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What do hormones do?

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Quick Answer

Hormones in the human body function as messengers that control activities throughout the body, according to the Merck Manual Home Health Handbook. Hormones affect organs and natural processes such as growth, development and reproduction. These substances also regulate fluid levels, major biological processes and how the body consumes food.

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Full Answer

Major hormones include vasopressin, oxytocin, cortisol, thyroid hormone, insulin, estrogen, testosterone and leptin. Vasopressin comes from the pituitary gland in the brain and regulates water balance. Oxytocin, also from the pituitary gland, causes contractions during birth, according to Hormone Health Network. Estrogen and testosterone are reproductive hormones secreted by female and male reproductive organs, respectively, as stated in Home Health Handbook.

Thyroid hormone originates from the thyroid gland in the neck, and it controls the body's metabolic rate to aid food digestion. Insulin, from the pancreas, helps process sugar, fat and protein, according to Home Health Handbook. Leptin controls appetite, and it comes from fat tissue. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal glands of the kidneys that maintains blood sugar levels and blood pressure.

Hormones are part of the endocrine system, and these chemical substances come from 10 different glands in the body. The pituitary gland is often referred to as the "master gland" because it regulates other hormone levels and affects every part of the body, as referenced by Hormone Health Network. The pituitary gland is one of three glands found in the brain.

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