hormone

Trouble sleeping? Feeling more stressed than usual? It could be your hormones at play. Health writer Jenni Cawley shares the five key hormones affecting your mood every day – and how you can take back control.  

Our hormones have a huge influence on our lives, but it’s only now that we’re actively taking notice of them and learning more about their effects on everything from our sleep to our appetite. Here, health writer Jenni Cawley demystifies the five hormones that affect our mood on a daily basis…

1. Cortisol: Your stress response

What is it?

Cortisol is a stress hormone released by the adrenal glands as part of our ‘fight or flight response’. But isn’t all bad. It’s good old cortisol that gets us out of bed in the morning, helps us think on our feet when we need a solution to a work crisis, and plays a big role in boosting memory, reducing inflammation and regulating metabolism.

How does it affect my mood?

Stress and other mental health issues can mean increased levels of cortisol over a long period of time, which can be damaging. When you have extreme levels of cortisol, it puts the breaks on our immune system and our ability to learn and relax – great in the event of an emergency but in the long-term this can lead to burnout.

How can I feel more in control?

Focus on reducing stress in all aspects of your lifestyle. You can also calm your stress response with breathwork. Mindfulness teacher, Nick Kientsch recommends ‘4-7-8 breathing’. “This increases the carbon dioxide in the bloodstream, which calms the brain. Simply breathe in through the nose for four seconds, hold for seven, and then breathe out through the mouth for eight.” Repeat a few times until you feel more relaxed.

2. Ghrelin and leptin: Your appetite signals

What are they?

Both these hormones have a big influence on our energy, appetite and maintaining our body weight. Ghrelin stimulates our appetite, prepares the body for food and in turn “helps us digest more food and store more fat,” as the Hormone Network explains. Conversely, leptin suppresses our hunger and gives us that content ‘full-up’ feeling. It plays a part in maintaining our body weight by helping us regulate our long-term food intake.

How does it affect my mood?

As with cortisol, problems kick in when they become unbalanced. When we diet and lower our food intake, ghrelin surges – this is the body’s natural response to protecting you from starvation. Eating less causes both your appetite to increase and your metabolic rate to decrease, and these changes can make it more difficult to lose weight and keep it off.

On the other hand, if we are overweight, regularly eat a high-fat diet or have sleep problems, some research indicates that our bodies can come resistant to leptin (our appetite-supressor), also slowing down our metabolism and making us feel sluggish.

How can I feel more in control?

To help balance both, try eating anti-inflammatory foods such as oily fish, exercise regularly and catch up on your sleep. You could also try cutting down on fructose (sugar) and eating protein with every meal, especially breakfast.

3. Oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone: Your get-up-and-go

What are they?

This trio of sex hormones is responsible for kick-starting puberty, ovulation and regulating the menstrual cycle. “Oestrogen, the “feel-good” hormone is thought to have a positive effect on mood by increasing serotonin and modifying endorphin production,” explains Tania Adib, Consultant Gynaecologist from The Lister Hospital, part of HCA Healthcare UK. “Women also produce testosterone, albeit in much smaller quantities than men. It’s great for energy, enthusiasm and libido.”

“While progesterone is a calming hormone, increased levels just before your period can be linked to premenstrual syndrome and cause water retention, low mood and sugar cravings.”

How does it affect my mood?

Oestrogen surges during pregnancy and this is what makes women ‘bloom’. Too little causes low libido, mood swings and irregular periods. Low testosterone can also send your sex-drive spiralling.

How can I feel more in control?

When it comes to curbing the effects of this hormone tirade, Tania’s advice is simple; “Exercise is key for good mood and health, especially outdoors in natural light.” While fatty fish rich in omega 3 fatty acids, leafy greens, and lean protein can also boost our mood.

4. Melatonin: Your sleep inducer

What is it?

Melatonin is the night owl of hormones and reaches its highest level during deep sleep. The reduction of light entering through our eyes as day turns into night triggers its release and helps us wind down by lowering body temperature and enhancing sleep quality. It has the counter effect to cortisol and is crucial in regulating our body’s natural rhythms.

How does it affect my mood?

When melatonin soars it can bring on headaches and fatigue, while experts have noticed a delay in melatonin production in sufferers of Seasonal Affective Disorder Winter Type.

How can I feel more in control?

Try avoiding all blue lights and screens after 7pm, as these slow down our melatonin production and can cause trouble sleeping.

5. Serotonin: Your mood balancer

What is it?

Technically, serotonin is a neurotransmitter rather than a hormone, which means it transmits messages (in the form of electrical impulses) between our nerve cells. It plays a big part in maintaining our mood and helping us relax.

How does it affect my mood?

Low serotonin is thought to play a role in depression (although there is a lack of scientific evidence to support this).

How can I feel more in control?

To help boost your serotonin the natural way, try eating foods that are high in the essential amino acid tryptophan. These include salmon, eggs, spinach and seeds.

Is stress ruling you? Read our guide to taking back control and feeling more relaxed.

Get 75% off Champneys Healthy Breaks

Relax, unwind and detox at the award-winning Champneys spa resorts.
You’ll get 75% off Champneys Spa Days and one, two and three night Spa Stays.

Find out more

Terms and conditions apply. This offer does not include Eastwell Manor. Maximum of three bookings each plan year. Minimum four week booking period applies.

Articles you might like

Leave a Reply