How Hormones Affect The Brain

How Hormones Affect The Brain

Have you ever felt like your hormones were making you crazy?  Emotional? Absent-minded?  Perhaps you’ve started to feel like your hormones were taking over your brain.  That is exactly what can happen when hormones go haywire.

Let’s look at the facts:

Undeniable Fact # 1:  The human brain relies significantly on proper hormone balance in order to function properly.

Undeniable Fact # 2: Concentrations of estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA, and other hormones can be higher in the brain than in the bloodstream.

Given these two facts, it is no surprise that an imbalance of hormones can drastically affect the brain’s chemistry and communication between brain cells.  This impaired chemistry and neurotransmission can lead to detrimental impacts on physical health, mental health, and emotional well-being, including issues with metabolism, sleep, sexual development, diabetes, thyroid, and brain tissue deterioration.

What Your Brain Tells You About Your Hormones

Let’s take a closer look at the specific hormones that have a substantial effect on brain health, along with common symptoms you could experience if a particular hormone level is too low or too high.


Responsible for the sexual and reproductive development in women, estrogen is best known for giving ladies their curves.  Estrogen also has a profound impact on brain health. A growing body of evidence has documented estrogen’s positive effect on learning, memory, and mood, as well as neurodevelopmental and neurodegenerative processes.  Estrogen also seems to prevent or delay memory and cognitive decline, and may be protective against diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s.

Signs your estrogen is too low include lower libido, difficulty concentrating, mood swings, reproductive issues, breast tenderness, hot flashes, and irregular or absent periods. Signs your estrogen is too high include altered sleep patterns, weight gain, hair loss, headaches, memory problems, and changes in appetite.


Produced by the testes in men and ovaries in women, this is often thought of as just a male hormone, but it is equally important for both sexes to have optimal levels. Testosterone strengthens muscles, arteries and nerves – including those in the brain – therefore contributing to mental sharpness and clarity.  Testosterone enhances mood, confidence and energy levels.  Much like estrogen, low levels of testosterone increased the risk of Alzheimer’s disease in men, as well as neurodegenerative disease like Parkinson’s.

Signs that your testosterone is too low include muscle loss, weight gain, fatigue, mood swings, and sexual dysfunction. Signs that it’s too high include excess body hair, acne, increased muscle mass, changes in body shape, menstrual irregularity and infertility.


Progesterone is an important hormone for balancing estrogen, and is essential for reproductive health. The latest research indicates that progesterone has multiple non-reproductive functions in the central nervous system to regulate cognition, mood, inflammation, neurogenesis, and regeneration. Progesterone has a calming effect on the brain, as well as a protective effect by reducing swelling and improving mental clarity after a traumatic brain injury.

Your progesterone may be too low if you experience mood swings, memory loss, weight gain, low libido, and premenstrual syndrome (PMS) symptoms. Signs your progesterone is too high include breast tenderness, bloating, mood swings, dizziness, and susceptibility to yeast infections.

Estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone all work directly with the nerve cells in the brain and contribute to blood flow in the brain, protecting against loss of memory and the progression of dementia.


The thyroid hormones are well known for helping regulate the body’s metabolic rate.  These hormones also play a big role in muscle control, brain development, mood, memory, heart and digestive function, and bone maintenance. Thyroid hormone deficiency may lead to cognitive decline and, if left untreated, to irreversible brain damage.

Signs that your thyroid hormones are too high (hyperthyroidism) include difficulty sleeping, excessive sweating, irregular heartbeats, anxiety, hair loss, and weight loss. Signs that your thyroid hormones are too low (hypothyroidism) include weight gain, slower metabolism, fatigue, irregular periods, anxiety, difficulty concentrating, short-term memory loss, and depression.


Often known as the stress hormone, cortisol can help reduce inflammation, control blood sugar and blood pressure, and assist the thyroid in regulating metabolism. In a perfect world, cortisol levels naturally increase in response to stressful situations. Then, when the stressful situation ends, cortisol should return to normal levels. The problem is that in modern times, the body often perceives the stress as a severe and prolonged threat.  When the excess level of cortisol becomes active in the brain and stays elevated, this can result in damage to the hippocampus – an essential part of memory creation.

Signs your cortisol is too high include severe fatigue, muscle weakness, bone loss, cognitive difficulties, loss of emotional control, high blood pressure, and headaches. Signs it is too low include weakness, weight loss, low blood pressure, salt craving, nausea, and abdominal pain.


Well known as a sleep aid, recent studies have revealed that melatonin is a powerful anti-aging antioxidant and has the ability to reduce brain injury-induced trauma, provide protection against neurogenerative diseases, and boost cognitive functioning, amongst other benefits.

Your melatonin may be too low if you experience tiredness during the day, social withdrawal, irritability, insomnia, anxiety, and depression. It could be too high if you have sleepiness, and inability to focus, memory issues or a drop in the body’s core temperature.

Is It Your Hormones?

Hormones are complex, but they do not need to be complicated.

Because of the interconnectivity of these hormones, deficiencies and imbalances can result in brain-related symptoms such as poor concentration, forgetfulness, confusion, lack of clarity, and even memory loss. If not properly addressed, these symptoms can have short- and long-term effects.  This can seem confusing and even scary, but it doesn’t have to be.

Let's make sense of your symptoms! Take a 3 minute hormone quiz and find out whether it's an imbalance in one or more of your sex hormones, thyroid, adrenals, or anything in between. You can take the quiz here and we'll spell it all out for you to know exactly what your next step should be.

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