Article: Eight Hormones and the Role They Play in Our Health

Specific hormones and their role – eight hormones and the role they play in our health

By Ann Vlass N.D; B.Sc (Hons) 

Naturopathic Doctor and Medical scientist Ann Vlass explains how a specific group of hormones play a vital role in all aspects of our health, emotions, and spiritual wellbeing.

Everybody needs healthy hormones to survive and function; they define us sexually, control our sleep rhythms, manage our moods, control fat in our body and make us look youthful. ‘ 

Here are 8 important hormones and a brief description of some the many intricate and complex roles they play in our health:

Testosterone (the macho builder): is often thought to be the virility hormone necessary for male sexual functions, fertility and libido. In small doses, testosterone is also necessary for female health and libido. In fact it is responsible for healthy moods and motivation, sharp memory, peak energy levels, lustrous skin. So for women who have low levels at menopause it can mean mood changes, forgetfulness, fatty hips, flabby tummy, and hot flushes! And yes, the men cop it also... most notably with decline in ‘performance function’. Good news is, if we manage healthy testosterone levels, it builds and increases muscle tone, tightens and tones skin, stimulates hair growth, prevents dryness and wrinkles and for the exciting part... reduces fat (including cellulite!). 

Oestrogen (the female hormone): this sexy hormone is essential for female sexual development, reproduction, and control of the menstrual cycle. Oestrogen makes our hair, skin and eyes glow and lubricate, it give us energy, produces female curves; and elevates moods such as happiness, enthusiasm, and zeal!  In fact, studies have confirmed that oestrogen makes the female look more desirable, an “honest” biological signal as it attracts men to women who are ‘genuinely fertile’. Healthy balance in men and women has also been found to have protective effects for the brain, bones, immune system and heart.  

Progesterone (the nurturer): plays a major role in regulating the female menstrual cycle and female reproduction in the second half of a woman’s cycle. Progesterone, along with oestrogen, prepares the uterus for pregnancy, has protective effects over the brain, heart and as it is secreted mainly after ovulation in women, it prevents symptoms of oestrogen such as premenstrual headaches, irritability, anxiety, bloating, swollen breasts and tenderness, cysts and endometriosis. It is often called the “serenity” hormone as it lessens worry and brings a sense of peace and relaxation, especially during pregnancy. 

Cortisol (the stress hormone): is the hormone that helps us respond quickly and effectively to stress. It also regulates blood pressure, stimulates appetite, boosts energy levels, increases glucose in the blood, and regulates our immune response to infections and inflammation. High levels of cortisol stimulate the storage of fat better known as “belly fat” or “muffin top”, and (with selenium and iodine deficiency) is responsible for the “buffalo hump”.  However, humans cannot survive without cortisol, and low levels can wreak havoc for us also.

Serotonin (the happy hormone): is a chemical hormone that helps maintain a "happy feeling," and seems to help keep our moods under control by helping with sleep, calming anxiety, improves memory, controls addiction behaviour, and relieving depression. Low Serotonin levels are believed to be the reason for many cases of mild to moderate depression which can lead to symptoms like anxiety, apathy, and fear, feelings of worthlessness, insomnia and fatigue. 

Melatonin (the sleep hormone): is a conversion of serotonin, and helps us relax and maintains our body’s circadian rhythm (internal 24-hour “clock”) that controls sleep and wake cycles.  Melatonin is also responsible for feeling good. Research reveals that two hours of morning sun is very effective in lifting depression as melatonin production is stimulated by the sun. Research in recent years attributes melatonin with high antioxidant potential making it very important for reducing risk of serious disease.

Thyroid hormones (the metabolism booster): are the hormones produced by the thyroid gland and act on the energy powerhouses of our cells, the mitochondria.  Their most important function is to regulate energy levels throughout the body including the control of body temperature and weight. Without sufficient thyroid hormone we are more susceptible to excessive stress, and are tired and bloated all over! 

Insulin (the sugar hormone): this is the well known hormone that is responsible for diabetes when it doesn’t work.  It keeps blood sugar levels within a narrow range, and also helps maintain healthy weight, healthy immune system, regulates inflammation, healthy heart and arteries.  However, we want to use this hormone as little as possible to stop the insulin signalling pathways from degrading, in a condition called ‘insulin resistance’, a major factor in development of type 2 diabetes – and the best way to do this is to avoid eating the sugary stuff.

To learn more about your hormones and how to balance your hormones visit

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