Hormones are like the secret agents of the body. You cannot see them with the naked eye, but they constantly keep themselves in balance and work tirelessly in the background. Hormones are not all alike though, they can be constructed of different materials, send different messages, and come and go to different parts of the body.
The three main types of hormones, in regard to structure, are lipid hormones, polypeptide hormones, protein hormones, and peptide hormones. Each hormone type is made of different material and has a different way of signaling to the body.
Keep reading to learn about the roles of hormones in the body, each type of hormone, how hormones can be used as therapy, and where you can get hormone therapy from and certain medications used.
The Role of Hormones in the Body
Hormones are essentially chemical messengers that signal from one area of the body to another to carry out a specific function, working in almost all function from regulating our sleep cycles to making us feel hungry. Genes and DNA work alongside them to code the messages sent from hormones.
For example, epinephrine is released from the adrenal glands and is received by the rest of the body to then get into fight or flight mode. And insulin is released from your pancreas to control the amount of glucose released into the bloodstream.
Each hormone has a different role and function and they work in a synchronized way to keep things in balance. If one hormone is too high or too low, there are pathways that tell the body to up or down the production of that hormone.
Hormones work in almost all systems of the body including the musculoskeletal, cardiovascular, urinary, reproductive, respiratory system, and more.
Glands of the endocrine system also play a vital role in how hormones work in the body. These endocrine glands are responsible for the secretion and circulation of hormones to distant parts of the body.
Lipid hormones are also known as fat-soluble hormones. These hormones are made of fat molecules known as lipids, and many of them are steroid molecules.
Lipid hormones are special in the way that they are transported throughout the body. Because they are fat-soluble they have to travel through the blood attached to a protein. Once they reach their destination, i.e. the target cell, they are able to travel into the cell to relay the message.
The outside of every human cell is covered by a cell membrane, and the surface of the cell that is lipids. Lipids repel water, just like how water and oil do not mix. So, the lipid-soluble hormones can pass through the plasma membranes of cells, but other hormone types cannot as easily break through into the cytoplasm.
Testosterone is one of many examples of steroid hormones and is the main male sex hormone. It is produced in the testicles, and also in the adrenal glands in small amounts.
Testosterone is responsible for the production of semen, as well as maintaining sex drive. Testosterone also plays a role in maintaining muscle mass, hair growth, keeping fat stores down, balancing mood, and more.
Testosterone to men is like estrogen to women. Estrogen is the primary female sex hormone and is released by the ovaries. Estrogen is also released in small amounts by the adrenal glands.
Estrogen is very important for maintaining a regular menstrual cycle by controlling the growth of the uterine lining; a form of estrogen, estradiol, is commonly included in contraceptive pills for this reason.
Estrogen also promotes bone growth, muscle growth, mood stabilization, and sex drive. Women often experience symptoms of low estrogen when they go through menopause, such as hot flashes, night sweats, and mood changes. Drops in estrogen at any age can also cause high cholesterol, high blood glucose levels, and other health concerns.
Progesterone‘s primary role is to assist in reproduction and menstruation in women. In men, Progesterone is the beginning form in the process of creating testosterone. Progesterone is released by the corpus luteum in the ovaries, the placenta in pregnancy, as well as from the adrenal glands in small amounts in both men and women.
In women, progesterone levels are high after the egg is released so that the uterine lining can be prepared for a possible pregnancy. If pregnancy does occur, the placenta will create progesterone which prevents the body from ovulating again and maintains the uterine lining.
Protein and Amine Hormones
Protein hormones are another type of hormone that is used in the body. Protein hormones are similar to amine hormones. Proteins are built of amino acids, so a protein hormone is one that is made of an amino acid.
There are not many protein and amine hormones, but the ones that there are are very important to the functioning of the body. Epinephrine, norepinephrine, melatonin, and thyroxine are all examples of protein and amine hormones. These hormones talk with other areas of the body as the hormone binds to the outside of the cell membrane and cell surface.
These are considered water-soluble molecules and therefore cannot pass through the cell membrane. Thyroid hormones that function through the thyroid gland such as thyroxine are exceptions and can actually pass through the membrane to act as a signal cell inside.
Melatonin has become a more well-known hormone by the masses in the past few years. With the rise of melatonin gummies to help with sleep, it seems like almost everyone knows about melatonin.
Melatonin is a hormone created by the pineal gland, a hormone in the brain that recognizes light stimuli. If the pineal gland realizes that there is a small amount of light being taken in by the eyes, it will release the hormone melatonin.
Melatonin helps to make you feel tired and eventually fall asleep. It is a signal to the body to begin winding down for the night. However, with more people using technology such as phones and laptops, our bodies are not getting the signal that it is time for bed because there is still light present.
Another hormone, cortisol, is released by your body to signal you to wake up. If you cortisol levels spike early, this can be what is causing you to wake in the middle of the night.
Peptide hormones are similar to amine hormones but are not quite the same. Peptide hormones are also made of amino acids, but instead of just one like an amine hormone, there is a chain of amino acids.
Depending on the amino acids present it will make a different hormone. There are many peptide hormones and peptide hormones are actually the largest category of hormones.
Growth hormone, prolactin, thyroid-stimulating hormone, follicle-stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone, and oxytocin are some examples just to name a few.
Peptide hormones communicate the same way as protein hormones. They talk extracellularly, or on the outside of a cell. They also travel through the bloodstream freely or unattached to a binding protein.
Growth hormone is also known as human growth hormone, and is an important hormone when it comes to growth and development. Growth hormone (GH) is released from the anterior pituitary gland in the brain. Growth hormone promotes physical growth including height, muscle mass, and decreasing body fat.
Growth hormone is especially important in children since that is how most of the growth is completed. However, in adults, growth hormone is important to maintain metabolism, a high metabolic rate, body weight, and keep muscle tissue at an appropriate tone.
Follicle Stimulating Hormone
Follicle-stimulating hormone is a hormone that is created by the anterior pituitary in both men and women. Follicle-stimulating hormone is an important hormone in the reproductive system. In women, FSH signals to the ovaries to begin maturing an ovary for ovulation.
In men, FSH signals to the testicles to grow and is a part of helping the sperm cells mature.
Luteinizing hormone (LH) is another reproductive hormone in both male reproductive organs as well as in women. LH is released by the anterior pituitary gland and signals to the ovaries and testes.
In women, LH signals the ovaries to release estrogen, release an egg for ovulation, and stimulates the corpus luteum to produce progesterone. LH has a very important job in ensuring the menstrual cycle happens smoothly.
In men, the luteinizing hormone signals to the Leydig cells in the testes to produce testosterone. If this does not occur, the man could have low levels of testosterone, leading to multiple unwanted symptoms including low or no sperm production.
Hormones as Therapy
Because humans are not perfect it is common for people to have hormones that are not in the proper range. If hormone levels are too low, hormones can be used as therapies to increase your hormone levels and improve your quality of life. Hormones can be offered in injection, cream, gel, pill, oral, patch, and implant forms.
Before beginning hormone therapy you will need to have hormone testing done to ensure that your hormone levels are low enough to benefit from hormone replacement therapy. If your doctor identifies a low hormone problem, they will try to figure out the cause and make sure that HRT can help.
You can get hormone replacement therapy prescribed by your doctor or from a company like Elite HRT.
A hormone treatment plan may be customized just for you to address your specific needs in conjunction with lifestyle changes, and help to support optimal functioning in your body through hormone regulation.
Hormones come in all types including lipid, protein, and peptide hormones. All of the hormone types work differently but have the same goal in mind: to signal the body to carry out a function.
Hormones are amazing molecules that keep the body running smoothly and can interconnect all of the body systems.
17.2 Hormones – Anatomy & Physiology | Oregon State University
Progesterone | Endocrine Society