Hormones are chemicals produced by specialized anatomical structures, known as glands, that serve to maintain or prevent the functioning of all organs, cells, and tissues in the body. These substances, once secreted by the determined glands, flow through the blood to reach the different parts of the body that require them; And as mentioned above, they serve to keep the entire body functioning.

What is the function of hormones?

Hormones, as explained above, are specialized substances secreted by the glands, they fulfill various functions in the body according to the organ or tissue they affect. In this sense, the benefits of hormones are multiple and very specific, however, in general terms they are responsible for fulfilling the following functions:

Regulate body processes

One of the main functions of hormones is to regulate the processes that occur in the specific parts of the body where they are secreted, among these are growth, reproduction, body temperature, sleep, development and emotions ( example, happiness).

It should be noted that hormones, in addition to regulating metabolic processes of the body, also have the ability to self-regulate, in other words, hormones are secreted in greater or lesser amounts according to the needs and requirements of the determined cells.

Submit chemical information

Hormones work as messengers of certain chemical information, which is sent through the bloodstream, where it travels until it reaches the tissues or organs that require them. This information is specialized for each cell or organ, which have unique receptors that respond to a particular hormone; That is why hormones travel throughout the body, but they only fulfill specific functions.

Emotional control

Hormones play a fundamental role when it comes to emotions, since they are involved in the reactions or effects that arise as a result of a certain situation. It should be noted that in the emotional process neurons, neurotransmitters and hormones are conjugated, unleashing physiological changes that result in an action or reaction.

Among the hormones that perform functions in the emotional environment are the following: serotonin, adrenaline, dopamine, norepinephrine, cortisol, among others; All these hormones trigger a series of physiological and neurological responses, depending on the situations that individuals face.

Where and how are hormones produced?

The process of secretion of hormones takes place in the endocrine system, it is there where the glands and cells responsible for the production of these substances are found. In this sense, the production process begins in the hypothalamus of the brain, where nerve messages are received that trigger the secretion of hormones or releasing factors that are transported to the pituitary (the main gland that regulates other glands).

Once there, they are transformed and released to the specific glands where the hormones will be produced, which will later travel through the blood to the cells, tissues and organs that will be the object of their effects.

On the other hand, there are hormones whose secretion does not depend directly on the pituitary, among them are: insulin, adrenaline and glucagon, which are produced more directly than other types of hormones.

Classification of hormones

Much of the body’s functions are affected by hormones, which is why there are different types and all of them have different characteristics, components and functions, which means that they can be classified according to various factors or variables, such as :

Proximity of the site of secretion to the site of action

This classification of hormones refers to the place in which they take effect, and can be autocrine or paracrine.

  • Autocrine : these types of hormones are the most basic, and are characterized by the presence of receptors in the same cells or glands that produce them, which is why they are synthesized and received by the same cells.
  • Paracrine : for their part, paracrine hormones produce effects in cells close to those in which they were secreted.
  • Endocrine : Endocrine hormones are transported through the blood to cells or organs that are far from the glands that produce them.

Chemical composition

Hormones have different chemical components, which differentiate them from each other; In this sense, this variable also allows them to be classified into three specific groups:

  • Derivatives of amino acids : amino acids are molecules that form the basis of proteins and which, in turn, are an important part of the chemical composition of hormones. Example of this type of hormones: dopamine, which is composed of tyrosine (amino acid).
  • Lipidic: its name refers to lipids, organic compounds found in the body that give it the ability to cross the cell membrane to access specific receptors. An example of this type of hormone: it is testosterone.
  • Peptides : finally, peptide hormones, these are made up of a set of linked amino acids and do not have the ability to enter the cell membrane, which is why their receptors are located on the outside of cells.

Nature

In this group are the following:

  • Steroids : they are destined to influence the growth of some part of the organism, among them are sex hormones (testosterone and estrogen) and glucocorticoids (they regulate metabolism).
  • Phenolics : formed by phenols or phenolic compounds, they are characterized by their low molecular weight; An example of this type of hormone is adrenaline.
  • Protein : they are made up mostly of amino acids and peptide components, among these are: insulin, growth hormones and calcitonin.

Main hormones of the human body

As mentioned above, there are various types of hormones, which are produced in glands and cells scattered throughout the human body. These produce various effects and functions, which vary according to the excretory gland and the organs that receive them; In this sense, the main hormones of the human body fulfill basic and necessary functions for the survival of human beings, among which can be found:

Adrenalin

Besides being a hormone, adrenaline or epinephrine, it is a neurotransmitter capable of sending information from one neuron to another. Due to its complexity, it performs various functions in the body; adrenaline intervenes in the emotional process, and emanates the energy that the body needs to defend itself or flee from some factor that generates fear or danger.

Estrogen

Estrogen is one of the sex hormones found in women, it is made in the ovaries and adrenal glands (kidneys); Its operation is mainly related to the reproductive process, however, it also intervenes in the metabolism of fats, the development of female organs and the protection of bones and tissues.

Insulin

This anabolic-type hormone, produced in the pancreas, is responsible for the metabolism of sugars in the body, in this way, its main function is to allow the correct absorption of sugar in the blood and the maintenance of glucose levels. It should be noted that the deficient activity of insulin can cause chronic diseases such as diabetes.

Melatonin

Melatonin is a hormone produced in the pineal gland (brain), whose functions are directly related to the regulation of sleep in individuals. In this sense, melatonin is produced in the dark, promoting rest at night, in addition to improving the functioning of the immune system.

Oxytocin

Oxytocin is a very complex type of hormone, since it is involved in various body processes, especially in women. This hormone contributes to the pelvic movements necessary for labor, also intervenes in the regulation of behaviors and social patterns related to motherhood.

Testosterone

The male sex hormone is produced in the testicles and in the adrenal glands; Testosterone is responsible for the development processes of the specific characteristics of men, as well as the production of sperm required for fertilization and reproduction.

Tiroxina

Lastly, thyroxine is a hormone produced by the thyroid gland; Its operation is intended to regulate metabolism, which is why it intervenes in the development and growth of cells, oxygen consumption, among others. In addition, it promotes weight maintenance and control of emotions; It should be noted that insufficient or excessive production of this hormone generates diseases such as hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism.

Bottom Line: Are Hormones Important?

Hormones are chemical substances that are produced in different parts of the body, which later travel through the bloodstream to the organs or tissues that will be affected in one way or another. In this way, hormones serve to regulate the different processes that take place in the body, as well as to send energy and chemical information to the cells and organs of the body; As a result of everything they do, it can be said, that they are fundamental to human beings.

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Dr. Samantha Robson ( CRN: 0510146-5) is a nutritionist and website content reviewer related to her area of ​​expertise. With a postgraduate degree in Nutrition from The University of Arizona, she is a specialist in Sports Nutrition from Oxford University and is also a member of the International Society of Sports Nutrition.

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