood pressure, weight loss, immunity, blood sugar levels, and muscle recovery.
Foods to increase: L-Arginine and L-Citrulline rich foods, vegetables, celery, spinach, kale, cress, lettuce, beets, garlic, citrus fruits, nuts and seeds, curcumin.
Foods to decrease: soy products, corn, safflower oil, canola oil, processed foods.
Tip: Avoid mouthwashes since they kill many good bacteria which impact nitric oxide. Quit smoking if possible.
Definition: Is a hormone produced in the pituitary gland. Very important for women after childbirth.
Function: Prolactin provides lactation after childbirth, which allows normal production of breast milk. It’s also vital for fertility, mood, and sex drive.
Foods to increase: apricots, dates, barley, oats, papaya, asparagus, garlic, beets, sesame and poppy seeds, sage, parsley, peppermint, cabbage.
Foods to decrease: shellfish, beef, turkey, beans.
Definition: Is another hormone which acts as a neurotransmitter.
Function: It has a strong impact on reproduction. In females oxytocin triggers labor and the release of breastmilk, and in males it helps move sperm.
Foods to increase: fatty fish, mushrooms, peppers, tomatoes, spinach, avocados, citrus fruits, broccoli, pumpkin, dark chocolate, seeds and nuts.
Foods to decrease: sugar, processed food, saturated fats.
Definition: Is the “satiety” hormone that is produced by your body’s fat cells.
Function: Leptin is supposed to signal the brain when you have enough fat stored, so you don’t need to eat and can run on the fuel you already have.
It also has many other functions related fertility, immunity and cognition. However, leptin’s main role is long-term regulation of energy, including the number of calories you eat and expend, as well as how much fat you store.
Foods to increase: blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, canola oil, olive oil, flaxseeds, kale, beans, peas, lentils, lean meat, chickpeas, and herbal teas.
Foods to decrease: artificial sweeteners, diet soda.
Tip: Incorporate interment fasting, more sleep, and less sugar intake.
Now you have a much better understanding on how important hormones and different body chemicals are.
It is best to get blood work done so you’ll surely know on which hormone you need to focus on. An endocrinologist can also guide you through the process.