Sharing moments Menopause Young adults Bye bye Hotel Mum How you feel at home Semester abroad Language course abroad or work as an au pair? Be prepared for military training Grassrooted Pack smarter, travel better Make an impression Contraception Vegan diet Bye bye Hotel Mum – hello shared flat Big trip, small budget Finanzielle Vorsorge Planning a family Tracking fertility The right time? How men can help Fertility and diet Medical check-up What you need to know about ovulation What to do if you don’t conceive straight away Three electronic fertility and cycle trackers in comparison Planning a family and partnership Pregnancy Examinations during pregnancy Diet and nutrition Is my pregnancy progressing normally? Tips for daily life Important points for travel and holidays Is my pregnancy progressing normally? What items do I need for my baby? Where and how do I want to give birth? What do I need to pack for the hospital? How should I prepare my home for my child? Is my pregnancy progressing normally? How can I best prepare for my baby? How can I best prepare for the birth? Nutrition Parent-child relationship Preparing for breastfeeding | Sanitas Magazine Insurance Stretch marks Sleep Rupture of membranes Baby blues High-risk pregnancy Braxton Hicks & false labour Formalitites Morning sickness Family rooms Our baby Bathing baby – what you need to know How babies hear Infant first-aid kit Baby care Is my baby developing normally? Month-to-month overview of baby development Is my baby developing normally? Baby’s development: Months 3 and 4 Baby care Breastfeeding When does a baby start eating? Weight Baby growth spurts Toys Sun protection for baby skin Teething Milk teeth: what to do in case of accident Baby’s development: Months 5 and 6 Pelvic floor exercises after birth Babyschlaf Celebrating and enjoyment Christmas and New Year’s Eve with a twist A philosophical take on pleasure Pleasure can also be found in the soup kitchen in Zurich Tips for a peaceful and stress-free Christmas Living better with cardiac insufficiency Alejandro Iglesias Hana Disch Patrizio Orlando Vaccinations and travel first-aid kit Hay fever In pursuit of happiness Seven tips for a happier daily life Kids in lockdown Online addiction Women's hearts Decisions Decision-making tips Report from the hospital Donating a kidney Life decisions Emigrating to South America Geocaching Sexuality Be active Active during pregnancy Sport and exercise during pregnancy Antenatal exercise classes Standing properly Healthy eating Green smoothies Vitamin D Good eggs, bad eggs Diet plan Healthy fats Feed your muscles How much sugar should we eat a day? How much fat should we eat a day? Lactose intolerance Healthy diet, strong immune system Low Carb E-numbers and other additives in food Personalised diet Healthy heart Interview with Christophe Wyss Heart-friendly sports How the mind affects the heart Taking blood pressure correctly High blood pressure: what you need to know Healthy teeth Home remedies: relief for sore gums A dentist explains Brushing up on brushing Changing habits Interview Stortpsychologie 10-step guide to changing habits Try, try, try again Fitnessmotivation Running coaching Running ABC Race in Sarnen Factors affecting condition Weekly planner Running shoes Strengthening exercises Running nutrition Complementary sport Warm-up Stretching Functional clothing Fitness tracker Shopping – sportswear Running tips for women Relaxation technique Recovery New lease of life thanks to Sanitas running coaching Sport after childbirth Postnatal exercise Taking the strain off your shoulders Kangatraining Workout while walking Expert tips Stress and relaxation Moving air Fight stress with yoga What is stress Learn how to relax Dealing with stress What is burnout? “The first step was to create boundaries” Juggling family and a career Reduce stress Stressor factors The most beautiful Swiss saunas Sweating in the sauna Breathing exercises for relaxation The right rest & recovery: debunking myths Mindfulness Sleep Trend sports Fitness boxing Slackline Bouldering Fascia training Stand Up Paddling Keeping fit efficiently Swing with a smile! Vertical workout Hiking Altitude sickness Seven stroller-friendly hikes Needed: a hiking-friendly pushchair There goes the other sole! Tips on hiking with a baby Mountain lakes Planning a family: Fertility and exercise Stair climbing Pumptrack Kids’ back Back exercises Sitting properly at work Forest fun Playing for life Promoting health and fitness Motivation Sledging Curling glossary What do you get if you cross a kite with snow? Snowshoeing Preventing falls Inline skating Swimming Swimming Wings for Life Stretching Bike tips Stretching exercises for cyclists koerper-und-kaelte Healthy teeth thanks to dental hygiene and preventive care Putting wishes into practice Tips for healthy teeth Hometraining Investigating teeth-related myths 10 tips to ease anxiety Hand care How our body regenerates The best abdominal exercises in five minutes Keeping fit on holiday Swim training aids Wie viel Sport ist gesund Gathering mushrooms – the right way | Sanitas Magazine Check-ups Five-minute stretching routine Gehirntraining Rückenschmerzen Licht Yogastile Ayurveda-Morgenroutine Tips for doing sport outside in winter Cross-country skiing for beginners Home remedies against dandruff Home remedies Home remedies for bladder infections Home remedies for a sore throat Home remedies for migraines Home remedies against excessive sweating Home remedies for a sun allergy Healthy feet, healthy back core exercises for mountain bikers Symptoms Check Sport after Corona HIIT: quick and efficient exercises Sore muscles: debunking myths Debunking swimming myths strength training for young people Exercise videos Whole-body workout Sun protection Strong mind How to be mentally strong Mental strength Psychosomatics Resilience Tips against feeling down Sleep hygiene and mental well-being Depression Panic attacks Prescription drug addiction ADHD: Symptoms in children and adults Mental illness: help for friends and family Living with autism Pressure to perform Alcoholism Blood: myths and facts Hormones Living together today Digital life Online addiction Digital temptation Children and digital media Smartphone neck Digital responsibility and solidarity Our brains love habit Change my habits? You’re joking! Planning a family: Difficulties trying to have a baby Planning a family: Myth vs fact Solidarity study Newcomers Living together tomorrow Digital nomads Giesserei multi-generation house The blind film director Help instead of rent Working on the move Medical practices of the future Our skin – layer by layer Generational discussion: wishes for life Hausarzt und Corona Safe return to work Corona crisis: singing together Corona crisis: Working in intensive care Corona crisis: working in a nursing home Rest and recovery: learning from children Corona crisis: voluntary work for the needy Second opinion Relationships and children Three questions that keep us awake at night Outing The nature of lying Vorsorge Finding sound health-related information online Impfstoffe entwickeln Tipps für Jugendliche in der Corona-Krise Becoming parents Diagnose: Kind im Haus Long Covid Take it easy in your free time YouTuber Aditotoro on the coronavirus pandemic Minimalism for a happy life Thanks to corona: more time for family Back to life after a paragliding accident Decluttering: the answer to chaos Living and loving with autism Synaesthesia Talking to doctors Non-verbal communication Developments for the future App check Aqualert SRC blood donor Codecheck Forest Freedom Freeletics Moment Three sleep apps reviewed PeakFinder Findery Six fitness apps reviewed Internet use High-tech trousers Prostheses Hospital of the future New skin for burns victims Online-Therapien How drugs are developed Generics A vision of the future: How we will live in 30 years Onward Overcoming erectile dysfunction Family medicine practices of the future Sanitas newsletter
Dossier: Sexuality

How hormones affect us

There are phases in life where we hardly recognise ourselves any more. Suddenly we are irritated at the slightest thing, down in the dumps or close to tears. The simplest explanation is often to blame our hormones. But how much influence do they really have?

Text: Julie Freudiger; photo: Sanitas

Going jogging or singing a song makes us happy. And not just because it “does us good”, but because it releases the happy hormones serotonin and dopamine. How we react, feel and think is not just dependent on our genes or what’s happening around us. Our hormones also influence our daily life and personality. This is particularly noticeable in phases of hormonal change. Some people suddenly react impulsively or are downcast or listless. For those affected, their reactions and feelings are often just as stressful, sometimes even puzzling, as for the people around them.

“Why are you so grouchy?”: young people and puberty

Expert: Professor Urs Zumsteg, Head of Endocrinology/Diabetology at Basel University Hospital

If your son or daughter’s moods seem to change by the minute and it’s hard to get a word out of them, this is a sign that puberty may have started. This stormy phase is kicked off by the adrenal gland: spots start to grow on their skin, their breasts develop and their voices deepen. The hormones stimulated by the adrenal gland cause skin changes in both sexes, among other things. The stress hormone cortisol is also released in greater quantities. And the ovaries and testicles start to produce more of the sex hormones oestrogen and testosterone. “Going through puberty, young people’s bodies change almost daily – and it’s not easy for them,” says Urs Zumsteg. “However, I believe that we overestimate the direct influence of hormones on our personality, because young people who are particularly aggressive or big risk-takers don’t have more testosterone than others.” The higher levels of stress during puberty aren’t directly attributable to hormones either.

Zumsteg believes that this – and the moodiness of pubescents – is mainly due to the social and psychological challenges that they face. It is a challenging time in which teenagers not only feel strange in their own skin but they also start to break away from their close-knit family circle. The unreasonable and impulsive behaviour that can drive parents to despair is due to maturation processes in the brain. “The brain matures from the back to the front, with the areas that control our emotions and impulses being the first to develop, and reason the last.” But thankfully this process doesn’t last forever. 

“Oh, she’s just on her period”: PMS and the female cycle

Expert: Professor Brigitte Leeners, Director of the Clinic for Reproductive Endocrinology at the Zurich University Hospital

Women are often irritable, moody and listless shortly before and during menstruation. Are hormones to blame? Brigitte Leeners doesn’t think so: “Research results indicate that women are mentally and physically capable at any point in their cycle. Except for those who suffer from PMS.” PMS stands for premenstrual syndrome and is the name of an illness that includes around 150 symptoms and occurs in the second half of a woman’s cycle, i.e. after ovulation. Typical symptoms include exhaustion, bloating, irritability, poor impulse control and depressive moods.

The symptoms stop once menstruation starts. This is indirectly related to hormones. In the first 13 days or so of the menstrual cycle, the female feel-good hormone oestrogen increases. If the egg is not fertilised, oestrogen levels fall again and the hormone progesterone increases, causing a tightening in the breasts. But it is not the fluctuating hormones themselves that trigger PMS symptoms, but how the brain reacts to them – and this varies from woman to woman. Studies show that 20% to 30% of women suffer from PMS. Leeners estimates that the number of women who suffer from one symptom – by definition this does not equate to PMS – is more than 70%.

“However, it may be,” adds Brigitte Leeners, “that patients experience pain and mood swings before their period because they expect to. It’s like a self-fulfilling prophecy.” A lot of myths still abound about periods today. It is often forgotten that complaints during menstruation are actually the exception rather than the rule.

“It’s like I’m being controlled by someone else”: menopause and mid-life crises in men and women

Expert: Dr Anna Raggi, Vice President of the Swiss Society for Gynaecological Endocrinology and Menopause / Dr Roger Schneiter, specialist in endocrinology at the Zurich University Hospital

Sex hormones begin to decline from around our mid-40s. During menopause women are most affected by the lack of oestrogen, suffering hot flushes, problems sleeping, joint pain, lack of sex drive and vaginal dryness. “Some patients say that they feel like they’re being controlled by someone else,” says Anna Raggi. Women are two-and-a-half times more likely to develop depression during the menopause, because oestrogen has a positive impact on our central nervous system. When levels fall it can cause irritability, depressive moods and even depression.

However, the menopause specialist says: “The symptoms experienced during menopause are not due to hormones alone. Sociocultural factors also play a role.” For example, when women struggle against getting older and worry about negative changes before they happen. If the symptoms are severe, Anna Raggi recommends prescribing hormone replacement therapy tailored to the patient’s requirements. Menopause can last several years – and the earlier the symptoms start, the longer they last.

“Men’s testosterone levels fall on average by around 1% a year from the age of 30 to 35, but it varies considerably,” says Roger Schneiter. So men don’t experience menopause like women. But this doesn’t mean that men breeze through this phase of life without any problems. “Declining testosterone levels can reduce desire and cause erectile dysfunction.” Some men, but by no means all, also experience tiredness, lack of energy and weight gain. So, mid-life crises tend to be less the result of hormones and more about a fundamental unease when it comes to change. And men and women of any age can be affected.