How Sex Hormones Act on the Brain By Dr. Mark Hyman


For even more about how sex hormones affect your mood, memory, and behavior and what you can do to balance them, see Dr. Hyman's book, The UltraMind Solution.
Photo by Jonsar Studios

There are receptors for all hormones, including estrogen in the brain. Estrogen in the brain seems to be neuroprotective, potentially reducing the risk of dementia. But a little too much can cause breast, uterine, and cervical cancer. Estrogen promotes the production of neurotransmitters, especially serotonin, making it a wonderful antidepressant (not to mention a great sleep aid). Getting the balance right is essential.

Progesterone is another important sex hormone. Levels drop in PMS and in perimenopause, leading to increases in anxiety and insomnia. There is evidence that natural, bio-identical (hormones that are identical to those produced by the body) progesterone reduces this anxiety and stress through its action on GABA receptors, the relaxing neurotransmitter. It is your body’s natural valium.

Testosterone is also a wonderful brain-boosting hormone improving mood, memory, motivation, and overall cognitive function. It drops significantly in women and men with age and has an enormous impact on quality of life. But it drops mostly because of weight gain, lack of exercise, stress, and high-sugar diets–not because we are genetically designed to have less testosterone as we age.

The biggest reason I see low testosterone in men is insulin resistance. High belly fat drives insulin up and testosterone down. That’s why men start looking like women and lose hair on their bodies, grow breasts, and have rounded, soft skin. It is because they are actually producing less testosterone and more estrogen. At the point that their estrogen levels exceed their testosterone levels, they sort of become women!

Correcting insulin problems by eating whole foods, cutting out sugar and flour, and doing some exercise to build muscle may naturally raise testosterone levels. And if you are a man, be sure you root for the winning sports team, because when your team loses, your testosterone levels drop!

Especially with older men, I find that giving them a little topical bio-identical testosterone helps them build muscle and bone, lose weight, relieve depression, overcome mood swings, improve memory and concentration, and recover sexual function. Even women benefit from the use of bio-identical testosterone.

Hormone replacement therapy must be carefully administered under a doctor’s supervision after adequate testing. I strongly advocate the use of “nature made” molecules to support normal function, rather than “new to nature” or man-made substances, which often have many unwanted and dangerous effects.

That means supplementing your system with substances it already uses, like vitamins or minerals, is usually a better treatment than using medications.

This applies to hormones as well, which is why I only recommend “bio-identical” hormones. Used intelligently, at the right time, for the right patient, in the right dose, for the right amount of time, they can be lifesaving.

80 percent of the time simply changing your diet and lifestyle, detoxifying, addressing stress, and rebalancing all the other seven Keys to UltraWellness health will help you regain balance without taking hormones.

For even more about how sex hormones affect your mood, memory, and behavior and what you can do to balance them, see Dr. Hyman’s book, The UltraMind Solution.

Author: Dr. Elise Cohen Ho
With over 25 years of experience, Elise Cohen Ho, PhD, HHP, NC, MH is an expert in natural health (mental, physical and emotional), support of the family unit and support of the individual. As a Natural Health & Lifestyle Therapist, Amazon International Bestselling Author and Motivational Speaker, she wants every person to understand that they bring incredible POWER to the world with their amazing and unique gifts. Elise is available as a freelance writer, public speaker and for private consultation. Please email to set up a FREE consultation today.


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