What are hormones?

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Types of Hormones

Hormones dance throughout our bodies! They are what help keep us alive! There are more than 50 different hormones that we have and each one has its own functions in the body.

You may be reading this post because you are experiencing a problem with your menstruation, however, to get to the bottom of your menstruation issues, we have to look at all your hormones. Estrogen and progesterone are not the only hormones involved!

How do we classify hormones?

There are two ways of classifying hormones. Hormones can be classified by where they function (autocrine function, exocrine glands, and endocrine function). Or by how they function.

Autocrine = miniature hormones that affect cells, like your immune system cloning itself to fight off a virus

Exocrine glands = salivary glands, sweat glands

Endocrine glands = the pituitary gland is the master gland of the endocrine system, it makes hormones that instruct other hormones on when to make their hormones by the hypothalamus.

The pituitary gland is made up of two parts, anterior and posterior: the posterior secretes two hormones oxytocin (stimulates contraction during childbirth and helps with breastfeeding, orgasms, and anxiety) and antidiuretic hormone (tells the kidney to retain water). The anterior pituitary gland secretes hormones that affect the thyroid gland (among others), which regulates your metabolism, appetite, muscle function, blood pressure, heart rate.

The pituitary gland

The other way of classifying hormones is by how they function.

There are three major types of hormones.

1) Protein hormones (or polypeptide hormones) are made of chains of amino acids. An example is ADH (antidiuretic hormone) which decreases blood pressure. These hormones are typically water-soluble and have receptors to help adhere to the cell surface and set off a cascade of events

– Insulin is a protein hormone.

2) Steroid hormones are derived from lipids, largely cholesterol.

– When we think of steroids we often think of gym junkies but steroids comprise of so much more. Steroids are lipid-soluble so they cross into the cell and attach to receptors inside the cell.

– examples include cortisol, aldosterone, sex hormones testosterone and estrogen, progesterone

3) Amine hormones are derived from amino acids.

– Tyrosine derivatives come from the amino acid tyrosine

– These amino acids can act like proteins, polypeptides, and steroids which is why they get their own class.

– Thyroid hormones like t3, t4 or triiodothyronine and thyroxine stimulate metabolism

Catecholamines are included in this group, which are produced by the adrenal medulla like epinephrine and norepinephrine (involved in flight or fight response)

Ending thoughts?

Hormones are connected to your nervous system, which has a feedback system to control all those hormones. However, those hormones last a lot longer in your system than your nervous response, they can last for hours or weeks.

We’ve learned that our favourite hormones to talk about, estrogen and progesterone, are made from lipid a.k.a. fat.

We need a healthy level of fat in our bodies to produce the right about of sex hormones.

We have also learned that you need a balance of all your hormones to maintain health. You can find the signs and symptoms that can occur when these hormones are not balanced in the next post.

About the author:

Jessica Sherwood
Photo of Jessica Sherwood

Jessica is a degree qualified naturopath and medical herbalist at Jessica Sherwood Naturopathy. Jessica is currently based in Auckland but does online consultations as her main form of consultations, she also has a home clinic for those that are unable to use the internet or would prefer a face-to-face consultation.

Medical Disclaimer. The information on this site is not intended or implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. All content, including text, graphics, images, and information, contained on or available through this website is for general information purposes only.

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