I was first introduced to the ideas behind how important the Endocrine System (your hormone system) is when I created with a Guatemalan school teacher a local medical clinic in our Central American town. You and your hormones had never really been one of my concerns prior to that! I had so much to learn! The Chinese have been studying the Endocrine System for over 2,000 years! The Chinese owner of a local tienda told me to go study Chinese Medicine if I wanted to learn about you and your hormones. How right he was. The term “hormone” itself is only a little over one hundred years old. Throughout the 1800s scientists began to understand that there was some kind of chemical communication system within the human body. Two English physiologists (William Bayliss and Ernest Starling) appear to have coined the term “hormone” in 1902. The first half of the Twentieth Century saw an immense interest in the Endocrine System and this led to a great deal of research into identifying and understanding the possible hormones in the human body
SO, WHAT ABOUT YOU AND YOUR HORMONES?
The Endocrine System is one of the most important of your bodily functions. Beginning at conception and working through adulthood into old age it is instrumental in developing your brain, your nervous system, your growth, the way your reproductive system works and works regularly with your metabolism and blood sugar control. Obviously, we need to understand more about you and your hormones! Your Endocrine System is a messenger service made up of feedback loops of the hormones released into the circulatory system by internal glands. These glands are located throughout the body and can serve a variety of functions. Over fifty hormones have been identified in the human body and as these chemical messengers are released into the blood stream they search out compatible receptors in target cells throughout the body. As the hormone locks onto or binds to a receptor the receptor then carries out the instructions imparted into it by the hormone.
SOME IMPORTANT PARTS
Many parts of your body create hormones. Some of the more important are:
* PITUITARY GLAND This gland plays several roles in the human body. It secretes endorphins which act on the nervous system and pain. It also signals for the production of sex hormones and controls ovulation.
* THYROID GLAND This gland secretes hormones which control the way you burn food fuel to create energy. These hormones also help to develop the brain and nervous system. The hormones secreted by the thyroid are important to the overall function of the human body.
* ADRENAL GLANDS So very important to the way your body functions every day! In two parts the adrenals help control the salt and water balance in the body. They also are indicated in the body’s response to stress, metabolism, the immune system function and your sexual development. One part of the adrenals also produces epinephrine which is important to blood pressure and heart function.
* PANCREAS This gland is responsible for the production of insulin and glucagon. These hormones are vital for their regulation of sugar in the blood. Insulin also helps your body to store and control energy flow.
* GONADS These glands (in both males and females) produce gonadal steroids such as androgens, estrogens, and progestins which affect growth, bodily development and are responsible for regulating reproductive cycles and behavior.
There are many other activities of the endocrine system but this gives us a basic framework from which to understand how important our hormonal system is to the day-by-day function of our bodies.
WHAT CAN GO WRONG?
Our regular North American diet is a major contributor to developing early hormone imbalance. Today we consume a diet heavy in processed foods, sugars, advertised fast and convenience foods, and starchy carbohydrates. This diet leads to developing weight gain and obesity, fatigue, sleeplessness, skin wrinkles, and moodiness which are all symptoms of hormonal imbalance. Often referred to as “endocrine disruptors” these can be manifested as developmental malformations, increased disease risk, reproduction interference and disturbances with both immune system and nervous system functions.
Another adverse effect is only becoming more evident each year is the impact chemicals may be having on the Endocrine System. Our lifestyle of chemical use has only developed within the past century and for thousands of years these synthetic chemicals did not exist. There is now research being conducted by government agencies, industry and universities to attempt to gain more knowledge regarding the harmful effects of thousand of these chemicals but this research is only in its infancy.
And finally we must mention the over use of alcohol and habit-forming drugs. The high use of alcohol can have a damaging effect on many glands of your body. The same is true for many experimental and recreational drugs. Often much of this damage done in the early years of growth appears to be irreparable.
WHAT CAN BE DONE?
Maintaining a healthy diet is of utmost importance in supporting the daily functions of the endocrine system. Getting adequate regular exercise is very important for the movement of fluids within the body. Fruits, vegetables, lean proteins and whole grains can be very important. Fish can be important to maintaining a balanced Endocrine System. Garlic can be an important addition to help maintain the immune system and ward off disease. Our North American society has developed a heavy dependence upon pharmaceutical drugs. I am not opposed to the use of pharmaceutical drugs when necessary and appropriate. I do urge that you not use them for minor health remedies or in cases where they are unnecessary. Because our North American food sources have become depleted in many nutritional elements you may want to consider a good food supplement to help with your nutrition.