Hormones travel through your body via the blood stream or in the fluid around cells to transport messages and signals between your systems and organs. There is a governing body where this all happens which is the endocrine system. This system communicates with the organs on how to release/stimulate various hormones. These organs include the pancreas, thyroid, adrenal, ovaries, and testes to name a few.
A lifestyle that includes a healthy diet and exercise can make a profound difference to hormonal balance. Let’s take a closer look at some of these organs and hormonal processes to see how they function and affect your health.
Insulin is the hormone that regulates blood glucose (sugar), and the pancreas is responsible for releasing it. To explain this further, once you’ve eaten a meal, particularly carbohydrates, it gets broken down into glucose which is passed into the bloodstream. The pancreas detects rising blood glucose and secretes insulin for energy directed to cells to use.
Problems arise when insulin levels are to low, or when the body’s cells are not interacting with insulin as in insulin resistance, and blood sugar levels rise known as hyperglycemia. If it consists for extended periods of time, prediabetes may arise, eventually leading to type 2 diabetes. Things you can do to help prevent this are, to change your diet and get regular exercise. A diet that consists of complex carbohydrates, protein, healthy fats and fiber is important. This can be achieved by eating more whole foods and limiting most processed, packaged and fast foods. Also, it is imperative to quite smoking, as it is not only a risk factor for insulin resistance and diabetes but also stroke and heart disease.
The thyroid is a gland located in front and base of neck and its hormones play an important role in metabolism, regulation of your weight, energy levels, internal temperature, skin, hair, nail growth, normal heart and digestive function, mood and bone maintenance, and a baby’s brain and nervous system development during pregnancy. The most prominent hormones of the thyroid gland are Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4). When T3 and T4 get over or under-produced conditions arise as in Hyperthyroidism and Hypothyroidism.
Hyperthyroidism is an overactive thyroid when too much T3 and T4 in the bloodstream. Conditions that occur in this are Graves’ disease, inflammation of the thyroid or a benign tumor. Signs include weight loss, increased appetite, palpitations, irregular menstrual cycle, tiredness, irritability, and hair thinning.
Hypothyroidism occurs if the thyroid gland does not produce enough of these hormones. This may be due to autoimmune conditions, such as Hashimoto’s thyroiditis or certain medications. Hypothyroidism can also occur in pituitary dysfunction, such as pituitary tumors or inflammation.
Hypothyroidism tends to be somewhat hereditary and more common in adults, especially women. Signs may include tiredness, mental depression, feeling cold, weight gain, dry skin, constipation, and menstrual irregularities. Iodine is an important mineral for normal production of T3 and T4 by the thyroid. In many places in the world salt does not include iodine and it must be supplemented. Fortunately, in Canada all table salt is iodized. But you could still have a deficiency and if you think you have signs of either, hyper or hypo, you should see your doctor for testing.
More organs and hormones next week….