23 Jul HORMONES – THE DANCE OF LIFE
The stages of life – childhood into teens into adulthood and parenthood and then retirement or what I prefer to call the wisdom years – can be correlated with the significant hormonal shifts we experience over time.
Ideally these transitions are times of discoveries about how amazing our bodies are as we move through life. But instead of moving though them with ease and grace, many of us instead suffer uncomfortable, painful, worrisome and unwanted symptoms as our hormones fluctuate beyond its natural rhythm.
COMMON SIGNS OF HORMONAL IMBALANCE
- headaches, mood swings, breast pain, bloating, nausea commonly associated with premenstrual syndrome
- weight gain, facial hair on women, insulin resistance, irregular periods associated with polycystic ovarian syndrome
- cramps, heavy bleeding
- hot flashes, night sweats
- men boobs
- hair loss – male and female pattern baldness
- loss of libido
- difficulty conceiving
To be free of such symptoms, our hormones need to be balanced. What does this mean? First of all, the hormones involved are not just our sex hormones – oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone. They include insulin, thyroid hormones, stress hormones cortisol and DHEA.
And balance is not just about highs and lows of these hormones either.
THE KEY PLAYERS
We can think of the brain as the home of the “maestro” of our hormonal dance. Here the hypothalamus and pituitary work out the music score and choreography. Through the hormones they produce, they recruit different body organs akin to the “musicians” to play and entice the hormones to dance.
The “musicians” are the ovaries and testes that produce the sex hormones, thyroid and adrenal glands that produce hormones that influence the behavior of the sex organs and our entire digestive system from the pancreas, gut to liver and gallbladder.
The roles of our digestive system include providing the raw material cholesterol to make our hormones, insulin for blood sugar handling, detoxing and removal of old hormones. Our gut bacteria produce neurotransmitters that communicate with our brain. Some types of gut bacteria produce substances that interfere with the appropriate binding and removal of old hormones.
At different phases of our lives, all these key players must interact to produce different music suited to that stage of life – like a teenager who prefers dancing to loud music and strobe lights, who may switch to jazz as an adult and perhaps mellow into classical music later on.
Problems arise when the hormones dance out of step.
DANCING OUT OF STEP
Anything that disrupts the communication between the different organs and systems or hinders them from their functions can lead to a glitch in the hormonal dance.
These could be:
- thyroid disorders
- insulin resistance, metabolic syndrome
- other chronic health conditions
- mental or emotional stress
- nutrient-poor diet e.g. high sugar, high alcohol, lack of healthy fats, low fibre and plant foods
- lifestyle habits like poor sleep, little sunlight exposure, little exercise
- toxic exposures e.g. heavy metals, xenoestrogens (artificial oestrogens found in plastics and pesticides)
- over use of antibiotics, steroid medications
When we realise how intricate and complex this balancing act is throughout our lives, we can appreciate how amazing our bodies are if we learn to work with them.
Depending on individual situations, balancing your hormones may just require changing your diet and adopting better lifestyle habits. In other cases, it may require more in-depth investigations to get to the root of the disrupted hormonal dance. It is always advisable to seek the help of an appropriate health professional.