They help you beat stress, stay fit, and have better sex. Are yours slacking?
Health & Fitness
By Heather Hurlock, Men’s Health
You might remember hormones from your sex-crazed teen years. Or your partner’s most recent crying jag. But if you’re sitting there smugly thinking that you’re immune from hormonal chaos just because you’re (a) no longer a teenager and (b) male, think again. In fact, if you knew all the ways hormones could mess up your life, you’d probably start crying. Off-kilter hormone distribution can make you store too much fat, hamper your ability to fight stress, and cause you to eat when you’re full. It can lead to metabolic syndrome and diabetes and can adversely affect your sleep and sex life.
That’s a lot that can go wrong. This is due to the vast reach of your endocrine system, which commands body activity utilizing powerful hormones. “It’s like your body’s internal Internet,” says pharmacologist John McLachlan, Ph.D., director of the center for bioenvironmental research at Tulane University. “Your hypothalamus and pituitary glands are the control centers, like servers sending out messages going back and forth among your organs. Your pancreas, adrenal glands, thyroid, and testes are all part of this finely tuned system.”
That fine-tuning increases the system’s vulnerability, as it relies on complex feedback to regulate itself. “If that feedback is distorted, it can disrupt the process,” says Vivian Fonseca, M.D., chief of endocrinology at Tulane University’s health sciences center.
Use our guide to ensure your hormones are doing their jobs.
Stress hormones: cortisol and epinephrine
Whether you’re fending off an angry rottweiler or an angry client, your body’s response to stress is the same: Your hypothalamus floods your blood with hormones to frighten you into action. “Cortisol and epinephrine are your body’s alarm-system hormones,” says Dr. Fonseca. They make your heart beat faster and dilate your bronchial tubes so they can feed oxygen to your brain and keep you alert. They also release fat and glucose into your bloodstream to provide emergency energy.
Are your hormones in tune?
Too much stress can keep your cortisol levels consistently elevated, which disrupts your metabolic system. This, in turn, signals your cells to store as much fat as possible. Worse, the fat tends to accumulate in your belly as visceral fat, which resides behind your abdominal muscles and has more cortisol receptors than other fat does.