Houston, We Have a Hormone Problem!
Many of society's biggest health issues are directly related to hormones. The human body is constantly receiving information and responding to this information by secreting the appropriate hormones into the bloodstream. We have observed several health problems, specifically-weight control, appetite, insomnia, depression, energy, bone density, sex drive and insulin resistance- can be treated rather effectively by administering, supplementing and fostering the right balance of hormones. It is important to realize that our hormones are to thank, or blame, for many things that we tend to explain as random happenstance. When a teen acts up or falls in love, one of the first things we point to are their hormones. Yet, when we reach adulthood hormones are grossly forgotten. There are several hormones that, when nurtured, will lead to physical, mental and emotional health. In fact we often describe our state of being in terms of physical or emotional feelings when in fact, it is the hormones flowing through our blood that are actually causing these experiences or feelings. Happy or blissful feelings are likely from the hormones serotonin, endorphin, dopamine or oxytocin. Stress and anxiety is often from high cortisol, adrenaline or norepinephrine. Low energy can be from underperforming thyroid or low testosterone. Let's take a look at some of the most important hormones, what they do, and how we can eat, live and think in a way that promotes the optimal production of these hormones.
Metabolism is a phenomenon that seems to be misunderstood in our society. A lot of people will say, "she was blessed with a good metabolism" or "I can't lose weight, I have such a slow metabolism". This might be true in part. Everyone is different genetically but "metabolism" needs to be better understood. It might be more accurate, in the sense that it is used here, to say, "my hormone production is low" rather than, "I have a slow metabolism". The main hormones that support metabolism are testosterone and thyroid hormone. One study available from the National Center for Biotechnology Information (NCBI) studied the effects of testosterone supplementation on metabolic rate; they summarized by saying- "We conclude that there is a significant increase in BMR associated with pharmacological testosterone treatment, which for the most part is explained by the increase in LBM." (BMR= Basal Metabolic Rate, LBM=Lean Body Mass) In layman's terms- increased testosterone leads to more muscle, which leads to a stronger metabolism. This makes perfect sense- it is estimated that every pound of muscle requires about 5 calories a day, just for maintenance alone! So if you have 100 lbs of muscle on your body, you will burn 500 calories a day, even if you are in a coma, completely inactive. Do a little moving around or exercising and the calorie requirements for that much muscle become quite significant. Testosterone isn't only useful for muscle growth and maintenance it is also the major male sex hormone. Erectile dysfunction has become another major issue in the U.S. and it is largely due to low testosterone levels in men. Energy, vitality, physical recovery are all enhanced from proper testosterone levels.
Thyroid problems are another epidemic in our country. This hormone is produced by the body, in the thyroid gland, and is one of the main controllers of BMR (basal metabolic rate), a large part of your metabolism. Roughly 27 million Americans are diagnosed with thyroid disease. This is not natural and is avoidable. Our ancestors did not suffer from thyroiditis or experience weight gain from an underperforming thyroid. One of the main causes of thyroid problems is iodine deficiency. The thyroid uses iodine to create thyroid hormone. Our western diets are far lower in iodine than many Asian countries, which explains why most Asian countries have far lower incidence of thyroid problems.
I would suggest supplementing iodine to help reverse and avoid underperforming thyroid. Another major factor leading to thyroid issues is excess fluoride. Fluoride depletes iodine in the body which leads to underperforming thyroid problems sometimes complete thyroid shut down. The amount of fluoride we consume has lead to a massive increase in thyroid problems in the U.S. Fluoride is added, foolishly, to our water in hopes of better oral health but it seems to have done very little in preventing cavities. It has however, had a significant impact on thyroid health in our country. You can find a good iodine supplement on Amazon, at Whole Foods or your local health foods store.
Although classified as a vitamin, vitamin D acts more like a hormone than a vitamin. Your body produces vitamin D in response to sunlight and certain types of artificial light. Vitamin D is found in very few foods naturally, which makes getting adequate sunlight crucial for our health. It is well known that a significant portion of North Americans are deficient in vitamin D. What seems to be less well known is just how important vitamin D is for short and long term health. For starters, vitamin D is critical for proper testosterone production. Another study from NCBI, found this- "Compared to baseline values, a significant increase in total testosterone levels..., bioactive testosterone..., and free testosterone levels...were observed in the vitamin D supplemented group."
Vitamin D regulates far more than testosterone. The body also uses vitamin D to produce serotonin, which is one of the major "feel good" hormones- sunlight makes us happier. Vitamin D is responsible for roughly 5% of total gene expression in the human genome. This means about 1,000 of your genes are directly affected by the lack of vitamin D. Go without vitamin D for long enough and you will find yourself struggling from massive health problems and significantly increased aging. Dr. Rhonda Patrick is a leading scientist in the field of aging, epigenetics and vitamin D. In one of Dr. Patrick's recent lectures, (which is available on Youtube by clicking the picture below) she showed the difference vitamin D can make on health and aging. The picture below represents two mice, the one on the left is vitamin D deficient, the one on the right has normal vitamin D levels. The bottom picture was taken JUST 3 MONTHS after the top.
One major problem is that we have been told to wear sunscreen or cover up from "damaging" sun rays if we are outside. We have been warned that sun contributes to cancer. This is a very incomplete explanation of how sun exposure really works. Although burning from excess sunlight is unhealthy and-when chronic-will lead to an increased risk for skin cancer; sun avoidance is also extremely dangerous. A recent study from NCBI found that sun avoidance has health consequences of a similar magnitude as smoking! I would recommend watching the Dr. Rhonda Patrick episode on vitamin D, just click the picture above. In the meantime, get your sun. Oh, and if you are darker skinned, you need more sunlight as the skin pigment that gives you your color also blocks out the sun's rays- meaning- fair skinned people will produce more vitamin D than darker skinned people from the same amount of sun exposure.
Vitamin D can be supplemented to ensure healthy levels. Beyond Osteo Fx-Liquid offers 100% of the RDA of vitamin D, and many other crucial nutrients like calcium, zinc, magnesium and boron.
More to come on the hormones that are listed below. Feel free to post questions or comments below!.