Hormones & Hormone Balance
bodies contain over 60 trillion cells, each of which must be able to
communicate with the other in order to carry out bodily functions.
Hormones are the chief chemical messengers between cells. Hormones
travel through the blood stream, “hitch hiking” on protein molecules,
and enter the cells through special "receptor" sites.
sites are like locks—each lock can only be opened by a specific key.
The various hormones are the “keys” that open specific receptors. Once
inside the cell, hormones begin flipping the cellular switches that
control metabolism, energy, tissue repair and building, growth and
development, and most of the mental and physical functions of life.
various hormones must exist in the proper balance. When that balance is
compromised, either by too little or too much hormone, a whole host of
symptoms can occur. Left unchecked, hormone imbalance can lead to
toxicity and disease. Hormone balance is related to the foods we eat,
the amount of stress in our lives, how much (or little) we exercise,
and the amount of environmental toxins to which we are exposed. In
addition, while hormone levels can be affected at any age, it is
certainly true that hormone levels decline with age, along with
potential hormone imbalance.
hormone producing and controlling organs are the pituitary, thyroid,
and adrenal glands, and the ovaries in women and testes in men.
Pituitary & Thyroid Glands
pituitary gland is a small gland deep in the brain. Among other things,
it makes TSH (thyroid stimulating hormone). TSH triggers the thyroid
gland in the neck to make thyroid hormone. The main hormone produced by
the thyroid is T4, or levothyroxine (the “4” refers to the number of
iodine molecules). T4 gets secreted into the blood and travels to the
various tissues in the body, where it then gets converted to the much
more potent and active T3. (The thyroid gland does produce T3, but in
very small amounts.)
If the thyroid gland starts to get
sluggish (hypothyroidism), two things happen. First, TSH starts to back
up and the levels in the blood will rise. Second, the thyroid gland
produces less T4, ultimately resulting in less T3.
if the body does not adequately convert T4 to T3, even if the thyroid
gland and pituitary are working properly, the results can be the same
as an underactive thyroid.
The symptoms of hypothyroidism are
fatigue or poor energy, lack of endurance, weight gain or difficulty
losing weight, thinning or dry hair, nails and skin, depression, poor
sleep, and muscle aches.
adrenal glands are small pyramid-shaped glands that sit on top of the
kidneys. Among other things, they produce testosterone, cortisol, and
Testosterone often gets a bad rap in the popular press
because of athletes who abuse testosterone-derived steroids. But
testosterone is an essential hormone that is key to building and
maintaining muscle and bone mass, sex drive, and cardiovascular health.
Testosterone is essential for basic body repair processes. Women and
men alike need and make testosterone, though in vastly differing
Cortisol is a key stress and immune response
hormone. It gets secreted in larger amounts during times of increased
stress. But too much stress for long periods can deplete cortisol
reserves and the adrenal glands start to “burn out.” Cortisol levels
then start to drop.
DHEA (dihydroepiandrosterone) is the most
abundant hormone in the body and is also made in the adrenal glands. It
is essential for helping to maintain energy and mental clarity and
promote and overall sense of well-being. DHEA production declines with
age, but, like cortisol, it too can become unnaturally depleted in
response to chronic stress.
Ovaries and Testes
women, the ovaries make estrogens, progesterones, and testosterone.
Apart from their obvious function in pregnancy and menstruation, these
hormones are essential for the health of tissues, including bones,
muscles, skin, breasts, vagina, blood vessels, and the brain. In men
the testes mainly produce testosterone. Men also have estrogen and
progesterone, though normally in much smaller amounts than in women.