Sex hormones: what are they and how they work?

To get to know what sexual hormones are and how they work, it is important to understand first what our endocrine system and hormones are, where in our body are our hormones produced, how they work and what’s their function and how they benefit our body.

The endocrine system is the collection of glands which produce hormones in our body and influences almost every cell, organ and function of it. Our endocrine system plays an essential role in our physical development, growth, mood, metabolism, reproductive processes, etc. It’s basically in charge of the slower processes of our body while faster processes like breathing or moving our muscles are carried out by our nervous system. Both systems work together and are the main responsibles for how we act, feel and why we think in a certain way.

sex hormones

Hormones are chemical substances produced by different glands of our body and glands are groups of cells in charge of secreting chemicals. They work as messengers travelling from organ to organ transferring information and giving orders to our cells, controlling and regulating our body processes.

In our body, there are several endocrine glands like the pancreas, the thyroid or the hypothalamus producing hormones like adrenaline, insulin, thyroxine or cortisol. In fact, there are many different types of hormones moving through our bloodstream, but each type of hormone has an effect only on specific cells. So, for instance, insulin, a hormone designed to reduce sugar in our bloodstream and metabolise glucose faster, won’t affect other hormonal processes or interfere with other glands and hormones.

Among all these glands and hormones, there are sex hormones, which are chemical substances produced by our testicles and ovaries respectively and affect our sexual desire and fertility. However, although sex hormones are produced in men’s and women’s reproductive organs, their release is controlled by our brain. So, knowing this, we could classify sex hormones in two major groups depending on which glands produce them. Testicles are the male glands responsible for producing testosterone, the main male sex hormone.

sex hormones

On the other hand, ovaries are the female glands responsible for producing estrogen and progesterone. The main function of estrogen is to regulate growth and is a key component in reproduction. Progesterone is the hormone that is in charge of ensuring a healthy pregnancy, so it plays an essential role in reproduction.

Although male and female sex hormones are different in men and women, both of them are oriented to perform the same function. That’s why having balanced levels of sex hormones is as important in men as in women because any deficiency could result in several health issues such as fatigue, a decrease on our libido or even mood swings and hair loss.

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