WHAT ARE HORMONES?
They are chemical messengers, patrolling through the body looking for target cells to deliver their messages and carry out specific functions. They are very powerful yet so delicate!
What can go wrong?
under or overproduction of hormones
production of faulty hormones
poor circulation (slow or imapired transport)
hormones not broken down
hormones are not cleared from the body
faulty feedback mechanism
fauly receptors (all target cells have a receptor on them faciliating recognition and communication)
MY HORMONAL JOURNEY
The imbalance began to manifest when I came off the PILL after 10 years. 10 years with NO BREAK! I know, what was I thinking? In a nutshell, I developed severe CYSTIC ACNE all over my face in the space of weeks. I tried all sorts of topical solutions, completely ignoring my INNER BODY, sadly, for years. What more, I suffered from severe HEADACHES and LOWER BACK PAIN during my PMS and period. Oh yes, and of course, I was HYSTERICAL! At the beginning of my thirties, I finally decided to take action, and so my healing started to take off. I went through a couple of healing crises (symptoms worsen temporarily before they get better) before things settled.
TODAY, I HAVE NO PMS or PERIOD PAIN. There are some mild breakouts around ovulation which I am still working on.
Steroid hormones are secreted by the adrenal glands, testes and the ovaries. Cholesterol is the building block of all steroid hormones. Cholesterol is also the precursor for Vitamin D production. Yes, you heard that right! Cholesterol is running the show!
The most prominent hormones within each steroid hormone group:
Estrogens: estrone (E1), estradiol (E2), estriol (E3)
Glucocorticoids: cortisol (see Stress)
Mineralcorticoids: aldosterone (see Kidneys)
Progesterone is crucial for female fertility and to the maintenance of pregnancy. Its role outside of reproduction is fundamental to the central nervous system, cardiovascular system, and bone health. It is produced by the corpus luteum (CL) in response to the low-level of luteinising hormones (LH) and highly depends on the availability of cholesterol. CL is what is left behind after ovulation. It is a mass of cells. Its function is determined by whether pregnancy takes place or not. Progesterone levels are low before and at the onset of the period. Highest levels occur during the last three months of the pregnancy. During pregnancy, progesterone production is taken over by the placenta once it is mature enough.
Pathway: Cholesterol > Pregnenolone > Progesterone
Progesterone imbalance may lead to:
While testosterone is a man-making hormone, both women and men produce them in different quantities. It is needed for sexual desire, for the maintenance of mood and energy levels, bone and muscle health, and to produce estrogen. Testosterone is converted into dihydrotestosterone (DHT) by an enzyme called 5-alpha reductase. DHT is much more potent than testosterone. This is what we call bad testosterone because it can cause acne in women while boldness and prostate diseases in men.
Pathway: Cholesterol > Pregnenolone > DHEA > Testosterone
In women, high testosterone levels may lead to:
increased muscle mass
Estrogen is responsible for female characteristics, stimulates ovulation, promotes fat storage and involved in numerous biochemical functions. Estrogen receives a lot of bad press, rightly so as estrogen dominance is on the rise! Progesterone deficiency and exposure to synthetic estrogens (xenoestrogens), environmental chemicals are the main factors to cause estrogen dominance. Why is this a problem? Well, estrogen stimulates tissue growth!
There are three types of estrogen:
the BAD: estradiol, most potent one and used in hormone replacement therapies.
the UGLY: estrone (produced after menopause)
the GOOD: estriol (produced during pregnancy)
There are complicated pathways involved to produce each of them. Luckily, these pathways are open for manipulation by certain foods and supplements.
Estrogen dominance in women is linked to:
Insulin is produced by the beta cells in the pancreas. Its main function is to balance glucose levels by facilitating glucose uptake from the systemic circulation into the muscle cells.
Let’s have a sneak peek into the full story of glucose:
1. used for energy by muscle cells
2. excess stored in the liver in the form of glycogen (when blood sugar levels drop glycogen is converted back to glucose and released into the blood)
3. remaining excess stored as fat (the liver cannot store endlessly without consequences -obesity! hello!)
So what’s the fuss around INSULIN RESISTANCE?
Carbohydrate metabolism is largely dependent on the right level of insulin. In ancient times, calorie availability was scarce and unpredictable. Today any foods are readily available to eat. Additionally, we are exposed to refined sugars left and right! Blood sugar spikes are the norm and result in more frequent stimulation of the pancreas to produce insulin. NOT NEEDED! NOT WANTED! The constant overload of insulin causes the receptors and the cells to become resistant. Fat storage is never ending …
Hormones must be inactivated once they delivered the job. The main site for activation is the liver. Some also happen in the kidneys. The inactivated hormones are eliminated either via bowel movement or urination.
SEX HORMONE BINDING GLOBULIN
It is important to mention about this carrier protein because its level affects the availability of steroid hormones in circulation. How? Well, as the name suggests, it binds to hormones and carries them. Low levels mean that the body has more free hormones to play with. SHBG is produced by the liver. There is a large proportion of testosterone bound to SHBG. Not enough testosterone in men and high testosterone in women can cause problems. So SHBG is needed to inactive sex hormones.
I want to be honest with you. There is no quick fix to get hormones into a happy place. Sometimes, multiple imbalances develop and they all need to be addressed one by one to achieve results. Balancing hormones today is a challenge! It is a JOURNEY and requires PATIENCE.