From affecting our general health to initiating changes in our body composition and weight, our hormones can impact our body in many ways. See below the hormones you need to know about and how they impact our health and body composition.
These hormones are released by your body in response to stimuli such as fear, pain and stress as well as activities such as eating, exercise and sex. Studies have shown that endorphins reduce pain, assist in reducing stress and anxiety and increase feelings of wellbeing. Endorphins are the reason why we feel great after a workout and is why exercise is important for mental health. These are also known as our “happy” hormones.
Hormones play a large role in your hunger and satiation signals, see below more information on the 2 main hunger hormones
- Ghrelin: This hormone is made in the stomach and sends signals to the brain to stimulate your appetite and increase food intake. If you ignore these hunger signals your brain will continue to increase this hormone, which in turn increases your appetite and may lead to over eating. Ghrelin levels rise during and after dieting as the body responds to a reduced energy intake to protect you from starvation. This is why dieting and weight loss is difficult and often results in gaining the lost weight back.
- Leptin: Leptin is responsible for fullness signals after a meal as well as regulating body weight by telling the brain to reduce your appetite signals. This hormone is correlated with fat mass so the more fat mass you have the more leptin you produce. Obese individuals can become leptin resistant which may result in a reduction of fullness signals and in turn results in excessive eating and weight gain.
Serotonin is a hormone that has many roles in the body including the feelings of wellbeing, happiness and mood stabilisation. It also plays a role in muscle control, appetite, blood clotting and helps to regulate your sleep and wake cycles. Research has shown that low levels of serotonin is linked to depression and anxiety. Serotonin can be increased with regular exercise, sunlight exposure and consuming foods that are high in protein as they contain tryptophan, a precursor for serotonin.
Oestrogen is a female sex hormone and is required for many processes in the body including puberty, the menstrual cycle, pregnancy, cholesterol level control and strengthening bones. Oestrogen levels fluctuate throughout the menstrual cycle however, excessive levels may result in weight gain in the hip and waist areas.
Dopamine is the feel good hormone which contributes to the feelings of pleasure, motivation and satisfaction such as eating, exercise, caffeine and listening to music. When our levels of dopamine are increased and it makes us feel great we are motivated to repeat this action to trigger another increase. This is why when we eat foods that we enjoy we may reach for a second slice of cake or that extra row of chocolate.
This hormone is sometimes referred to as the stress hormone due to its release during times of stress or the “fight or flight” response. Cortisol has many roles such as responding to stress or danger, reducing inflammation in the body, supporting formation of memory, assisting with blood pressure control as well as increasing the body’s glucose metabolism. High cortisol may lead to a condition called Cushing syndrome which has symptoms of weight gain in the abdomen and face areas.