Hormones and You

Greetings, We are going to give you some insight into Hormones and how they affect everything we do.

You probably wouldn’t have guessed it but the hormonal control center is in the BRAIN. You also could have thought that the size of your organs determine your femininity or masculinity. Wrong again!!!

The Conductor that orchestrates your hormonal balance is nothing bigger than a pea and situated in the brain.

The pituitary gland and in conjunction with the hypothalamus gland it controls vital body functions by excreting the following hormones:

1. Antidiuretic Hormone (ADH) controls the absorption of water by the kidneys

2. Oxytocin is the “cuddle” hormone responsible for the release of mother’s milk and uterus contraction after childbirth

3. Prolactin stimulates milk production

4. Growth Hormone (GH) regulates body and bone growth, improves muscle strength and increases protein synthesis, fat usage and carbohydrate storage

5. Adrenocorticotrophic Hormone (ACTH) stimulates the adrenal gland to release the stress hormones cortisol

6. Follicle Stimulating Hormone (FSH) stimulates female or male organs:

• Female: stimulates growth of eggs and produces estrogen
• Male: stimulates growth of sperm

7. Luteinizing Hormone (LH) stimulates female or male organs:

• Female: stimulates release of eggs and produces progesterone
• Male: stimulates release of testosterone

8. Thyroid Stimulating Hormone (TSH) regulates the thyroid gland

9. Endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers.

All these hormones stimulate the relevant glands and organs to secrete specific hormones that are essential for our functioning namely:

A. Adrenal gland:
• Adrenalin causes the heart rate, blood sugar and blood pressure to increase
• Noradrenalin raises blood pressure
• Cortisol mobilises our stress response
• Aldosterone regulates sodium and mineral balance through the kidneys to control blood pressure
• DHEA is the main building block for the manufacture of estrogen and testosterone
• Small amounts of estrogen, progesterone and testosterone

B. Thyroid & parathyroid gland:
• Thyroxine regulates our metabolism
• Calcitonin lowers blood calcium levels and builds bone strength
• Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) increases the calcium and phosphate in the blood and bones

C. Thymus gland:
• Thymosins promotes the development of t-lymphocytes for the immune system

D. Kidney:
• Renin regulates the blood pressure

E. Pancreas:
Insulin enables cells to take up glucose
• Glucagon stimulates the body to convert stored energy (glycogen) to glucose

F. Uterus:
• Produces the hormones estrogen and progesterone

G. Testes:
• Produces testosterone.

This is by no means a complete list but is only limited to more well known glands and organs. As can be seen the inner working of our bodies is very complex and there is a lot that can go wrong.
All these hormones work automatically. No need to worry about it. When everything works as designed you don’t even know about them.

However, when something does go wrong you will know about it because a hormonal imbalance has all kinds of nasty side effects.

Therefore, let’s investigate what happens when there is a HORMONAL IMBALANCE.
(ZRT Laboratories 2006. Hormones 101. www.zrtlab.com
Univ. South Carolina: Lecture Notes: Chemical Signals & The Endocrine System. www.biol.sc.edu/courses/bio102)

BALANCING ACT…

Since your hormones affect every aspect of your body it is essential to keep them in balance for your optimal health and well-being.
The most common hormonal imbalance is between estrogen and progesterone. The reason being that progesterone is the “mother” hormone used to manufacture all the other hormones.

Thus when there is INSUFFICIENT progesterone it causes an excess of estrogen. This results in unpleasant side effects such as PMS, hot flashes, mood swings, depression and other menopausal symptoms.

Estrogen that is NOT balanced with progesterone is extremely detrimental to your health. Since the role of estrogen is to make cells grow it has been implicated in breast cancer, fibroids, ovarian cysts, endometriosis, osteoporosis, etc.

High estrogen levels also affect men because some testosterone is converted to estrogen and DHT, which stimulates the prostate to grow.

When there is too much estrogen it also interferes with your thyroid hormone thyroxine. If thyroxine can’t work properly your metabolism slows down and you gain weight. You also typically retain water.

At the same time the calcitonin from the thyroid gland works in combination with the parathyroid hormones (PTH) to balance calcium in the blood. The PTH stimulates the bones to release calcium while calcitonin puts calcium back in the bones. A hormonal imbalance will cause a calcium imbalance resulting in osteoporosis and/or arthritis.

Since the STRESS hormone cortisol is also made from progesterone there is a big drain on progesterone when you are stressed. Cortisol is needed to allow thyroxine, which regulates your metabolism, and insulin, which manages your energy utilisation, to function properly. However, too much cortisol and your metabolism slow down and you can become insulin resistant.

Although stress is inevitable it is CHRONIC stress that is extremely detrimental for your health since cortisol is the main hormonal disruptor and the main reason for hormonal imbalance.
(Holford, P. 2004. Optimum Nutrition Bible. Piatkus:London)

HORMONE DISRUPTORS

Excess cortisol (STRESS) is the single biggest cause of hormonal imbalance, however, it is not the only reason.
We are also exposed to a number of synthetic compounds that are estrogen MIMICS. These compounds mimic the role of natural estrogen disrupting the body’s biochemistry and changing sexual and reproductive functioning. It also increases the risk of cancer rates.

What synthetic estrogens?
• Estrogens in hormone replacement therapy (HRT)
• Compounds such as bisphenol A and phthalates present in soft plastic bottles, plastic bags, cling wrap, etc.
Pesticides and industrial compounds.

Another problem is that these hormones are finding its way into the food chain as well as our drinking water!!! The estrogens in HRT end up in our drinking water while most of the beef we eat comes from feedlots where cattle are injected with estrogen to make them grow faster.

Thus, how do you avoid your exposure to these hormone disruptors?
1. Eat vegetables and fruit that have been thoroughly washed to reduce your exposure to pesticides.
2. Drink filtered water to remove any potential hormone disruptors.
3. Remove soft plastics as soon as possible especially cling wrap. Don’t heat food in plastic, these chemicals that keep plastics flexible get absorbed by fats in the food.
4. Avoid HRT thereby reducing your exposure to synthetic estrogen.

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Author: Leslie Carol Botha

Author, publisher, radio talk show host and internationally recognized expert on women's hormone cycles. Social/political activist on Gardasil the HPV vaccine for adolescent girls. Co-author of "Understanding Your Mood, Mind and Hormone Cycle." Honorary advisory board member for the Foundation for the Study of Cycles and member of the Society for Menstrual Cycle Research.