How many hormones are in our body?

Hormones and Your Health: An Essential Guide

We tend to think of certain times in life, such as puberty, pregnancy, and the transition to menopause as hormone-fueled, but the truth is that our hormones influence the health of our bodies and minds every single day.

So what exactly are hormones? Hormones are special chemicals that travel through the bloodstream. “Think of them as the body’s internal WiFi,” says Randi Hutter Epstein, MD, the author of Aroused: The History of Hormones and How They Control Just About Everything. They carry messages from the glands where they are produced to cells in different parts of the body. These chemical messages help to manage cellular processes that control appetite, growth, stress, blood sugar, sleep cycles, sex drive, and sexual function, to name a few. (2)

The Role of Hormones

“The term ‘hormonal’ has become synonymous with ‘moody,’” says Dr. Epstein. While hormones do affect mood, they do much more in the body than that, she says.

Hormones are involved in some way in most bodily functions — from the basic (hunger, heart rate) to the complex (reproduction and emotion). (2)

Some hormones, such as serotonin and dopamine, also function as neurotransmitters — chemicals that relay messages between nerve cells in the brain and from neurons to muscles. Neurotransmitters help to coordinate movement and control mood and cognition. (3)

Hormones Are Produced by Glands That Make Up the Endocrine System

Glands are organs that secrete substances. Major hormone-secreting glands in the body include: the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, thymus, adrenal glands, pancreas, thyroid, ovaries, and testes. (2) “The body’s network of hormone-producing glands and organs is called the endocrine system,” explains Caroline Davidge-Pitts, MB, BCh, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine in Rochester, Minnesota. (Endocrinologists are hormone doctors.)

Endocrinologists Help Diagnose and Treat Hormone-Related Health Problems

Because hormones are so important to proper functioning, small problems with hormone balance can cause serious health problems. But diagnosing a hormone problem can be complicated, and treatment usually involves more than just getting more — or less — of a certain hormone, according to Dr. Davidge-Pitts.

The endocrine system is a complex web of interactions. “Hormones interact with each other and with many other systems of the body, including the immune system, in ways that we don’t yet understand,” says Epstein.

Here’s a look at some key hormones and what research is showing us about their diverse roles in the human body.

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