As the interface between the energy of the environment and the matter of your body, hormones affect everything ~ Your moods, your memory, your metabolism.
Your appearance, your aging, your appetite. Your sleep patterns, your stress response, your sex drive. Everything.
When I refer to hormones, I mean all the body’s messengers — the traditional hormones of the endocrine system, the neurotransmitters of the neurological system and the cytokines of the immune system. All of these act as hormones affecting everything we do, everything we feel, everything we think.
Living in today’s fast-paced, high-stressed world of the interminable electric light and too many manmade carbohydrates create havoc with our hormones.
Think of the hormones as the software program of the human computer. Many of us are so Hormonally Challenged that we need a software update!
The neuro-immune-endocrine system is so complicated that I am going to focus on female sex hormones. Fortunately learning about these hormones will provide a foundation for understanding the rest of the system.
Let’s talk about Your Sex Hormones…
There are three female sex hormones produced by the ovaries: Estrogen, Progesterone, and Testosterone.
Estrogens are small 17 carbon steroids. Remember the tinker toy models of atoms we built-in chemistry. The sterol component is the circle of carbons in the middle. All steroid hormones are made of cholesterol. There are three types of estrogen: Estradiol, Estrone, and Estriol.
The human ovary produces estradiol, a powerful growth-promoting hormone. It nourishes blood vessels, nerves, skin, hair, nails, and the lining of the gut. Although it does not stimulate new bone formation, estrogen slows the breakdown of existing bone tissue. Estradiol is the smart hormone. It promotes communication in the brain, enhances memory and creative thinking. Estradiol enhances immunity. It stimulates the thymus to promote proper immune programming so that reproductive women produce sufficient antibodies to pass on to their offspring. After menopause, women have a significant decrease in immune function.
Since estradiol is short-lived, the body has a backup system of enzymes in the fat cells that can convert estradiol to long-acting estrone. Now there are three main types of estrone — the good, the bad, and the ugly:
- The Good = 2OH estrone is the safest form made in great quantities in young women of healthy body weight. The enzyme that promotes 2OH estrone conversion uses the micronutrients found in flax, soy, fatty fish, and cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, brussel sprouts).
- The Bad = 4OH estrone, the most volatile of the three, is associated with the most aggressive forms of breast and ovarian cancer. All the factors that influence 16OH conversion affect 4OH especially age.
- The Ugly = 16OH estrone is inflammatory and has been associated with breast and gynecological cancers. Overweight women, sedentary women, women who drink too much alcohol or who have been exposed to xenoestrogens (man-made estrogenic toxins like DDT), and certain drugs like cimetidine make too much of this dangerous estrogen. Fortunately, 16OH estrone can be converted to estriol.
The dominant hormone in pregnancy is the third estrogen and seems to be the least inflammatory and the most nourishing to vaginal and urethral tissues. Estriol is my favorite bio-identical used topically to make a dry atrophic vagina lush.
Progesterone — the gardener
Progesterone is the largest steroid hormone, a 21 carbon molecule produced almost exclusively by the corpus luteum of the ovaries (the little cave left over after the egg of the month ovulates)
- 5% of a woman’s progesterone comes from the conversion of pregnenelone in the adrenals. When under stress, the adrenals steal progesterone from the ovaries to make cortisol.
- Progesterone has a calming effect to help with anxiety and insomnia.
- Progesterone along with testosterone, DHEA and growth hormone stimulates new bone formation (to fight osteoporosis)
Testosterone — the motivator
Testosterone is an androgenic 19 carbon molecule produced by the ovary.
- There are two menstrual surges of testosterone that mirror estrogen decline — right before ovulation and right before menstruation
- Male testosterone levels follow their mates’ menstrual cycles
Bio-identical hormones should be prescribed in a way to bypass the liver or we will eventually see the same stroke issues the WHI study revealed with oral synthetic hormones. We are not meant to eat hormones! So HRT is best delivered through the skin (transdermal) or under the tongue (sublingual). I rarely prescribe the exact same hormone regimen to any two of my patients. Each woman is different and each prescription reflects her individual needs.*
*EXCERPT FROM Chapter 5 IN BETWEEN THE SHEETS
Hormones in Harmony®: Heal Your Hypothalamus for Optimal Health, Graceful Aging, and Joyous Energy
5.0 out of 5 stars
This is a beautiful book. It is practical and insightful. In reading it, I found things that I already knew confirmed and found insights that really made me think. It s grounded in the author’s own life and clinical experience, which offers the feeling to the reader of great wisdom and great humanity. This is a book to savor because it offers a a roadmap but not a set of rigid to rules to be followed. I highly recommend it to anyone at any stage of life, wellness or illness.