Many hormones affect your mood, emotions, behaviour and personality. Certain hormones ae associated with specific traits such as depression and happiness, and due to the fluctuations of hormones and the overall health of people, these traits change from person to person. Hormones can spike dramatically during periods of major life changes, such as after child birth, children beginning puberty, death of a family member or divorce.

 

Dopamine

This neurotransmitter is also a neurohormone related to the hypothalamus, and one of its main function as a hormone, is to inhibit the release of prolactin and to act in cells in the brain to give you feelings of pleasure, motivation and satisfaction. Dopamine also controls memory, sleep, learning, concentration and mood. When you do something fun, you have an increase of dopamine in the brain. This can also occur when you drink alcohol or use illegal drugs which can lead to addiction.

 

Dopamine also controls body movements and low levels have been associated with Parkinson’s Disease. Low levels are also found in people with ADHD. An imbalance of dopamine can cause mental illness such as depression and schizophrenia.

 

Dopamine is derived from amino acids, specifically tyrosine which occurs naturally in foods such as nuts, eggs, seeds, dairy and meat.

 

Melatonin

Released from the Pineal gland, Melatonin is an antioxidant hormone and is important in regulating the circadian rhythm (sleep/wake cycle). Circadian rhythm is the physical, mental and behavioural changes that follow a 24-hour cycle and respond primarily to light (day light) and dark (night time).

 

Researchers have also found that Melatonin helps in regulating female hormones and the menstrual cycle. Melatonin released by the pineal gland (not supplements) helps protect against neurodegeneration (loss of function of neurons) and can cause conditions such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Melatonin supplementation is also being used as an extra treatment for women with breast cancer.

 

Serotonin

Also known as 5-hydroxytryptamine (5-HT), serotonin is a hormone and a monoamine neurotransmitter. Serotonin carries messages between the central nervous system in your brain and throughout your body via your peripheral nervous system. Around 90% of serotonin is made in the gut lining and 10% is produced by the brain. It is released into the blood stream where it is absorbed by platelets.

 

Serotonin assists in learning, memory, happiness, regulating body temperature, sleep, sexual behaviour and hunger. Low levels are related to depressive mood, anxiety and other mental health conditions.

 

Serotonin is a product of the essential amino acid tryptophan, which isn’t produced by the body, but ingested via foods such as chicken, cheese, fish, peanuts and turkey.

 

Adrenaline (or epinephrine)

Naturally released from the Adrenal Gland (which sits on the top of each kidney), following a message from the brain that you are facing a stressful, exciting or dangerous situation. Adrenaline is a hormone that causes your heart rate to increase, your breathing rate to increase, increase in blood pressure and a rise in blood sugar which gives you energy. This is known as a ‘fight or flight’ response. Adrenaline is also a medication that is used to treat anaphylaxis. (1)

 

Norepinephrine (or noradrenaline)

Norepinephrine is both a hormone and a neurotransmitter. Norepinephrine is produced within the inner adrenal medulla. Norepinephrine helps the body respond to stress and exercise, it plays a role in your mood and ability to concentrate, it increases heart rate, increases blood pressure, breaks down fat and increases blood sugar levels. Low levels can cause lethargy, lack of concentration, ADHD symptoms and possibly depression. (2)

 

Corticoliberin (Corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), also termed corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH))

Corticoliberin is a corticotropin-releasing polypeptide hormone. It is also a neurotransmitter involved in the response to internal or external stresses. CRF regulates adrenal function indirectly through the central nervous system (CNS) via the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and via the autonomic nervous system by way of locus coeruleus (LC) in the brain stem. (3)

 

Orexin

Orexin is a neuropeptide hormone, also known as hypocretins, produced in the hypothalamus. Orexins bind and activate two G-protein–coupled receptors (GPCRs), orexin receptor type 1 (OX1R) and type 2 (OX2R). Orexin/receptor pathways play vital regulatory roles in feeding behaviour, sleep–wake rhythm, reward and addiction and energy balance. Several studies have shown that orexin/receptor pathways are involved in pathological processes of neurological diseases such as narcolepsy, depression, ischemic stroke, drug addiction and Alzheimer’s disease.

 

Oxytocin Oxytocin is a peptide hormone and neuropeptide produced in the hypothalamus and released by the posterior pituitary. The two main physical functions of oxytocin are to stimulate uterine contractions in labour and childbirth and to stimulate contractions of breast tissue to aid in lactation after childbirth. During labour, when the fetus’s body pushes against the cervix, the nerve impulses travel to your brain and stimulate your pituitary gland to release oxytocin into your bloodstream. The oxytocin travels to your uterus and stimulates contractions. Once the baby is born, oxytocin promotes lactation by causing contractions of the myoepithelial cells in the alveolar ducts of the breasts. These contractions move milk through your breast tissue. In males oxytocin plays a part in ejaculation. The hormone contracts the vas deferens to push sperm and semen forward for ejection. Oxytocin also affects the production of testosterone in the testes. (4)

 

You might know Oxytocin by one of its other names: the love hormone or bonding hormone. Oxytocin plays an important part in human bonding. Released during childbirth and breastfeeding, it’s a key factor in the bond between parent and infant. Hugging, kissing, cuddling and sexual intimacy can all trigger oxytocin production, which can strengthen bonds between adults.

 

Cortisol

Cortisol is a glucocorticoid (steroid) hormone produced by the adrenal glands. This hormone regulates the body’s stress response, helps control your body’s use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates (metabolism), suppresses inflammation, regulates blood pressure, regulates blood sugar, and helps control the sleep-wake cycle. Your body releases cortisol when it has any type of stress, whether it is physical or mental stress. Cortisol will release adrenaline when a person needs to be on high alert and

releases glucose when fast energy is required (ie. to run away from danger). Normally cortisol would be low in the evening and high in the mornings. Cortisol counterbalances the effects of insulin. Having chronically high cortisol can lead to high levels of blood sugar. (6)

 

References:

1. Healthdirect Australia. (2023, October 17). Adrenaline. Healthdirect. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/adrenaline

2. Society, E. (2023, January 5). Adrenal hormones. Endocrine Society. https://www.endocrine.org/patient-engagement/endocrine-library/hormones-and-endocrine-function/adrenal-hormones

3. Tsatsanis, C., Dermitzaki, E., Venihaki, M., Chatzaki, Ε., Minas, V., Gravanis, A., & Margioris, A. N. (2007). The corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF) family of peptides as local modulators of adrenal function. Cellular and Molecular Life Sciences, 64(13), 1638–1655. https://doi.org/10.1007/s00018-007-6555-7

4. Professional, C. C. M. (n.d.-f). Oxytocin. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22618-oxytocin

5. Professional, C. C. M. (n.d.-b). Cortisol. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/22187-cortisol

 

Written by: Natalia Kay, Clinical Nutritionist for Pure Health Solutions www.purehealthsolutions.com.au