Sex Hormones: What Are They and What Do They Do?

What are sex hormones?

“Sex hormones” is the colloquial title covering the group of hormones that affect our sexual drive and desire. The purpose of these hormones is to carry messages between your organs and your cells, ultimately keeping your body balanced and functioning optimally. These include estrogen, testosterone, progesterone, pregnenolone, and DHEA.

“That’s a lot of hormone names. What do they even do?”Glad you asked. Let’s discuss the primary uses of these hormones.

Testosterone

This hormone is primarily produced in the testes, ovaries in women, and adrenal glands. A predominant hormone in men, testosterone’s purpose is to maintain healthy muscle mass, stamina, and strength. It also supports libido, energy levels, memory, and an overall well-being. Since It’s the primary male sex hormone, it’s what contributes to men having deep voices, facial hair, and broader shoulders.  Too much testosterone can cause aggression, depression, impotence, and excessive libido.  A testosterone deficiency in men can cause fatigue, mood swings, low libido, and irritability (completing the stereotype associated with “grumpy old men”).Unfortunately, testosterone levels fall drastically as the body ages, inevitably leading to an imbalance between testosterone and estrogen.

In Women – Testosterone is also necessary for a proper balance in women, as well. Deficiency can also lead to low energy, decreased libido, and a drop in an overall sense of well-being.

Estrogen

It’s well known that estrogen is found in much larger amounts in women and in men. However, like testosterone, a proper balance must be maintained in both men and women in order for the body to operate at 100%. It is produced mostly in the ovaries and adrenal glands. Estrogen is a pro-growth hormone, and its main function in the body is growth and development. This hormone stimulates fat cells to grow and is a key component in reproduction. A deficiency can cause several health concerns, including decreased libido, fatigue, inflammation, hair loss, mood swings, wrinkles, weight gain, and migraines. Excessive amounts of estrogen can cause bloating, bleeding, breast tenderness and mood swings.

In Men – Like testosterone in women, just because it is the primary sex hormone in the opposite sex doesn’t mean it that plays an insignificant role in homeostasis. Low estrogen in men results in an actual increase in body fat, as well as having a significant impact on sexual function.

Fun fact: because men lack the sexual organ that women have, men must convert testosterone, using an enzyme called aromatase, to what is called estradiol, which is a type of estrogen.

Progesterone

We’ve written a great deal about progesterone in a previous blog (that you should definitely read because you are an empowered and informed individual).

That being said, progesterone is naturally produced in the ovaries and has various duties in the reproduction cycle. It is responsible for both the regulation of the monthly menstrual cycle and also at ceasing it during pregnancy. Once conception is achieved, the regular, concentrated levels of progesterone (along with estrogen) is what actually suppresses ovulation. High levels of progesterone are often cited as one of the sources of premenstrual syndrome, and symptoms include mood swings, bloating, and breast tenderness. Low progesterone has its own slew of symptoms, including migraines, depression, anxiety, lowered libido, hot flashes, and menstrual cycle abnormalities.

Take note that both low estrogen and progesterone very closely mimic the effects of menopause, since the reduction of these two essential hormones is exactly what causes it.

DHEA

Short for dehydroepiandrosterone (say that… one time, fast), the very often abbreviated DHEA is produced in the adrenal gland and the brain, and its primary function is that the body uses it to create testosterone and estrogen. DHEA peaks in the late 20’s/early 30’s and unfortunately only falls off from that point forward. Low DHEA is often found in people with hormonal disorders (surprise), HIV/AIDS, heart disease, diabetes, and immune disorders.

Pregnenolone

This is a unique entry on this list because pregnenolone is actually the precursor to all of the aforementioned hormones on this list. It’s possibly the most vital as well, based on that fact alone. It is produced in all of the major hormone-producing areas of the body, including in the adrenal glands, testes/ovaries, brain, and spinal cord.

Low pregnenolone has been linked to nearly all hormone deficiencies, but also others such as Alzheimer’s disease. It is also often used as a supplement to battle depression, memory loss, lowered brain function, menopause, and chronic stress and fatigue.

There you have it, your primary “sex hormones” and their essential partners.

“That’s a lot of negative side effects just for low hormone levels.”Agreed. Here’s a takeaway:

The important thing to note from all of these hormones listed is that they all begin to fade as we age. Add stress, environmental effects, depression, and other associated factors and we find them dwindle even faster and before they should. Our hormones are required to keep us healthy, fit, and, most importantly, happy. Don’t wait until it’s too late to monitor your hormone levels! Rejuvime Medical offers full blood panels, labs, and physicals, as well as many services geared towards battling irregular hormone levels.

Visit our website or call our offices to schedule a consultation with our staff to discuss our programs and lab testing.Baton Rouge, La: (225) 960-1580

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