Ask a Professional: Nutritionist…Hormones and Their Importance to Health

Posted by | April 13, 2010 | Blog | No Comments

Dear Dr Diana,
How can I get a better handle on my hormones?

The question arises from each session, with each client, and almost every health issue brings us to hormones and hormonal imbalance.

What is a hormone?
A hormone is a complex chemical product produced and released by the endocrine system.
Along with the nervous system, the endocrine system regulates many activities in the body including growth, metabolism, sexual development and reproduction. The hormones (such as Estrogens, Progesterone, Testosterone, DHEA, and Androstenedione) are continuously talking to the body.
The hormones perform three basic functions:
hormones enable and promote physical, sexual and mental development
hormones enable and promote every body‘s performance level, by controlling the ability of organ systems to adapt their activity to meet the demands made upon them
hormones are necessary to keep certain physiological parameters constant (for example, blood glucose levels)

Talking about hormonal issues can start as early as preteen years for some young women; and once the menstrual periods start, it is hormones that will dictate the cycles throughout their entire life.
The menstrual cycle is controlled by the interaction of the hypothalamus, pituitary, and ovaries.
Once a month, just after a woman releases the egg from her ovary (called ovulation); the lining of the womb is at its peak to allow the embedding of the fertilised egg. If pregnancy doesn’t occur, the lining starts to deteriorate as the hormones that keep it in its peak condition alter. The blood content of the hormones estrogens and progesterone will naturally change during the menstrual cycle. A usual cycle is completed in about a month. Both hormones are needed in proper amounts for healthy functions. Any imbalance in their ratio can cause problems.

There are factors which could and will influence the production of these hormones, sometimes creating hormonal imbalance for women:
• foods (nutrient deficiency and diet- sensitivities, excess sugar in diet) and lifestyle (stressors and Cortisol affect hormones),
• the status of overall health (adrenal and thyroid problems, or diabetes)
• sudden or drastic weight changes
• strenuous endurance activities (such as ballet, gymnastics and track)
• use of contraceptives (such as birth control pills or intrauterine device).

Anything that interferes with normal bodily functioning generally will cause some degree of hormonal imbalance (toxins, heavy metals, inflammation, parasites, Candida).

Studies by the U.S. National Institute of Aging show that being born male is a disadvantage with regard to health and life expectancy.
However, nowadays men are much more aware of the benefits of a healthy lifestyle, and are more likely to be concerned about their personal wellbeing.

The most common risk factors for hormonal trouble in men include:
• Diabetes, high blood pressure, hardening of the arteries, or high cholesterol
• Disorders of the penis or testes, and disorders of the prostate gland
• Injuries
• Side effects of medication
• Psychological conditions, such as anxiety and stress
• Smoking or alcohol, drug abuse.

Both men and women can choose to effectively balance hormones naturally with:
- Nutrition
- Herbal therapies
- Supplementation
- Body/Mind approach and Stress Reduction

Dietary Recommendations:
• Drink 8 to 10 full glasses of pure water daily, and cook with pure water (no well water or water containing fluoride, iron or chlorine)
• Make your food selections nutrient dense: Increase raw foods, quality protein, and cold pressed oils
• Increase fibre intake
• Eliminate all hydrogenated fats and oils
• Eliminate all refined carbohydrates, processed food, dairy products, gluten containing grains (wheat, rye, barley, oats and spelt), alcohol and caffeine containing foods
• Decrease exogenous estrogens

Living is a work in progress. Hormonal changes do not happen only when Menopause age for women and Andropause age for men arrive. Here is an example of hormonal shift:

Does Sexual Chemistry Last?
Italian scientists have determined that the changes to body chemistry which causes people to find new partners sexually attractive lasts, at most, two years.
At that point, couples shift into a “stable relationship” period, and other hormones dominate.
Hormones called neutrophins were present in much greater quantities in the blood of those in the early stages of a relationship. Testosterone also increased in women and decreased in men during this period.
This changed in those who had been in a relationship between one and two years; the “lust molecule” neutrophins were replaced by oxytocin, the so-called “cuddle hormone. Oxytocin is a chemical that induces labour and milk-production in new and pregnant mothers.
Some researchers were concerned that people might feel obligated to take hormone supplements in order to re-experience the initial rush of lust.”
Sources: BBC News February 1, 2006

Excellent, informative and fun books to read:
Venus on Fire, Mars on Ice, by John Gray PhD
The proper Care and Feeding of Husbands, by Dr. Laura Schlessinger

To a healthy and balanced body.
 
Flora Zorn, R.H.N.
Registered Holistic Nutritionist