What I’d like to do in today’s post is give a brief lesson on hormone physiology. I’m going to try to make this as basic as possible, as my goal here isn’t to give you an advanced physiology lesson. However, since many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions have hormone imbalances, I think it’s important for you to understand some of the basics of hormones, such as what their primary role is, how they can become imbalanced, and how to prevent and correct such an imbalance.
As for what they are, hormones are biochemical messengers which are released by a cell or a gland into the bloodstream. These messages affect other cells in the body, and also play a role in enzyme reactions. Hormones are very powerful, even in small quantities, and this is a big reason why it’s important to be careful when taking bioidentical hormones, which I’ve discussed in other posts and articles. It is important to understand that taking natural hormones can’t be compared to taking nutritional supplements.
However, with that being said, the nutrients we consume are important when it comes to the synthesis of certain hormones. So this is yet another reason why you need to eat healthy most of the time, and it’s also why most people do need to take nutritional supplements. What we eat is of course important to our overall health, but it’s also specifically important when it comes to hormone health.
In any case, let’s take a look at some of the major hormones, and how they are developed. In my articles and posts I speak a lot about hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, DHEA, cortisol, etc. But how are these hormones manufactured in the first place? Well, as I’ve discussed in the past, these hormones are manufactured through cholesterol. Cholesterol is delivered to the tissues and some of the organs of the body, and then is converted into the hormone pregnenolone. From this point it can take two separate paths.
One path is for pregnenolone to get converted to progesterone, which in turn will be converted to 17-hydroxyprogesterone, and then to cortisol. I’ve spoken many times about the importance of cortisol, and how many people have adrenal problems, which will affect the secretion of cortisol. But since progesterone is a precursor to cortisol, some holistic doctors will give natural progesterone to help with conditions such as adrenal fatigue. This might help to temporarily manage the symptoms, but it won’t do anything to fix the actual cause, which is the compromised adrenal glands. Some will also give bioidentical cortisol, which will also usually help with the symptoms, which is important, but usually won’t help with the cause.
The second path that pregnenolone takes is to get converted into DHEA, and then androstenedione, and then testosterone and/or one of the estrogens. Testosterone actually converts to estradiol, and when someone is low in testosterone, they frequently are told to take bioidentical testosterone to “fix” the problem. And while this usually causes the person to feel great for a few weeks or sometimes even a few months, what will usually happen is that the testosterone will be converted to estradiol, which can lead to the condition known as estrogen dominance, which I have spoken about in the past. So taking bioidentical hormones is one way in which a hormone imbalance can develop.
Of course one can’t overlook the importance of cholesterol in this, as in today’s society most people try to do everything they can to lower their cholesterol levels. While you definitely don’t want your cholesterol to become too high, what most people don’t realize is that taking statins and other cholesterol-lowering medication can affect the synthesis of some of these hormones I’ve just mentioned, which of course will lead to numerous health issues. Natural products such as red rice yeast can also affect the synthesis of hormones.
While natural hormones are now being used by many doctors, some doctors still recommend synthetic hormones, such as synthetic estrogen, progesterone, etc. Even though these synthetic hormones fit into the same cell receptors as the natural hormones, this doesn’t mean that synthetic hormones perform exactly the same. While synthetic hormones have helped a lot of people, they also have caused a lot of problems as well. But as I’ve mentioned in the past, unless an organ has been removed or severely compromised, both synthetic and bioidentical hormones are usually not needed. And when they are needed, it’s almost always needed only temporarily.
So hopefully you realize the importance of hormones, and now how have a better understanding why a hormone imbalance can cause a lot of problems. This is one of the reasons why many people can benefit from obtaining a hormone panel, as this can help determine if they have a hormone imbalance. Then if they do have such an imbalance they can be put on the appropriate protocol to correct this, which usually involves changes in dietary habits, taking some nutritional supplements, and for certain conditions it might involve a purification program to correct the problem.
Of course the best thing you can do is try to prevent a hormone imbalance from developing. You can accomplish this by eating well, taking certain nutritional supplements (which I’ve discussed in other posts and articles), doing one or two detoxifications each year, and keeping your adrenal glands strong. This admittedly isn’t easy to accomplish, but those who are committed to their health and follow this advice will have greater “hormone health” than most people.