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Hormones and Your Body: 6 Surprising Effects

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Surprises 4-6

Surprise #4

Hormones help you bond.

Your brain naturally releases the chemical oxytocin, often called the bonding hormone, since women make more of it when they breastfeed or cuddle a baby. But it's not just for moms! Your body also releases more of this hormone after a 20-second hug, says Louann Brizendine, MD, a neuropsychiatrist in San Francisco and author of The Female Brain.

Expert advice: "You can't hug the people you love too much," says Dr. Brizendine. It's a great way to foster closeness and trust between you and your partner, even when you're feeling less than lovey. And you don't have to restrict your hugs to family. Sometimes the best thing you can do for a friend or close coworker who's reeling from bad news is to listen and reach out with a hug. You'll both benefit.

Surprise #5

Hormones may take the 'zazz out of your sex life.

Testosterone may be a male hormone, but women's bodies also produce it and need it, particularly to encourage sexual desire. Unfortunately for women who report low libidos and may not make enough testosterone to begin with, taking birth-control pills may lower testosterone even more, according to research from the University of Oklahoma in Tulsa. "A woman taking an oral contraceptive may have less of her body's natural testosterone available," says Susan Rako, MD, a psychiatrist in Boston and author of The Hormone of Desire.

Expert advice: If you've noticed a dip in your sex drive since you started taking the pill, talk to your ob-gyn. She may suggest that you try a different formulation. Or you may want to choose a nonhormonal contraceptive, such as the IUD. Unfortunately, there's no way to naturally boost your testosterone levels, and doctors who FITNESS spoke with advised against testosterone supplements. They aren't safe for premenopausal women because they could harm your fetus if you became pregnant, Dr. Rako says.

Surprise #6

You don?t have to live on a hormonal roller coaster as you age.

If you're in your mid to late 40s and your period is irregular and hot flashes and night sweats are taking a toll on you, you're probably experiencing perimenopause. For some women, getting on the pill could provide enough relief from perimenopausal symptoms, says Kathryn Martin, MD, a reproductive endocrinologist at Massachusetts General Hospital and an assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School in Boston. If not, hormone therapy (HT) may offer safe relief. True, previous reports found that HT may increase a woman's risk of heart disease, but the latest advice is that the closer you are to menopause, the more beneficial and less risky HT is likely to be. In fact, new research shows that using HT can lower your cholesterol, help regulate blood glucose and insulin, and keep blood vessels healthy.

Expert advice: Tell your doctor about your symptoms. If you decide to try HT, you'll need to use a nonhormonal contraceptive; although your period may be irregular, you can still conceive.

Next:  Hormonipedia!


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