Hormones are complex substances that contribute to your body’s well-being. Our doctors can discuss how hormones affect your health and help you if we determine there may be a problem. Hormone imbalances can cause a variety of health issues. We can evaluate you for testosterone or estrogen imbalances and start treatments to bring any hormone issues back into balance. We serve patients in Hartford, Avon and New Haven, CT and we can help you learn more about hormones. Please contact us or call us at (860) 430-9690 to learn more and schedule an appointment.
Our bodies contain over 60 trillion cells, each of which must be able to communicate with the other in order to carry out bodily functions. Hormones are the chief chemical messengers between cells. Hormones travel through the blood stream, “hitch hiking” on protein molecules, and enter the cells through special “receptor” sites.
Receptor sites are like locks—each lock can only be opened by a specific key. The various hormones are the “keys” that open specific receptors. Once inside the cell, hormones begin flipping the cellular switches that control metabolism, energy, tissue repair and building, growth and development, and most of the mental and physical functions of life.
The various hormones must exist in the proper balance. When that balance is compromised, either by too little or too much hormone, a whole host of symptoms can occur. Left unchecked, hormone imbalance can lead to toxicity and disease. Hormone balance is related to the foods we eat, the amount of stress in our lives, how much (or little) we exercise, and the amount of environmental toxins to which we are exposed. In addition, while hormone levels can be affected at any age, it is certainly true that hormone levels decline with age, along with potential hormone imbalance.
The main hormone producing and controlling organs are the pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands, and the ovaries in women and testes in men.
Pituitary & Thyroid Glands
The pituitary gland is a small gland deep in the brain. Among other things, it makes TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). TSH triggers the thyroid gland in the neck to make thyroid hormone. The main hormone produced by the thyroid is T4, or levothyroxine (the “4” refers to the number of iodine molecules). T4 gets secreted into the blood and travels to the various tissues in the body, where it then gets converted to the much more potent and active T3. (The thyroid gland does produce T3, but in very small amounts.)
If the thyroid gland starts to get sluggish (hypothyroidism), two things happen. First, TSH starts to back up and the levels in the blood will rise. Second, the thyroid gland produces less T4, ultimately resulting in less T3.
Alternatively, if the body does not adequately convert T4 to T3, even if the thyroid gland and pituitary are working properly, the results can be the same as an underactive thyroid.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are fatigue or poor energy, lack of endurance, weight gain or difficulty losing weight, thinning or dry hair, nails and skin, depression, poor sleep, and muscle aches.
The adrenal glands are small pyramid-shaped glands that sit on top of the kidneys. Among other things, they produce testosterone, cortisol, and DHEA.
Testosterone often gets a bad rap in the popular press because of athletes who abuse testosterone-derived steroids. But testosterone is an essential hormone that is key to building and maintaining muscle and bone mass, sex drive, and cardiovascular health. Testosterone is essential for basic body repair processes. Women and men alike need and make testosterone, though in vastly differing amounts.
Cortisol is a key stress and immune response hormone. It gets secreted in larger amounts during times of increased stress. But too much stress for long periods can deplete cortisol reserves and the adrenal glands start to “burn out.” Cortisol levels then start to drop.
DHEA (dihydroepiandrosterone) is the most abundant hormone in the body and is also made in the adrenal glands. It is essential for helping to maintain energy and mental clarity and promote and overall sense of well-being. DHEA production declines with age, but, like cortisol, it too can become unnaturally depleted in response to chronic stress.
Ovaries and Testes
In women, the ovaries make estrogens, progesterones, and testosterone. Apart from their obvious function in pregnancy and menstruation, these hormones are essential for the health of tissues, including bones, muscles, skin, breasts, vagina, blood vessels, and the brain. In men the testes mainly produce testosterone. Men also have estrogen and progesterone, though normally in much smaller amounts than in women.