Health & Your Hormones Speed dating with hormones! - The quick what, why, how?
The hormones are part of our endocrine system which is responsible for maintaining homoeostasis within the body. The hormones are chemical messengers that are secreted by glands into the blood and transported to it’s target organ to effect a change. The target organ can respond because it has special receptors on it’s cells to receive the hormone. It won’t take any old one travelling past in the blood. It’s been said that in our lifetime we produce no more than about 1 teaspoon of hormones, so you can see what minute amounts we are dealing with here and how crucial the correct balance is going to be.
Why do we need them? They help us to maintain a state of homoeostasis, they also get us going, growing, digesting, storing fat, being sexually active, able to feed our young, protect our skin from the sun, pain relief, anti-inflammatory.the list goes on.
How do they get about and do their thing? - the endocrine system is a feedback mechanism, for example production of thyroid hormones are initiated from the hypothalamus after a drop of levels within the blood stream pass a message back to it. The hypothalamus then produces a primary hormone called thyroid releasing hormone this is sent to the pituitary which then makes thyroid stimulating hormone which means the thyroid will produce thyroxine. Hormones travel in the blood because its quick! Can also be transferred from one cell to the next by diffusion if cells are close enough.
Oestrogen – not just one for the ladies! Man boobs, infertility, stubborn fat and mood swings. Interesting fact first of all: oestrogen comes from the Greek words estrus = sexual desire gen = generate. It is produced in the ovaries, but fellas produce minute amounts too and it’s necessary for them to balance the strong effects of testosterone.
Oestrogen is a naturally occurring hormone but a collective name for several variants. Estrodiol is most potent. It promotes fat storage on hips and thighs, the typical pear shape – in nature this is good for reserves when child bearing but as you will see causes greater problems later on in life.
Oestrogen is also produced by the fat cells themselves from the conversion of male hormones (androgens). This type of oestrogen encourages fat storage around your middle. Being underweight or overweight for women could be one of the causes of infertility if oestrogen production from fat cells isn’t optimum.
A sudden drop of oestrogen (in women more than men) has been shown to affect mood by lowering feelings of happiness and contentment. When these were increased and stabilised these effects disappeared.
However for many the problem isn’t too little its too much rushing around your body. Your liver helps to detoxify the excess oestrogens by breaking down the more potent forms into a weaker estriol which is then excreted from the body. There is a potential problem here, if the liver is not healthy it won’t be able to detoxify the excess oestrogen, excess oestrogen is seen as a toxin and is pushed out to your fat stores.
You’ve probably all heard people say that fat is their protection. This is so true. If your body is chemically, hormonally toxic it’s because organs like the liver can’t detox fast enough and the excess is pushed into your fat cells. It’s safest there as far as the body is concerned, but the more toxic you become the bigger the fat cells get.
The onset of menstruation has got earlier and earlier and women now bear fewer children. 100 years ago a girl was about 16 when she started periods and then she would have many children, this would mean she’d lactate more which meant she had fewer menstrual cycles around about 100-200 in her reproductive years.
Now girls start at about 11/12, produces fewer children, lactate less and menstruate between 350-400 times in their lifetime.
Constant menstruation and the frequency of oestrogen spikes has been linked to conditions like infertility, cancer, fibroids, anaemia, migraines mood swings, abdominal pain, endometriosis and fluid retention.
Some of those conditions produce a growth or a tumour and this is because oestrogen’s role is to promote growth. Nature always provides a counterbalance and that’s progesterone. They work in synchronisation to balance each other. If this gets out of whack then there are problems, it isn’t a total deficiency more like a strength in one and an equal weakness in the other which cause the imbalance.
As an example excess oestrogen can cause breast cysts, whereas progesterone will protect against them. So keep things in balance and the body is happy, unfortunately during the ages of 35-50 there is a 75% reduction in progesterone being produced by the body, only a 35% decline with oestrogen. So there is a gradual but natural imbalance. The imbalance is exacerbated nowadays as we’ll see later by the extremely high concentration of xenoestrogens we are subjected to.
Signs of imbalance are hot flushes, water retention, weight gain, insomnia, short term memory loss, osteoporosis and wrinkly skin.
No doubt you’re thinking well this is how nature intended it, what’s the big deal? Excess oestrogen is the main cause of many of today’s familiar problems such as PCOS, fibrocystic breast disease, PMS, fibroids, breast cancer, endometriosis, infertility auto-immune problems, blood sugar problems, thyroid etc.
Plastic food packaging, pharmaceuticals, personal care products, toys, chemicals on food, in air fresheners, spray toiletries, glues, the styrofoam trays food is packed onto, baby formula packaging all these products contain xenooestrogens. A foreign, imitator looking like oestrogen.
Xeno( definition=alien/strange/guest) that sits on the cell receptor sites and kicks out the natural oestrogen leaving it to circulate around the bloodstream. These products also contain parabens (another sort of xenoestrogen) which is usually added as a preservative . Products containing parabens in the them could be anything from toothpaste, shaving gel, make-up, soap, shampoo pharmaceuticals drugs. To easily identify these you need to look out for anything that starts methyl, ethyl, butyl, propyl.
Governments and Health Standards officials wouldn’t deliberately do this? … they are! Each individual chemical has been given a tolerance level (so experts say they’re safe) but this is in very minute amounts, if we consumed them very occasionally we would be able to detoxify it safely. However we are bombarded with it at such great levels now that the body can’t cope. Also the interaction of several, many, hundreds of these each day create a build up that we are unable to process. Research from the umbilical cords of newborns has shown increased levels being passed from the mother to the baby in the womb.
We absorb 60% of what we put on our skin.
Some breast tumour research concluded that some findings linked with tumours and could be associated with deodorant or body cream as these were applied topically close to the area of the tumour.
Oral contraceptive pill supposed to imitate natural hormones however they are chemically different and the body doesn’t recognise them in quite the same way. There has been some reports from the International Agency for Research on Cancer that birth control pills are carcinogenic (I haven’t been able to fully verify this.)
Its’ not just the ladies either. a large study of 1500 men found that those with a waist circumference over 40inches had the lowest testosterone levels. If their testosterone is low it means their oestrogens is high. Excess oestrogen in men produces man-boobs, high waist circumference, softening of features, blood clotting leading to increased risk of strokes, heart attacks and prostate cancer. It’s been shown that excess oestrogen from the mother whilst you are in the womb can lead to prostate cancer some 80 years later! Prostate cancer can manifest many years before diagnosis. It doesn’t mean you’ve got no chance, but you need to take preventative action not corrective.
Liver is a great detoxifier and will break down and excrete the excess however if the liver isn’t healthy through disease from excess alcohol consumption then it won’t be able to do its job.
Caffeine (from all sources) is also linked with higher oestrogen. Women who consumed 4-5 cups coffee a day had 70% more oestrogen than women who just had one.
Phthalates are chemicals used to soften plastics, also used in beauty products and food industry, they’re extremely oestrogenic, the most likely route to us from the food chain. Microwaving with plastics, children’s toys like teethers, the wrap on fruit, the little shiny window on the packet of doughnuts. Its been shown that this plastic doesn’t even need to touch the food, there is enough of the chemical gassing out to infect the food. You’ll also find xenoestrogens in our drinking water from the contraceptive pill, pharmaceuticals etc. Sorry chaps but you can’t get away from it, but you can avoid some of them.
Pesticides and fertilisers. Many promote breast tumours as they act like estradiol.
Why are we getting fatter? Too much oestrogen – its a fat storing hormone, if you are producing too much oestrogen then your testosterone levels will be reduced and you can’t build muscle.
Not just reproductive tissues, also hypothalamus, pituitary gland, these have major hormonal functions of their own which are effected by excess xenoestrogens.
Milk is laced with artificial hormones from the cows being permanently required to lactate.
How to balance
Flavnoids – green tea, onion, garlic, curcumin (turmeric) has many considered therapeutic applications. Mainly anti-estrogenic
Also foods to help detoxify the liver include watercress, spinach, broccoli, kale.
Red grapes and red wine contain flavnoids which can help stop testosterone begin converted into oestrogen.
Iodine is important for the conversion of the potent oestrogens to the more easily excreted weaker ones and also for the production of thyroid hormones. Iodine is found in seaweed.
Vitamin C and zinc both reduces the enzyme responsible for converting testosterone into oestrogen. Eat a diet high in fresh, organic veggies. Oysters, pumpkin seeds, ginger root nuts and seed too. Testosterone – not just the male hormone. Aggression, muscle growth, bone strength and libido. So, testosterone – why?
Helps mind stay healthy and maintain a sense of well-being
Body stay strong in both muscles and bones
Sex function – sperm count, sex drive and fertility
Testosterone production is quite involved and starts in the hypothalamus (remember too much oestrogen here will effect it and hence testosterone production)
A series of events stimulates the creation of Lydig cells in the testes, if this doesn’t happen then hypogonadism (low testosterone) occurs. In men this can include poor sex drive, fatigue, muscle loss, erectile dysfunction, increased abdominal fat, early onset diabetes, high cholesterol, poor sleep, poor concentration, memory loss, shyness, depression, anxiety, relationship problems, loss of facial and / or body hair, irritable, shrinking testicles, ….
Women need testosterone too! Only about a tenth of the adult male, but it’s still necessary. It builds muscle.
Heart needs testosterone to keep it strong. In fact there are more testosterone receptors in the heart cells than any other muscle.
2004 research showed that low testosterone was the biggest predictor heart disease and arterial blockages in men. None of the other risk factors like cholesterol or obesity. In fact get the testosterone levels right and these will be able to sort themselves more naturally.
Testosterone tends to be about 30% higher in the morning. Hence men feeling a little more perky in the morning! Also any ‘visible’ loss of male activity in the morning is a sign that testosterone is declining!
From ages 15-99 testosterone drops in men by about 55%. Hence the angry young man, and the dodery old fool!
Excess carbohydrates especially fast acting ones like sugars and processed cereals and grains elevate a couple more hormones called insulin and cortisol. These two act in opposition and restrict testosterone production. Want muscles? High fat burning ? Reduce your carbohydrate.
But wait! If you don’t eat enough carbohydrate your body takes this as a sign of stress and lowers your testosterone as cortisol kicks in as a stress response.
The answer? Green veg, starchy veg like sweet potato, squash, pumpkin,
Eating fat makes us fat right? No – we need fat. We are made up of fat. A mother’s milk contains saturated fat. Why? We need fat to make these damn hormones! Fat is not the bad guy. The type of fat is.
A diet with total fat of at least 35% boosts testosterone.
Saturated fat and cholesterol increase testosterone.
Monosaturated fats (olive and avocado) boost testosterone.
Fats high in Omega 6 are a problem so keep these to a minimum
Fats high in Omega 3 are key to good health.
Coconut oil is a healthy saturated fat.
In research meat eaters have been shown to have 36% more testosterone than their veggie colleagues.
Further research has shown this testosterone increase is when it comes from meat protein not dairy and eggs. So isn’t just fat that causes the increase in testosterone but something in the meat itself. Meat should come from good source though. Grass fed cattle, organic meat.
Over training. Train well but allow adequate rest between sessions for maximum testosterone production.
Lack of sleep. If you want to increase testosterone – sleep more. Cortisol – the ‘stressy’ one, anti-inflammatory and the problems with excess So let’s get one thing straight for the beginning.stress is necessary, it’s fundamental to being alive. It gets you up in the morning, it drives you to get things done, it pushes you forward and keeps you going, helps you endure pain, fight infection and inflammation. Pretty damn useful. The fight or flight hormone cortisol is released in response to a stressor. It’s there for when we are primed to react immediately to a life or death situation. Grabbing a passing antelope for dinner, running away from a lion. When the body physically reacts in that way in response to a stress, the cortisol gets used up quickly to release glucose to fuel muscles, to fuel your brain for quick thinking etc. It gets dispersed. Nowadays our stressors are more emotional and mental even anticipatory and so we don’t get the opportunity to physically release and disperse the excess hormones. It’s exacerbated when we are in a chronic state of stress all the time. You’ve got deadlines at work to meet, kids to support and look after, bills to pay, exercise to do, commutes to negotiate, annoying neighbours to contend with, ill family members to run around for, bosses to keep happy and you’re coping (you think!). Most of the time our bodies are resilient enough to cope with this. But if we’ve been constantly in this state one small thing can tip us over the edge. This is adrenal fatigue. The adrenal glands have given up, they are over-worked from the constant production of cortisol. Over production of cortisol leads to fat deposits around your abdomen and the sides of your face, (you know you heard you couldn’t spot reduce fat.well in a way you can!) if you balance your hormones then fat loss will be easier. The typical symptoms of adrenal fatigue are:
driven by stimulants like coffee or sugar,
can’t bounce back fully after a minor ailment,
On their own they probably don’t mean you have adrenal fatigue, however in combination chances are you are running down if not completely at the end of your reserves. When you over produce cortisol you can’t produce testosterone remember, which means there will be an increase in oestrogen.so fat on the tummy and sides of your face from cortisol and on your moobs, hips and thighs from oestrogen. One way to cope with adrenal fatigue though is work / life balance. To take more time for the fun stuff, non-work time, family time, you time. Coping with adrenal fatigue is a programme in itself. So please ask if you have any questions.
Thyroid - why we have so many dysfunctional thyroids, how to treat it and what to do to prevent it. The thyroid is your powerhouse, with hormone receptors on every cell in the body you know it just has to play an important role. So what does it do?
The thyroid cells though a process of hormonal messages produce T4, however for proper functioning the cells then convert T4 into T3. This is a much more potent hormone but is produced in smaller amounts. Both these forms then move into the blood for use by the cells. It’s possible for someone to have adequate levels of T4 in their blood when tested for low thyroid function by their GP, but if their ability to convert T4 to T3 in impaired this won’t show and it will remain undetected. If you’re on thyroid tablets but see no improvement it could be down to a selenium deficiency. Or a
blocking from other compounds in your system like mercury from amalgam fillings blocking the conversion of T4 to T3. Soy also can deactivate thyroid. Studies have shown that the majority of people with hypothyroidism (under-working thyroid) produce antibodies to their thyroid tissue. The immune system attacks and destroys the thyroid, reducing its capacity to produces less of its thyroid hormones. It’s not uncommon for hypothyroidism patients to also suffer with neurological problems, celiac disease, pernicious anaemia, anxiety attacks and late onset type 1 diabetes. The link with gluten intolerance though is very strong as the molecular structure of the protein part of gluten (gliadin) is similar to the thyroid gland. When gluten is eaten the immune system identifies it and marks it out for destruction but of course this means it will destroy the similar looking thyroid tissue at the same time. If you know you have an auto-immune thyroid disorder you must remove gluten completely from your diet. The immune response to gluten can stay in the body for up to 6 months following consumption. Thyroid and depression are linked, with the brain cells having more T3 receptors than any other it goes to say that a lack of T3 will cause problems. T3 is known to regulate or chemical mood hormones (seratonin, noradrenaline, GABA. Whilst thyroid problems make take many years to manifest, depression is more prevalent and may be down to inadequate T3 circulating to the brain. Let’s bring it full circle, the link between oestrogen and thyroid. If you remember oestrogen causes calories to be stored as fat, thyroid hormones cause fat calories to be turned into useable energy. They oppose each other. Keep your thyroid healthy for good weight management and fat burning. The Power of Fish Oils Here we are in a few simple facts:
Omega 3 fats are found in oily fish, flax and algae
Omega 6 fats are found in vegetable oils like sunflower, safflower, palm, rapeseed, soya bean are prevalent in processed foods.
Too many Omega 6 leads to inflammation in the body. Causes obesity, aggression, sleep disorders, heart disease, gynea problems, ageing, arthritis the list goes on.
Omega 3s can be (and should be) balanced out, ratio should be 2 or 3:1 Omega 6 to 3. We’re running at 20:1.
Take good quality pharmaceutical grade fish oil each day. It’s takes time to re-balance your fat levels.
Omega 3s help with mood, PCOS, gynea problems, acne, heart and CV system, fat burning, allergy prevention.if you are adequately nourished with Omega 3s you skin will be protected from the effects of the sun.
Finally, I realise we have done a speed-date with the hormones this evening. And we can all get very worked up about being more healthy, staying disease free, eating properly etc. However what I’d like to leave you with a thought about longevity and health.
There are 5 Blue Zones in the world where people live long and healthily lives and there are 9 determinants for their success:
1. Move (find ways to move mindlessly, make moving unavoidable) 2. ‘Plan de Vida’ (know your purpose in life, what are you here for?)3. Down shift (work less, slow down, rest, take holidays)4. 80% rule (stop eating when 80% full)5. Plant power (more veggies, reduced processed foods, less but better quality animal protein)6. Red wine (consistency and moderation)7. Belong (create a healthy social network)8. Beliefs (spiritual or religious participation)9. Your tribe (make your family a priority)
These notes are the property of Heidi Stickland-Clark and are not to be reproduced without prior request. Information and facts have been taken from Phil Richards Anabolic Drive Seminar in October this year and thanks go to him for the use of his presentation and slides.
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