Pimples, mood swings, cramps, decreased libido, increased libido, irritability, cravings euphoria — when in doubt, blame it on the hormones. If I was a hormone, I’d be pretty annoyed. Here they are, these little chemicals, simply trying to get a message across, and we constantly accuse them. My ten year old had a little breakout on her cheek. I took one look and the theme from Jaws started to play, on repeat, in my head. Dun, dun, dun, dun … dun, dun, dun, dun … HORMONES!! NO! Images of rotten teenager drama flashed before me, those nasty hormones possessing the body of my sweet, kind kid. “What’s a hormone?” she asked. Huh! That stopped me in my tracks. How to explain?

1. A hormone is a chemical that the body uses to communicate between cells. Communication — that’s a good thing, right?

2. Hormones are classified based on their make up. For instance, some hormones are made up of fat cells, some are made up of proteins. They are highly specialized. In order to work, they need to reach their target cell, which is the cell that needs to receive the message.

3. Lots of different types of cells make hormones, but when a collection of cells mass together with the primary goal of making hormones and sending messages, they are called a gland, e.g. thyroid gland, adrenal gland, pituitary gland. Messages can be sent either locally through the tissue or distantly through the blood.

4. Endocrinology is the branch of medicine that studies and treats hormone disorders — endocrine meaning something made by the body and released within the body. The flip side of this is the exocrine system, which releases substances, like sweat, outside of the body.

5. Hormones are involved in every bodily function — from growth, to metabolism, to energy production, to sex (you already knew that one), to childbirth, to mood, to movement, to … you get the idea. They are really important. Even a slight irregularity can set you quickly off balance.

This week, a look at what hormones do — puberty, menopause, sex drive, weight loss etc. Hormones are like teachers and mothers, constantly trying to convey a message to get a point across. Unlike teachers, they don’t get the summer off. Unlike mothers, there is no wine at the end of the day. Imagine?? Maybe we all need to have a little more respect for the job they are trying to do.

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