Hormones are chemical messengers that impact many processes and functions for your mind and body. They are secreted into your blood, which carries them to your organs, tissues, and brain. Together, various hormones work slowly over time and create a complex and powerful system.​​

You’re probably familiar with estrogen and progesterone, the primary female sex hormones. But there are many others that serve essential functions in your mind and body. Here are seven hormones you should be familiar with, why they matter, and how to tell if they’re out of whack.

1. CortisolThis hormone spikes when you are stressed.  It helps with memory formation, controls blood sugar levels, and can promote or limit inflammation. There are many signs of high cortisol levels including period irregularities, bloating, irregular bowel movements and low energy.

2. Insulin. Insulin allows your cells to absorb glucose (also known as energy) circulating in your blood. Thirst, frequent urination, and weight gain are signs that your insulin levels may be off.

3. Melatonin. This hormone regulates your circadian rhythm and helps you sleep at night.  Additionally, it helps direct your appetite and energy levels. If you feel sleepy during the day or energized late at night (provided you don’t have a profession to the contrary), you may have a melatonin imbalance.

4. Thyroid Hormones. There are three thyroid hormones that serve as your metabolic index and play an important role in almost every internal function. An overactive thyroid can make you feel hungry, nervous, or agitated. An underactive thyroid can make you feel groggy and have low energy levels.  

5. Estrogen. This is one of the key female sex hormones that helps control ovulation, menstruation, and bone density. Having too much estrogen can be linked to weight gain, headaches, and low sex drive. Having too little estrogen can cause irregular periods and weakened bones.

6. Progesterone. Progesterone is an important pregnancy hormone that rises and falls throughout your menstrual cycle. Irregular or abnormal periods can be a sign of an imbalance. 

7. DHEA. This hormone is made in your adrenal glands, is synthesized from cholesterol, and helps support all primary sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone). Signs of adrenal fatigue are low immunity, extreme fatigue, aching joints, and low libido.

It is often difficult to tell if your symptoms are a result of a hormonal imbalance or something else you are doing (or not doing) for your well-being. Ways to improve balance across all hormones include sticking to a consistent wake, sleep, and meal schedule, as well as thoughtfully choosing your diet and supplements routine. With all potential hormonal imbalances, it is important to talk to a health provider as there are specific tests that can help support your understanding and diagnosis.