Known as potent chemicals, hormones keep internal processes running smoothly. But they’re also delicate, requiring measured and timely release so body functions stay on track. When the inevitable does happen, and hormone balance wavers to some degree, at Naples Vitality in Naples, FL, we can help. Many of the restorative measures we recommend are natural so that with just a few lifestyle tweaks, you can once again look and feel your best.
Why Does Hormone Balance Matter?
These messengers control nearly everything the body does. You can liken them to corporate executives, repeatedly delivering crucial instructions to cells and organs. Hormones themselves do not carry out the functions of our organs; instead, they provide the directives that lead to those functions, thus keeping the body on task. Processes they’re involved with include:
This list is only a snapshot of everything hormones regulate, but it helps you see how integral these chemicals are. And while you may think of hormones as being substantial in size, they’re small enough to be invisible to the human eye. Some work quickly to stop or start a process, while others continue laboring over an extended period of time. The point is that hormone balance allows the body to run optimally and keeps you feeling healthy.
The Endocrine System
Hormones are made and released by the glands of the endocrine system. Located throughout the body, each gland plays into the production of any given hormone, and each does so in a specialized manner to maintain homeostasis. When hormones are off-kilter, you experience symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, and hair loss.
To further show the delicate nature of hormones, each can only target cells with a receptor that matches that particular hormone. You can think of this as a lock and key system: the hormone is the key that fits the cell’s lock. Some hormones align with most of the body’s cells, while others are much more selective.
The Main Glands
The hypothalamus is one of the main glands of the endocrine system. It regulates body temperature, moods, and hunger. It also controls the release of hormones from other glands to play a role in sleep, thirst, and sexual desire. Additional glands of the endocrine system include the:
- Parathyroid, which controls calcium
- Pancreas, which produces insulin to regulate blood sugar levels
- Thyroid, associated with heart rate and metabolism
- Adrenal, linked with cortisol and sex drive
- Pineal, which produces hormones that affect sleep
- Ovaries, known to secrete the sex hormones in women
- Testes, known to produce the sex hormones in men
The Pituitary Gland
It is the pituitary that’s considered the “master control gland.” This controls all other glands and secretes major hormones that include cortisol, which maintains blood sugar and blood pressure levels, and thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), which regulates energy, metabolism, and the nervous system.
The pituitary does not release hormones in a steady stream. Instead, they emerge in bursts every one to three hours. As a further indication of the precision behind hormones, they are released in alternating periods of activity and inactivity to ensure the body has what it needs when it needs it.
How Hormones React With Cells
Once secreted, hormones follow a relatively predictable course. The blood carries them to their target cells, where they are deposited like passengers on a bus to work in one of two ways. Lipid-soluble hormones diffuse through a cell’s membrane and bind to a receptor within the cell’s cytoplasm. Water-soluble hormones bind to a specific receptor protein within the cell’s membrane.
Different tissue types may respond in different ways to the same hormonal signal. Because of this, it’s hard to dissect the exact way in which hormonal signaling works. What we do know, however, is that these impressive chemicals never stop working.
Once a hormone and receptor bind, the cell takes action as instructed by the hormone. Sometimes, people believe more hormones equate to more benefits. But the truth is that too much of any given hormone can be toxic. These chemicals have such a profound effect on the body that the endocrine system only secretes them in minute amounts.
The body naturally destroys most hormones once their activities are completed. Because each is so interconnected, imbalances do not occur in isolated events; instead, an abnormally high level of one can cascade and cause other hormone levels to rise and dip significantly. Unfortunately, this happens often because of modern lifestyles.
Activities That Cause Hormonal Imbalance
Healthcare providers have concluded over half of all people in Western societies suffer from hormone-related diseases. These include osteoporosis, polycystic ovarian syndrome, and diabetes. Sometimes, a single and seemingly small flaw within the body contributes to these disorders. But in other instances, hormone-related diseases can be prevented simply by avoiding these common practices.
Forgetting Your Body’s Delicate Nature
We’re all guilty of it: sitting on the couch, binge-watching our favorite shows, and eating pizza (or another food of your choice). Occasionally indulging is fine, but doing it for extended periods can cause serious problems. Sitting for hours, lacking physical activity, skipping consistent sleep, and missing meals contribute to hormone imbalance.
These habits are only augmented by constant contact with manmade chemicals like pesticides, herbicides, and fragrances. Each of these can mimic natural hormones and disrupt the delicate stability our bodies continually fight to maintain.
Surrounding Yourself With BPAs
Speaking of chemicals, many are known as endocrine disruptors, meaning they interfere with the normal release of hormones and force our bodies to work harder and to less effect. BPAs are often at the top of this list because they “trick” the body into thinking they’re real hormones. The result is an overload of some hormones and a severe deficiency of others.
While this is bad enough, the negative effects don’t stop there. BPA has been linked with cancer, obesity, heart disease, and reproductive disorders. Government tests indicate 93% of all people have BPAs in their bodies, thanks to the major culprit: canned foods. Many cans are lined with BPA, so the best thing you can do is reach for fresh foods. Also avoid recycling label #7 and plastics marked with a “PC” for polycarbonate.
Eating a Diet Rich in Animal Foods
Whether we’re talking about dairy or meat, all animal foods contain hormones. Even if that animal was raised in accordance with organic practices, hormones are still present in its foods. This boils down to one basic fact: animals, like humans, require hormones for body functions, including reproduction. These are similar, if not identical, to human hormones and thus behave as such within the body.
Hormones As We Age
The most well-known of age-related hormonal changes is menopause. This marks the time when women’s ovaries slow their production of estrogen and progesterone, and while the process is normal and eventually happens to all women, some symptoms can completely disrupt life. They include:
- Hot flashes
- Decreased libido
- Mood swings
- Vaginal dryness and atrophy
Although men don’t go through menopause, about 20% over age 60 do experience andropause. This is the time of a man’s life when testosterone production significantly declines. Symptoms can be wide-ranging, just like those experienced by women, and include low libido, decreased energy, a drop in muscle mass, and cognitive impairment.
A Thyroid Condition
It’s difficult to distinguish between the side effects of age-related hormonal fluctuations and those owed to thyroid disease. The thyroid is a small, butterfly-shaped gland found at the back of the neck. As mentioned earlier, hormones produced by the thyroid control many processes, including body temperature, metabolism, and muscle strength.
A simple blood test is recommended for men and women over the age of 60 to monitor for thyroid disease. In addition, anyone with the following symptoms should also be tested:
- Changes in energy levels and mood
- Weight fluctuations
- Menstrual irregularities
- Temperature tolerance issues
- Changes in bowel habits
Ways to Restore Balance
When your hormones lack balance, symptoms will make themselves known. This is not a silent condition that takes you by surprise. Instead, it weighs heavily on functions and produces broad symptoms like acne, compromised gut health, insomnia, fatigue, brittle nails, unexplained weight fluctuations, and diminished sexual desire.
But all is not lost. Using a multi-pronged approach that addresses your health in a comprehensive way can help restore balance. Diet is one of the first steps, in which you should avoid sugars and simple carbs and incorporate healthy fats like omega-3 and omega-6. Both reduce your risk of obesity and can restore balance to the body. Keep in mind fat doesn’t sit inactive; instead, it can signal the production of hormones that cause further problems.
Use Adaptogen Herbs
Adaptogens are proven to reduce cortisol, the stress hormone we mentioned earlier that impacts a number of crucial processes within the body. Reducing this chemical can therefore have many positive effects on the body, including restoring healthy sleep patterns and reducing inflammation. Examples of adaptogen herbs include Chinese licorice and ginseng, both of which can be easily added to your morning tea.
Reach for Supplements
Supplements can be especially valuable when trying to restore hormone balance, and a great example is found in probiotics. These deliver “good” bacteria to your gut microbiome to allow for easier food digestion. Studies suggest estrogen-related imbalances may be reversed with probiotics; they can also diminish the impact of chronic stressors on our body and improve bolster functions of the immune system.
Vitamin D can likewise fight hypothyroidism, and using quality supplements may also reduce your risk for cancer and heart disease. While some of us get this all-important vitamin from sun exposure, that simply isn’t realistic for most – especially those living in northern locales with cold climates. It’s also important to note our natural production of vitamin D drops with age, which further supports the idea that supplements may be necessary.
Sleep and Exercise
We’re often quick to sacrifice sleep when life gets busy, but this may be the most damaging step we can take for ourselves. Inadequate rest throws the body off-kilter and can lead to hormone-related obesity. Consistently getting at least eight hours of sleep every night is the best way to combat this. Exercise can similarly stabilize hormones, especially increased levels of estrogen, insulin, and cortisol.
A Pillar of Health
Hormone balance is a pillar of good health. It provides crucial energy, maintains strong skin and hair, and encourages positive responses to hunger and intercourse – just to name a few of its benefits. But imbalance can and does occur, necessitating lifestyle changes that sound simple but often require guidance. To learn of the treatment options that can best benefit you, call the team at Naples Vitality in Naples, FL, today.