Hormones: Your body’s hardworking heroes

Hormones control many essential functions, such as blood sugar, development of reproductive organs, growth and energy production, moods, sleep cycles, and weight.

Ashraf Uddin, DO, Riverside endocrinologist
Ashraf Uddin, DO, Riverside endocrinologist

“Hormones are one of the ways your body’s organs communicate with each other,” says Ashraf Uddin, DO, a Riverside endocrinologist. ”They are part of the endocrine system, which relies on hormones to send messages and feedback to regulate many important body functions.”

Once the hormones reach their destination, receptors recognize them and follow their instructions. Scientists have found more than 50 different hormones in humans. Some of the more familiar ones are:

● Estrogen.
● Epinephrine (adrenaline).
● Insulin.
● Testosterone.

Hormone imbalances
“When hormone levels become too high or too low, a hormone imbalance can occur,” says Dr. Uddin. “This is something that can happen at any age or phase of life.” 

Tumors, autoimmune disorders and damage to endocrine glands can trigger hormone imbalances.

Hormone imbalances can cause major health problems that require medical treatment, including:

● Cancer.
● Diabetes.
● Infertility.
● Thyroid disease.

Hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
If an endocrine gland doesn’t produce enough of a hormone or if the gland has been surgically removed, doctors may treat the problem and its symptoms by replacing the hormone. For example, replacing thyroid hormone can treat an underperforming thyroid gland (hypothyroidism). And estrogen therapy can relieve hot flashes and other menopause symptoms.

Sometimes endocrine glands produce more hormones than what is healthy. In this case, hormone therapy can reduce hormone levels. Doctors administer hormone therapy in a few ways:

● By injection.
● Orally, in pill form.
● Surgically; for example, by removing a woman’s ovaries.

”If you have concerns about your hormone levels, a good place to start would be talking with your primary care provider, who could then refer you to an endocrinologist,” Dr. Uddin says. “If left untreated, hormone imbalances can cause a variety of symptoms, including fatigue, weight gain or weight loss, depression, anxiety, and more.”

Sources: American Thyroid Association; Endocrine Society; Merck Manual; National Cancer Institute; U.S. Environmental Protection Agency; UpToDate

See the endocrinology specialists at Riverside Medical Group
Riverside’s team of board-certified endocrinologists provides care for a number of endocrine-related conditions, such as diabetes management, thyroid disorders, pituitary and adrenal disorders, osteoporosis, and more. Schedule an appointment by calling (815) 936-8909.