Hormones. The word may bring visions of an overactive “estrogen fest” or perhaps an over-aggressive, testosterone-filled sporting event. But hormones go way beyond those stereotyped scenarios—even beyond estrogen and testosterone.
In fact, hormones are pretty much the chemicals that tell our bodies what to do. They are typically secreted by specific organs of the endocrine system into the blood—directly affecting cells. For example, the hormone insulin is made by something called the islets of Langerhans—a small group of cells in the pancreas—and is what is necessary for the body to reduce the amount of glucose in the blood.
A group of hormones known as the tropic hormones activate hormone production of other endocrine glands. One of these tropic hormones, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), initiates growth and further activity of the thyroid—which, in turn, increases the output of thyroid hormones.
Another hormone is adrenaline. Produced by the adrenal gland, adrenaline is what causes the “fight or flight’ response to danger—either real or perceived. Adrenaline makes the heart rate and breathing rate increase and causes the body to be on high alert and to respond quickly. It truly is a hormone we can’t do without.
Although they have obviously existed for some time, a class of appetite-governing hormones has recently come to the fore. These include the “hunger hormones” such as gherlin, orexin, and PYY-36, as well as the “satiety hormones” like leptin, obestatin, and nesfatin-1. So, you see, hormones also have major influence on the appetite.
Thyroxin is another hormone, although it is not as familiar as the aforementioned hormones. Basically, thyroxin governs how quickly the body works over a person’s lifetime—and it functions well, unless there is a shortage of iodine in the diet. But thyroxin is not the only hormone affected by diet, and diet plays a larger role than most might believe.
Diana Schwarzbein, M.D., a noted expert in the area of a healthy endocrine system—and, hence, overall hormonal health—says that prolonged high levels of insulin can even “set off a multitude of chain reactions that disrupt all other hormones and biochemical reactions at the cellular level.” And diet, of course, has much to do with insulin levels in the body. The bottom line is that getting even a little off balance hormonally can potentially wreak havoc on overall health.
Healthy dietary fat, for instance, is essential for proper hormone production, which, in turn, is necessary for a healthy immune system, growth, metabolism, and a host of other processes.
The truth is that hormones such as vitamin D (yes; it’s a hormone), dihydroepiandersterone (DHEA), progesterone, testosterone, estradiol, and the anti-stress hormone, cortisol, are made from and regulated by fats consumed in a diet.
So, be sure to include quality forms of these nutrients found in foods such as butter, avocados, omega-3 free-range eggs (and other omega-3 foods), grass-fed red meat, free-range chicken, wild fish, nuts and seeds.
Hormones...they’re responsible for so much governing of our bodies, so make sure they’re as healthy as they can be.