Everybody heard the expression “sex hormones”, but few people know what it means. Sex hormones or sex steroids are biologically active substances, produced in the body by special organs or cells (endocrine glands) that provide a targeted impact on the activity of other organs and tissues.
Sex hormones functions help to control the reproductive system and vital processes of the body at all stages of development. Sex hormones stimulate the activity of genes, controlling the formation of gender, metabolism, height and tissue differentiation, adaptation to the environment, behavior and many other processes.
Excess or shortage of sex hormones in the human body leads to various pathologies and endocrine diseases. In order to determine the level of sex hormones, man should do medical tests, get the results and consult endocrinologist.
General recommendations before sex hormones test: quit smoking or consuming alcohol for a while and avoid heavy physical loads. All the listed factors can affect the test results. Moreover, the use of certain medications (first of all sex hormones, their generic versions and derivatives) may cause deviation of the actual indices.
According to definition of sex hormones, they include hormones, affecting the physiological regulation of the reproductive system. Such hormones as melatonin, regulating some other functions of the body can be included in the list of sex hormones as well.
Sex hormones are synthesized in sexual glands from organic compound, called cholesterol. Many stages of sex hormones synthesis coincide; therefore, certain types of male and female sex hormones are synthesized in both men and women.
Sex hormones typical for one sex are usually formed in lesser quantities and are not accumulated in endocrine cells. Biological meaning of this phenomenon is unknown yet.
Female sex hormones
Female sex steroids are divided into estrogens (estradiol, its derivatives - estrone and estriol) and progestins (progesterone) by chemical structure and physiological effect.
Molecules of estrogens have the same circular system as progesterone has. Such slight differences in chemical structure of the female sex hormones make a global difference in physiological functions of these compounds.
Estrogens are sex hormones that give female characteristics, helping to form sexual characteristics of the body, as well as develop sexual instinct, mental status and reproductive function in women. Estrogen induces the synthesis of specific proteins, responsible for characteristic metabolic paths, changes in growth and differentiation of cells.
The effect of progesterone sex hormones usually occurs after the impact of estrogens on the tissues and provides an inhibitory effect on some physiological processes in the female body.
Male sex hormones
There are three kinds of male sex hormones - testosterone, 5-