written by Natalie Pattillo

Body Banter

Holy Hormones: What Exactly ARE They?

A couple months ago, when we were spitballing women's health topics to explore, it dawned on us that we weren't all that hormone-savvy. Of course, we understand on a *basic level* that hormones change or fluctuate in certain times of our lives (like during puberty, our periods, pregnancy, postpartum & menopause). But, when it came down to the nitty-gritty of how hormones function in our bods, or what impacts them, we were embarrassingly clueless. 

Our brainstorm sesh led to a whole lot of questions we didn't recall covering in our 11th Grade Biology class: "What exactly ARE hormones? Where are they in the body? How many different hormones are there? Do they vary dramatically between men and women? Do hormone levels relate to incontinence? What's a hormone doctor called????"

Soooo, we're kicking off a new series about ~*hormone health*~. Mea culpa if you're a brilliant scientist, healthcare pro, and/or paid attention in high school Biology and have a solid grasp on the perplexing endocrine system (feel free to drop me a line if you wanna school me...totally not kidding!✌🏾).

Our Hormones Series will explore what hormones do after-puberty, pregnancy, postpartum & menopause and tackle all the questions that pop up in between. Alright, let's start, shall we? 💁🏽

Real Talk: What Are Hormones? 

Hormones = special chemicals produced by your endocrine system to help one part of the body communicate with another. Endocrine glands release hormones into your bloodstream until...drumroll please...they make contact with organs, tissues, and/or cells to help control major bodily functions. 

Just like the phone notifications or texts you receive that alert you about your upcoming deadline, coffee date, or gyno appt, hormones keep your bod as balanced and informed as humanly possible.

This brings me to this very important public service announcement: the days of blaming something on a woman's hormones are over and dead. Because guess what, hormones don't just make us feel moody (regardless of age and/or sex). They also let us know when we need to heal from injuries or flee from a dangerous situations (handy, right?).

For instance, your body uses the cortisol hormone to tell you that a deadline is coming up so you better get your sh*t together ASAP. And the melatonin hormone is the "text message" from your brain's pineal gland that says, "Turn off Netflix. It's time to go to sleep." So, like a phone that starts acting wonky, (turning off randomly, losing its charge quickly, etc), if your hormones aren't functioning properly, it can really derail your body's messaging system, which could cause problems with sleep, energy, mood, weight, incontinence, and more.

Sooo...How Many Hormones Are There and How Are They Different?

There are over 50 different kinds hormones that serve as air traffic controllers for our bods. Some hormones you've probably heard of, like estrogen, but some require a science degree to comprehend. Since we're covering the bases in this intro, here's a list of a few major hormones:

  • Adrenaline: sets off fight-or-flight response within a couple of minutes of a stressful situation, causing air passages to dilate so muscles can have oxygen to either fight danger 👊🏽 or flee 🏃🏾

  • Cortisol: controls blood sugar levels; for pregnant women, cortisol supports the developing fetuses 

  • Estrogen: controls menstrual cycle and protects bone health; fun fact: it gets a lot attention in women's lives, but men have estrogen too (!)

  • Insulin: regulates several metabolic processes, like digestion, that provide cells with energy 💪🏾

  • Melatonin: your literal biological clock ⌚️. Tells you when to relax and lowers body temps so you can snooze 😴 in peace

  • Oxytocin: plays a huge role in babymaking, your *orgasms* 😮, and helps with the release of breastmilk 

  • Vitamin D (surprised its a hormone? so were we!): helps absorb calcium 

Phew, there you have it, a whirlwind lesson on what hormones are, where they're located, and how a few of them keep your amazing bod running properly. How's this for a teaser...did you know that hormone levels can relate to bladder leaks? Next up for the series, we'll look into how life stages can affect your hormone levels and what that means for your bodies (inside & out!).

*~Have questions, suggestions, or wanna chat with me about hormones? Send me a note! natalie@shethinx.com~*