Have you ever wondered why you feel hungrier after eating something sweet? Or why your heart races when you watch a scary movie?

Person in dog masking rubbing chin in a quisitive manner.

Hormones are chemical messengers that influence how you feel and how your body functions.

Here's how insulin, cortisol, serotonin, and oxytocin affect your health.

Insulin

Homer Simpson looking at his rumbling belly

What it does:

Insulin allows your body to use the glucose or sugar found in the foods you eat as energy.

How it affects you:

  • Makes you hungry

  • Makes you gain weight when levels are high

  • Makes you lose weight when levels are low

How you can balance it:

Regular exercise can help lower your blood sugar levels, allowing the insulin in your body to act more efficiently and make you feel less hungry.

Cortisol

chicken wiping away sweat

What it does:

Cortisol puts your body into "survival mode" when you perceive you're in a dangerous situation.

How it affects you:

  • Makes you energetic

  • Makes your heart race

  • Makes you feel anxious

How you can balance it:

Make sure you get enough sleep to help keep your cortisol levels low.

Take deep breaths, do yoga, or meditate to lower your cortisol levels when you're feeling stressed or anxious.

Serotonin

Man listenign to music, drinking coffee, and relaxing

What it does:

Serotonin helps your brain regulate moods, sleep, and digestion. It also plays a role in the brain's learning processes and memory formation.

How it affects you:

  • Makes your moods stable

  • Makes you sleep well

  • Makes you learn well

How you can balance it:

Keep a healthy diet high in omega-3 fatty acids (found in walnuts, seeds, and most oily fish) to even out serotonin levels in your body.

Oxytocin

Two sloths hugging each other

What it does:

Oxytocin helps you fall in love and plays a role in breastfeeding, childbirth, and social bonding.

How it affects you:

  • Makes you feel connected

  • Makes you love your partner

  • Makes you love your children

How you can balance it:

Hugging, cuddling and having sex can all increase oxytocin levels in your body and keep you feeling loved and connected.

Listening to soothing music can also increase oxytocin levels when your loved ones aren't around to help give you that boost.

Apply What You've Learned

Billy is at the zoo and sees a wild elephant ferociously charging in his direction. Even though the elephant is behind a fence, this stresses Billy out and increases his cortisol levels.

Elephant charging

Quiz

What could Billy do to lower his cortisol levels?

Take Action

Guy looking suscpicously. Overlaid text reads “Not sure if oxytocin or cortisol.

Practice guessing what hormones are influencing people next time you watch a movie or see people on a first date.

If you feel your hormones may be out of balance, talk to your doctor.

Interested in learning more?

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