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Hormones

The Health Index

Hormones are biochemical messengers. They transmit information from one organ or tissue to another. They are produced in endocrine glands or tissues and then released into the blood. Hormones then travel to cells with specific “docking points” (receptors) where their message is read.

Some hormones are produced in the brain, others in the pancreas (e.g. insulin) or sexual organs (e.g. oestrogen, testosterone). The thyroid and parathyroid glands, as well as the adrenal glands, are responsible for different hormones (e.g. adrenaline, cortisol).

 

The hormones in our body are responsible for bodily and behavioural development (e.g. growth and sexuality), the adjustment of the organism's performance (e.g. stress reactions), and the regulation of certain physiological parameters (e.g. blood sugar, water). Due to their many functions within the human body, hormone imbalances are the cause of numerous health problems in women as well as men.

 

Sleep disturbances and anxiety can be among the symptoms of hormone imbalances, but also unexplained weight gain, chronic fatigue, and skin problems. Hormonal disorders are often the trigger for far more serious diseases. Not a lot of people know that conditions such as Alzheimer's, asthma, diabetes, epilepsy, multiple sclerosis, and many types of cancer can also be linked to hormone fluctuations.

What are the causes?

Even the smallest disturbance in the finely-tuned hormone system can be the cause of a wide variety of complaints. One of the most common nutrients contributing to hormone imbalances is vitamin D. The “sunshine vitamin” – now considered a hormone itself - regulates important processes within the nervous system. Deficiency means that other hormones in the body can no longer send their signals unhindered. This might explain why people tend to have mood swings, depression, and irritability when vitamin D levels are too low. Stress, stimulants (caffeine, nicotine, etc.), and sleep deprivation put a strain on the adrenal glands, where stress hormones are produced.

 

Over time, they can wear out and suffer damage that the body can repair only with difficulty.  As hormones influence each other, permanently high levels of stress hormones affect the secretion of other hormones as well.  Moreover, the constant production of stress hormones – which take priority - uses up raw materials that would be required to make other hormones, too.  Abdominal fat produces certain hormones and suppresses the secretion of others. Environmental pollutants, radiation exposure, the radiation exposure that is omnipresent today (mobile phones, radiological examinations), artificial (blue) light, and medicines (including the contraceptive pill) can have a massive disruptive effect on hormone levels.

 

Our environment, and in particular everyday consumer goods, including food and its packaging, is full of substances that can affect hormone balance, also called endocrine disruptors (endocrine = affecting the hormone system). Those substances can delay or speed up the breakdown of hormones, inhibit or activate hormone production, or change the effect of the body's own hormones. Endocrine disruptors include various groups of substances from very different sources, for example:

  • Pollutants such as polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs)

  • Pesticides

  • Heavy metals such as lead, cadmium and mercury

  • Plasticisers (phthalates)

  • Pharmaceuticals

  • Some UV protection filters in sun protection cosmetics

  • Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates - chemicals found in plastics

What are the symptoms?

 

  • Weight gain

  • Fatigue

  • Increased sensitivity to cold or heat

  • Dry skin

  • Unexplained weight loss (sometimes sudden)

  • Muscle weakness

  • Frequent urination

  • Increased thirst

  • Muscle aches, tenderness, and stiffness pain, stiffness, or swelling in your joints

  • Thinning hair or fine, brittle hair

  • Increased hunger

  • Depression

  • Decreased sex drive

  • Nervousness, anxiety, or irritability

  • Sweating

  • Infertility

  • Stretch marks

How can a nutrition practitioner help?

An optimum diet provides the nutrients your body needs to make hormones, and a healthy weight is crucial for hormone balance. Lifestyle choices can either add to problems or support the body in the production and appropriate secretion of hormones. We have a lot more power over our hormones than we think! 

 

A nutrition practitioner will ask questions about your overall health and health history, diet, lifestyle and exercise habits. They will look at your food diary to see where there may be room for improvement. Your nutrition practitioner may also recommend functional testing to assess your nutrition status. They will then develop a customised diet, supplement and lifestyle plan for you.

Find your Hormone Health

Specialist