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What are hormones?

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When a person is feeling out of balance there are a number of biological factors that come into play. What are hormones and how are they affecting these imbalances?

Essentially, they are chemical messengers that are telling our cells, organs and the tissues what to do and when to do it. We all have them and help define who we are.

Our bodies are always in a state of change. Whether we experience these changes in a balanced or in a disjointed fashion depends on the fluidity and abundance of these chemical messengers.

The system of our body that secretes these messengers is called the endocrine system, and it controls our overall sense of equilibrium, or homeostasis.

The endocrine system is affecting:

  • Our metabolism, which is how the body breaks down energy sources and uses them

  • Our blood pressure and blood sugar levels

  • Our overall mood and whether we feel content or in desire of something

  • Our sexual drive and reproductive cycles

  • The sleep and wake cycle

Our homeostasis is dependent upon organs receiving the right messengers at the right time in order for the above processes to be functioning properly.

We can think of the endocrine system as the information distribution network in the body. The endocrine glands can be thought of as post offices and its messengers as the mail persons delivering the messages to their destinations.

When the messages aren’t being delivered on time, or in short supply, a person will feel unease with regards to those gland’s and messenger’s specific functions.

Imbalances can be very troublesome to a person, and over the long-term can cause debilitation not only physically but also in the way we think and feel about ourselves.

Another way to think about them is that they are a recipe: too much of a certain ingredient will dominate the taste, while too little of an ingredient will cause the food to feel like it’s missing something.

Is vitamin D a hormone?

There is a misnomer when it comes to Vitamin D. It isn’t a vitamin in the same sense as the other vitamins that we absorb from nutrients in foods.

Vitamin D is produced in the skin cells when we are exposed to sunlight. Then, the kidney and liver convert the Vitamin D into a messenger called calcitriol.

Calcitriol secretion helps our body to absorb calcium, when then helps increase bone strength and density.

For this reason, Vitamin D is called a prohormone, meaning that it is not a direct messenger but is converted into calcitriol, which is the actual messenger.

Imbalances of Vitamin D, from not absorbing the sun’s rays or not ingesting enough from food, can cause a number of other problems besides just weaker calcium absorption.

It also regulates several other chemical messengers, including serotonin, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and dopamine.

These messengers are involved with our state of content and well-being, and is the reason why getting enough sunlight directly affects our mood and can help with depression.

It is also why depriving people of sunlight, in prisons for example, is a form of subtle psychological torture because the body’s mood messengers are thrown out of balance and the person will begin to wither away both mentally and physically.

Are hormones proteins?

There can be some confusion about what the actual chemical makeups of these messengers are.

A protein is a long chain of amino acids that performs a specific function, and some messengers produced by the endocrine glands are classified as such.

Others are not composed of long chains of amino acids and have altogether different compositions depending on what their “job” is, or what message they are delivering through the bloodstream.

What is the happy hormone?

Feeling happy has a biological trail that begins and ends with the efficient flow of specific chemical messengers through the endocrine system.

Not only do the endocrine glands secrete and receive these messengers, they are converted into specific molecules for the brain to read and react to.

We can pinpoint specific messengers that are passing through the endocrine system, bloodstream and into the brain, and observe their behavioral effects.

The most important “happy” messengers are:

Dopamine

This is a critically important messenger which gives us the sensation of receiving a reward for a particular behavior, which causes us to feel good and want to continue that behavior.

Serotonin

Serotonin regulates our sleep and wake cycle, our ability to process new facts and remember them, and our overall metabolism. When serotonin is flowing healthily we feel positive, content, and balanced.

Endorphins

These are the pain relievers, and when the body is secretes them in a stressful situation we will feel more at ease, and the mental or physical discomfort caused by the stressful situation will be reduced.

Oxytocin

The secretion of this messenger produces the sensation of affection or feeling “love” towards someone or something.

Oxytocin can cause a person to feel more empathy, trust, and induce a desire for physical bonding, and its secretion is increased when a person is being physically affectionate with another.

There many medications that seek to artificially produce or regulate these ever-important messengers, although many simple life activities will naturally produce more of them.

Some examples are:

  • Laughter

  • Exposing oneself to direct sunlight for at least 20 minutes a day.

  • Feeling gratitude for people and situations, even if they are not the most desirable because something positive can be taken from any situation.

  • Listening to your favorite music

  • Eating a well-prepared meal with a significant other or friend

What are tropic hormones?

There are many types of these messengers, and their complex functioning is something to marvel at.

For example, there are some that act as managers, which essentially send signals to a glands whether to release or not to release other messengers to another location.

These “managers” are crucial for the feedback and negative-feedback loops to be in perfect synch with one another.

Deficiencies anywhere in the chain of communication will assuredly cause an imbalance to be felt.

Discovering the intricate complexities of our endocrine system shows that human beings are very subtle and changeable creatures. Just one single messenger can cause specific effects to be felt and in many variating degrees, or extremes.

When we ask “What are hormones?” we can affirm that we are investigating the biological foundation for our moods and the direct sensation of being in a state of internal balance.

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