Hormone Health – The Endocrine System

The endocrine system which secretes hormones, steroids and neurotransmitters are the regulators and catalysts of a vast range of chemical reactions which occur in the body. So, what should be done when these organs or glands become hypoactive or hyperactive? The most common step taken by the majority is to supply the body with synthetic or similar derivatives. ie. such as estrogen therapy,  cortisone, thyroxine,  melatonin etc. The problem with this type of therapy is that you are supplying the body with something it should produce on it’s own, and due to the supplementation of synthetic derivatives, the organ/gland weakens and atrophy starts to occur over the long term as the body sees no need to supply a hormone that is already in the blood stream, and therefore in the long term this type of therapy actually weakens the organs/glands further.

The main endocrine glands are the adrenal glands, the pancreas, the thymus, the thyroid/parathyroid glands, the testes, ovaries and master gland – the pituitary gland. There is a fine interplay between these glands, and when one becomes affected, it has effects on the others.

Let’s examine some of the interactions between the glands. For instance, the adrenal medulla produces neurotransmitters which are essential for brain and nerve function such as epinephrine, norepinephrine and dopamine. The adrenal cortex produces steroid hormones such as cortisol (regulates carbohydrate utilization and mediates inflammation), aldosterone(regulates mineral balance such as sodium and potassium) and androgens (sex hormones such as estradiol and progesterone). Many of these steroid hormones act as anti-inflammatory compounds. So, when there is a stress response, cortisol becomes raised, which activates the breakdown of fat and protein  to produce glucose. It therefore causes raised blood sugar levels, inhibits brain function not needed for fight/flight, increases clotting of blood to prevent hemorrhage, suppresses the immune system and mediates inflammation. It also increases the need for calcium. If this stress response becomes chronic,  the raised blood glucose levels leads to excessive insulin secretion, and if this glucose is not used up in the fight/flight response, the raised insulin leads to abdominal obesity and eventually diabetes. The person also becomes prone to infections due to the suppression of the immune system. Because the adrenal gland is in overdrive, the other steroid hormones also become affected and the person may also start to develop bone demineralisation, and have issues with blood pressure due to aldosterone, as well as hormone imbalances such as estrogen dominance and progesterone deficiency.  Progesterone helps to use fat for energy, facilitates thyroid hormone function, increases estrogen receptor sensitivity and reduces insulin levels, and helps to keep estrogen in balance. So one can start to see the inter relationship between the glands and their secretions.

How does the above affect the function of the other glands? Well, in states of estrogen dominance, thyroid hormone efficiency is blocked by roughly 25%. In cases of increased glucose, and therefore insulin, dietary fats and sugar may be converted into body fat causing obesity. High insulin also prevents body fat from being broken down. Memory loss and depression may also become evident.

So what can be done to support these imbalances? Well, let’s first look at the factors which disrupt hormone function – Sleep deprivation, acute and chronic stress, inflammation, genetics, nutritional deficiencies, aging, toxins, infections, processed food, smoking, alcohol, food allergies and intolerance as well as emotional and physical trauma.

We therefore could change our daily habits/choices in terms of what we eat, think and put on our skin as it vastly affects our physical and emotional life. We could choose to live a life disconnected from what we need physically, emotionally and spiritually. Or, we could change our habits and create a life that is vibrant, healthy, energetic and fulfilled.

1. We could choose fresh organic plant based foods and stay away or limit processed foods. Avoid excessive consumption of animal foods, dairy, sugar, alcohol, smoking etc.

2. We could choose a career which inspires us and that we are passionate about.

3. We could choose to avoid the things and people who do not serve us.

4. We could choose to nourish ourselves, nourish our earth, and nourish our relationship with our Creator.

5. We could choose to follow the principles of natural law, and utilize what is given to us for free and in it’s perfect and natural form such as plants, herbs, sunshine and fresh air.

Our bodies are infinitely wise and designed to heal, if only we could choose to live in a way that supports us, and not destroy us.

For personal consultations please contact vivienne@vividhealth.co.za