Hormones – everybody has them, (not just women) and everybody needs them. But do you really know what they do?
Hormones tend to get a bit of a bad press, especially in relation to women’s health, well-being and behaviour. We tend to blame everything from moodiness, erratic behaviour, tiredness, weight gain, over-spending, excess chocolate consumption and bad hair days on our hormones!
AND this is actually more valid than we realise. When we talk about hormone imbalance the image of moody, hysterical women with erratic monthly cycles springs to mind, BUT did you know hormones are responsible for so much more.
Hormones are fundamental to life. They are involved in just about every bodily process from your metabolism, growth and development, stress response, immune system response and sleeping, to your moods and emotions.
What are hormones and how do they work?
Hormones are chemical substances manufactured in the body that control and regulate the activity of certain cells or organs. And so far, over 80 different hormones have been identified. Each individual hormone has a specific action and a specific target cell. They can be thought of as little messengers travelling round our bodies. Once they reach their target cell they act like a key fitting a lock, and then once the lock opens, the hormones instructions can be put into action.
Here are a couple of examples. Your pancreas produces insulin which in turn causes your cells to open up and accept glucose from the blood stream so they have energy to perform their tasks. Your adrenal glands produce adrenaline which signals your heart to beat faster, dilates your blood vessels and prompts the release of glucose – all very necessary if you have to suddenly fight or run away.
Our many hormones can exert their effects in different ways. Some act instantly, e.g. adrenalin, whereas others such as oestrogen can have an effect that builds up and lasts for a very long time. Hormones may exert their effect locally or may have a more widespread action. Some hormones only function is to stimulate the release of other hormones.
Hormones are powerful and it doesn’t take much of them to exert an effect. This is why just small amounts of endocrine disrupting chemicals can cause massive disruption.
Hormones do not act in isolation but form part of a complex system referred to collectively as the Endocrine system. The main hormone producing glands of the endocrine system include the: pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, parathyroid, thymus, pancreas, adrenal, ovaries and testes.
Other areas such as the stomach, breasts and fat cells are also known to produce hormones – in fact it is now thought likely that most body tissues can in fact produce hormones.
Your hormones are kept in balance by a complex feedback mechanism. There are three basic mechanisms which cause a particular hormone to be released.
- Specific chemical compounds in your blood serve as feedback mechanism
- Stimulation by other hormones
- Stimulation by signals from the nervous system
What happens when the system breaks down?
Many factors can affect your hormone function including:
- Poor nutrition
- Medical procedures
- Diseases and infections
- Endocrine disrupting chemicals
These factors can alter hormone production, hormone metabolism or how well the target cells respond to these chemical messengers.
When hormones are disrupted and deviate from their natural rhythms and cycles they may cause ill health and disease in one or more of the following areas; weight, mood, metabolism, reproduction and cognitive function
Disturbed hormone metabolism has been associated with a wide range of complaints including:
- Weight gain
- Insulin resistance
- Blood sugar problems
- Chronic fatigue
- Menopausal problems
- Polycystic ovaries
- Uterine Fibroids
- Breast cancer
- Ovarian cancer
- Adrenal insufficiency
- Thyroid problems
- Premature aging
- Poor immunity
What to do about it?
Throughout a woman’s life, the flow of hormonal changes from day to day and year to year will dictate her quality of life. The proper levels and amounts of various hormones are the foundation of optimal female health.
I believe that female hormone imbalance is a direct result of poor nutrient food intake, poor diet choices, chronic stress, a lack of physical activity and an accumulation of toxic substances that enter our body everyday.
My solution to the health problems which arise is defined in ‘The Hurley Health Formula’. This dietary and lifestyle approach has its basis in understanding that a woman’s health is a reflection of her journey through life and her environment both past and present. By looking at the whole person and her unique story, hormonal issues can be treated effectively.
Judicious use of Nutritional therapy and other Natural Therapies, and addressing lifestyle issues can restore the hormonal balance, and hence restore health and well-being.