This is a mini pre-cursor article before we jump deeper into hormones over the next 2-3 weeks. I’ve written this off the top of my head so there will be some areas which can be padded out. This area is vast. Entire books and seminars can be held on just 1-2 of these hormones.
The thing about hormones is they govern everything in the body; how we think and feel and how the body works and so on. Often when people feel unwell it’s due to a deficiency in a nutrient or a hormonal system which is suffering or out of balance.
Any men who have low testosterone will know how bad that can make you feel. Women who have oestrogen excess or deficiency after menopause will also know the profound effects the sex hormones have on your spirit and well-being.
If you are still wondering why you are not feeling great hormones and deficiencies are vital areas to test.
INSULIN + GLUCAGON
The feeding and fasting hormones.
Insulin is released in response to calorie intake, certain macros such as starches and sugars raise insulin fast as well as certain protein foods like milk and amino acids like leucine.
High and then rebound low blood sugar can cause the release of stress hormones to increase blood glucose. Keeping the muscle active helps maintain the muscles' sensitivity to insulin.
Insulin sensitivity helps transport glucose into muscles, whilst insulin resistance tends to cause excess calories to be stored as fat.
Good insulin habits include;
- Intermittent fasting or time restricted feeding
- Key nutrients chromium, zinc, B3
Glucagon is released in response to protein feeding and also fasting. It’s the main hormone for helping mobilise and release energy. Both glucagon and insulin are produced in the pancreas.
Stress increases stress hormones such as cortisol which is fine in small amount. Chronic cortisol levels can cause problems with immune system function and increased levels of inflammation even though at first cortisol is highly anti-inflammatory. Indeed, it breaks down tissues really effectively including muscle tissue.
Whilst stress is inevitable learning to destress and switch on relaxation pathways after stress is vital to health and longevity.
Adrenals do well on:
- Aminos e.g. tyrosine
- Vitamin C
Cortisol is balanced by DHEA – the so called hormone of youth. DHEA is secreted by the adrenals and is a pre-cursor for T and E.
Keeping DHEA high is good because it protects the body and helps to build and repair. It’s also a powerful brain hormone. Happy people tend to produce more DHEA.
Positive stress also increases it whilst prolonged depletion reduces DHEA production and increases cortisol production
The thyroid is the master regulator of metabolism. A sluggish thyroid can cause slower metabolism, fatigue, depression, weight gain, hair loss, lower sex drive and constipation to name a few symptoms.
When there is excessive stress on adrenal function thyroid normally slows down. Supporting adrenal function is key when supporting thyroid function.
- Adrenal support
- Selenium, iodine (kelp) tyrosine, gugglesterones, ashwaganda…
The male hormone, but also essential to females who produce 1/10th of a male primarily in the adrenal glands, making these vital for testosterone support in females.
Testosterone levels are important for mojo, sex drive, determination and generally getting stuff done and feeling happy. Low testosterone levels are commonly associated with aggression and depression.
Testosterone levels can plummet for a number of reasons:
- Lack of cholesterol on low fat diets
- Lack of sufficient energy
- Lack of minerals such as zinc
- Depression and depletion in dopamine – T increases dopamine but high dopamine may also increase T
- Lack of interesting and challenging / rewarding situations
- Inflammation (lack of vegetables and fish oils)
- Conversion of T into E through the enzyme aromatase normally due to high body fat and poor diet / excessive alcohol intake
- Xenoestrogen intake
- Higher body fat levels
The female sex hormone. Also necessary in males for normal healing and collagen formation. Blocking oestrogen too much can result in increased risk of injury.
Oestrogen excess is a common cause of disruption in the female hormonal cycle. This is often due to high levels of body fat producing more oestrogen, combined with poor levels of oestrogen detoxification ability and high inflammation. Endometriosis is an oestrogen driven disorder which can benefit from habits associated with improved oestrogen balance.
Excessive oestrogen or oestrogen dominance can cause a variety of other issues including PMT, PMS and all associated symptoms.
Oestrogen detox and brain hormone detox pathways share the same detox route COMT so when stress is high this pathway might not get rid of oestrogen as fast as it should. Equally when oestrogen dominates this route stress hormones can accumulate making the individual feel more stressed out, angry and short tempered.
The liver and gut are responsible for ridding any excessive levels of hormones so liver detox is another key pathway for proper oestrogen clearance. The same pathways for hormone clearance are used to clear burnt meats and other carcinogens including cigarette smoke.
Key items for good oestrogen clearance include DIM, indole 3 carbinol, cruciferous vegetables, NAC, milk thistle to name a few.
- Good fibre intake
- Good balance of microbiome
- Maintaining normal body fat levels not too high not too low
To build up oestrogen you can look to soya isoflavones and other herbs or if you have a doctor you can look to replace deficiencies after menopause with bioidentical hormones or HRT
GROWTH HORMONE (GH)
Released in the first phases of sleep – growth hormone is required for normal growth and development. Keeping the body young and vibrant, recovery from exercise and stimulates IGF1 which is useful for tissue rebuilding effects.
The best way to stimulate this is by getting a really good deep sleep so all the sleep hacks are cool for this.
Secretagoue amino acids may also play a powerful role in increasing GH particularly as we get older.