Hormone Basics: It’s a Question of Balance

What are hormones and what is it they do?

Hormones are chemical messengers that travel via the blood, enter tissues and regulate cell function by direct effects on Specific receptors. Hormones act on receptors the way a key fits into a lock. If the hormone is slightly different, it may fit into the lock but not open the same doors as the proper key.

Where are hormones made?

The hormones we are discussing today are estrogens, androgens; progesterone and cortisol are known as steroid hormones. Steroid hormones are manufactured in the body from cholesterol. Women and men share the same hormones. The relative amounts differ.

There are four general categories of steroid steroid alternatives hormones: Estrogens, androgens, progesterone and glucocorticoids. Estrogens are called female hormones but are essential for men. Androgens are called male hormones but are also essential for women. Progesterone is the only hormone in its class but it can be changed into cortisol. Cortisol, the stress response hormone, is a glucocorticoid. In women, sex steroid hormones are produced primarily by the ovaries and adrenal glands.

In men, sex steroids are produced primarily by the testies and adrenal glands. The conversion of each hormone to another in the pathway requires specific enzymes, which in turn require specific vitamins and minerals. Once menopause or andropause has been reached the adrenal glands become the primary source for estrogens and testosterone.


Estrogen receptors are found in cells throughout the body including bone, brain, blood vessels, bladder, breast, thyroid gland, and the reproductive organs. Estrogens are responsible for the development of the female secondary sex characteristics such as breast development and play a critical role in the menstrual cycle.