Meet the Sex Hormones and Their Role in Your Health
Hormones are unique chemical messengers in the body. They are made by specialized tissues called glands – examples include the thyroid, pituitary, and adrenal glands, as well as the ovaries and testes. Although hormones are active in very small amounts, they regulate incredibly important aspects of human health, including mood, reproduction, metabolism, and development.
Among the most important are the sex hormones. These particular chemical messengers are made in the ovaries in women, in the testes in men, and in the adrenal glands in both sexes. Although sex hormones regulate key components of development, puberty, and reproduction, they also impact many other health functions including:
- Bone health
- Mood/brain function
- Body weight and composition
- Skin and hair health
- Cardiovascular health
Which hormones are sex hormones and what do they do?
1. Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is made by the adrenal glands, and is then converted by the body to estrogen in women and testosterone in men. Although DHEA has its own functions (like stress response and regulation of neurotransmitters), it is very important in men and women because it serves as a reservoir for the other sex hormones. If the level of DHEA is not adequate, then it impacts the levels of almost everything else.
2. Testosterone is the dominant “male” hormone. In men, testosterone is made in the testes and serves a major role in regulating sperm production. However, testosterone is active throughout the body and impacts many areas of health, including bone and muscle health/mass, libido, fat distribution, heart health, blood cell production, and hair growth/distribution. Although it is thought of as a male hormone, testosterone is also present in women. It stimulates the metabolism of fat and the production of muscle in both genders. In women, it plays a role in libido and bone health, and also influences mood, skin, and fertility.
3. Progesterone is a hormone that women make in response to an egg being released from an ovary (ovulation). It is important in regulating menstrual cycles and in pregnancy (especially the early stages). It also plays a role in breast health, mood, brain function, and sexual health. Progesterone is also made in smaller amounts by the adrenal glands and in the testes – which means that men have progesterone too. In men, it plays a role in sperm health and prostate health.
4. Estrogens comes in three hormone forms (estradiol, estrone, and estriol) and is probably the best-known female hormone. Estrogen is primarily made in the ovaries and in lesser amounts in the adrenal glands and in fat cells. Of the three types – estradiol, estrone, and estriol – estradiol is the most powerful and active, and is often the only one measured in an estrogen test. Along with progesterone, estrogen is the hormone that regulates the menstrual cycle, and when its level declines during aging, it triggers menopause. Estrogen levels are related to the normal symptoms of menopause, as well as to bone health, brain health, metabolic health, skin elasticity, mood, and heart health. In men, estrogen is made in the adrenal gland, but it is also created from testosterone. In men, estrogen is important for libido, sexual function, and sperm production.
Are my sex hormone levels optimal?
When it comes to hormone levels, the level of each hormone varies depending on age, gender, diet, weight, and environment. Because well-balanced levels of sex hormones regulate so many important aspects of well-being, there are times when you should check your levels to understand how they are affecting you. This can be done by a health professional or by using an at-home test kit. Thorne offers several home tests that help you assess your sex hormone levels and how they are influencing various aspects of your health:
Check out the newest Thorne product – DIM Advantage – which supports estrogen metabolism in both men and women.*