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We all know that hormones have an effect on our health, beauty and even our relationships with the opposite sex. The question arises — exactly how and what effect the hormones?

Today will tell about the famous hormones — cortisol, oxytocin, melatonin. We meet them with action each day, but as always — many of them don’t work quite as we expected.

5 essential hormones: function and effects on human health

  • Cortisol
  • Prolactin
  • Oxytocin
  • Vasopressin
  • Melatonin

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It is a steroid hormone that is secreted in the adrenal cortex under the influence of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Like all steroids, cortisol is capable of affecting the expression of other genes — and its quality largely determines its importance.

Cortisol is synthesized by the reaction of the organism to stress and hormone task — to accumulate power of the body and guide them to resolve the problem. The cortisol is the “little brother” — adrenaline, which is also released in the adrenal medulla. Adrenaline provides immediate response to stress — the pressure increases, heart rate quickens, pupils dilate. All this is necessary for carrying out rapid response “fight or flight”. Cortisol is slower and works over longer distances.

Under the action of cortisol increases blood sugar, suppresses immune system (to save energy), secretes the gastric juice. Elevated for long periods of time cortisol slows wound healing and can stimulate the inflammatory processes in the body. Cortisol also reduces the activity of construction of bone tissue and synthesis of collagen.

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Under the influence of sunlight on the pituitary, the cortisol level starts to rise just before awakening and helps one to Wake up full of energy. During the day, cortisol helps us to cope with the normal stress (called eustress). This includes any tasks that require our response: to reply to the letter, hold a meeting, to prepare statistics. Eustress is not harmful to our health — on the contrary, it is a necessary load level.

But when the stress level starts to be too much, goes into eustress distress stress in its everyday sense. Initially, it was a situation life-threatening, but now they added any events, which the person attaches great importance. It can be overload at work, relationship problems, failures, experiences and loss, as well as wedding, moving, the Nobel prize or just a million dollars — stress is not necessarily bad things, but any change of circumstances which require changes from us. Evolutionary man prepared to react to stress, but do not reside there permanently. If the stressful situation is extended in time, permanently elevated cortisol begins to have a negative impact on the body.

First of all, suffers the hippocampus, synaptic connections are destroyed, reduced brain volume: these processes impair mental and creative abilities. Under the influence of cortisol, especially at an early age, the methylation — can be “turned off” certain genes. Children who in the childhood suffered a lot of stress or didn’t get enough maternal care, changing the ability to learn — and these changes persist for life. Memory in this case, it would be better to hold a negative impression, therefore, training of children takes place under the pressure of stress, whereas normal children need a secure environment.

Also prolonged cortisol leads to impaired immunity and activation of inflammatory processes. That is why after a nervous meeting or sleepless nights on the lips may appear “cold” — a manifestation of the herpes virus carriers which according to statistics is about 67% of the population, but that in “peacetime” itself does not show. Chronic stress leads to early appearance of signs of ageing is due to the fact that cortisol inhibits the synthesis of collagen, thins and dehydrates the skin.

Lower cortisol levels will help warm embrace, sex, favorite music, jokes and laughter. Helps how to sleep — and it’s not so much the amount of sleep as its quality. If you have offended someone or had a fight with the family — reconciliation would reduce the cortisol levels to baseline values.


Is a peptide hormone known for its importance for lactation. For its synthesis is mainly responsible the pituitary gland, but also of the brain prolactin is also synthesized by the placenta, mammary glands and even the immune system.

The level of prolactin increases during pregnancy, childbirth and, most importantly, breastfeeding. Latch the baby to breast and biting the nipple stimulates the production of colostrum (a natural protein shake with high content of immunoglobulins, which was isolated mammary glands during the first few days after birth) and the transformation of colostrum into milk.

Despite the high prolactin level during pregnancy, lactation begins soon after birth, when falling level of progesterone, which interfere with the launch of “dairy plant”. High prolactin level inhibits the synthesis of follicle-stimulating hormone needed for ovulation. So regular feeding is natural hormonal “contraceptive”.

But for lactation the action of prolactin is not the end: he is also a stress hormone. Its level increases in response to anxiety States, severe pain, physical exertion. Prolactin has analgesic effect in inflammatory diseases and, in contrast to cortisol, activates the immune system — stimulates stem cells to hematopoiesis and is involved in the development of blood vessels.

The level of prolactin increases during crying and orgasm. High levels of prolactin inhibits dopamine D2 receptors, and dopamine in turn inhibits the secretion of prolactin: from the point of view of evolution, breastfeeding does not need insatiable curiosity and thirst for learning new things.


This Oligopeptide hormone — it consists of several amino acids. It synthesizes the brain, the hypothalamus, then it is secreted in the pituitary gland.

In women, oxytocin is released during childbirth — it promotes the uterine contractions in the first and second stage of labor. A synthetic version of the hormone is even used to stimulate childbirth. Oxytocin decreases sensitivity to pain. In the postpartum period, under the action of the hormone stop bleeding and heal the tears. Oxytocin is greatly increased during lactation — here hormone acts together with prolactin. The activity of receptors of oxytocin including regulate estrogen receptors.

And in women and men oxytocin plays an important role in sexual arousal. The level of oxytocin increases arms (any — not necessarily with sexual overtones), sex and orgasm. Oxytocin is considered the bonding hormone — it causes a feeling of confidence and serenity beside your partner. Although in the same way oxytocin can be called a hormone of carelessness: it reduces the perception of signals of anxiety and fear (but does not affect the causes of such signals).

Oxytocin — known wrestler with stress: it blocks the release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) and, as a consequence, cortisol (ACTH what gives the signal to produce cortisol). Therefore, under the influence of oxytocin people feel safe and open to the world. From the receptors of oxytocin depends on how each of us is able to experience empathy. People with a less active variant of the OXTR gene will be more difficult to understand the feelings of others and to share experiences. According to studies, this mechanism plays a role in the development of autism.

With the participation of oxytocin is pretty ancient mechanism of the formation of social relationships in animals is connected with the upbringing of offspring, and the need to protect the mother during this period. The main role of oxytocin in the formation of mutual relations between mother and child and between partners. On the basis of their relationship with mother or any other person who cares about him, the child forms ideas about themselves and their identity. Knowledge and experience help to predict the consequences of actions and form a picture of the world. Oxytocin is also involved in the training.


Vasopressin is another peptide hormone of the hypothalamus. Vasopressin is also called antidiuretic hormone — it regulates the water balance in the body: reduces reverse absorption of water by the kidneys and retains the fluid in the body. Vasopressin reduces vascular smooth muscles and can increase blood pressure. The secretion of vasopressin can cause diabetes insipidus — a disease in which the patient is allocated a huge amount of liquid (more than 6 liters per day) and constant thirst.

Vasopressin plays a role of the neuropeptide and acts on brain cells. It affects social behavior. So, a variant of the receptor gene AVPR1A vasopressin is associated with the likelihood of a happy family relationship in men — this conclusion was made when comparing genotyping data and the results of the survey.

In mice the experiments were carried out, which showed that stimulation of vasopressin receptors makes males more attached to their females — they preferred to spend more time with the familiar partner, even if it differed polygamous behavior. It should be noted that in animals, social monogamy has nothing to do with sexy — it is about attachment to the partner, not the complete absence of “illegitimate” relationships. People have the effect of vasopressin-like neuropeptide is not so straightforward.

Oxytocin and vasopressin — paralogy: substances that were created as a result of the doubling of the DNA sequences, and very similar to each other. Vasopressin starts to be synthesized in the fetus from 11 weeks of pregnancy, oxytocin — 14 weeks, and both continue to be involved in the development of the baby in the postnatal period. High level of expression of vasopressin receptors during the neonatal period can lead to increased aggression in adults.

If the level of oxytocin can vary greatly depending on the situation, the vasopressin — a hormone with a smaller range of changes, the level of which depends mostly on genetics. The activity of vasopressin receptors and their genetic variant depends on the formation of social behavior and sustainable (or not) of links between partners. Also, these receptors are involved in the development of long-term memory and affect the neuronal plasticity of the cerebral cortex.


Finish today’s story on a happy note — go to sleep. Melatonin — the sleep hormone — is produced by the brain by the pineal gland when it is dark (that is why the Shine in the eye with a smartphone screen before sleep is a bad idea). It regulates the “internal clock” —circadian rhythms and helps all systems of the body to go into relax mode. During the day the highest level of melatonin falls in the period from midnight to 5 a.m. the light of day; during the year, the level of melatonin increases in the winter.

In the body melatonin is preceded by the amino acid tryptophan, which is also a precursor of serotonin. Melatonin slows down the aging and reproductive function and increases serotonin levels. A special role is played by the interaction of melatonin with the immune system — the effect of the hormone reduces inflammation. Melatonin has antioxidant effects and protects the DNA from damage.

Due to melatonin daily restored mode after changing the time zone or night work. The decreased production of melatonin, for example, because of the bright light or change the order of the day — can cause insomnia, which increases the risk of depression. To help your body to sleep well and recover mode, try to sleep in the dark with the lights off and the curtains drawn, if you are forced to sleep during the day.

Life in the big city sometimes consists entirely of stress, chronic lack of sleep, congestion, delay, pointless meetings and tasks of exaggerated importance and urgency. In this it is very difficult to find the time to recover, so we just begin to perceive a state of chronic fatigue as a given.

But nature we are not prepared to do this, and the same cortisol will be lost forever: if you constantly remain under stress, eventually cortisol gets depleted and then the body is forced to respond to stress by other methods.

To make sure that your health matches your stress load, consult a doctor-endocrinologist: may your body the right support. And definitely need to rest.published econet.ru.

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P. S. And remember, just changing your mind – together we change the world! © econet