If you didn’t read part 2, go back and do so.
In this you’ll learn more about how the basics of how your hormones work, how they affect your body and finally what you can do to improve their functioning.
Disclaimer: I am in no way trying to give the impression that I came up with this information and research by myself, all rights are reserved by Dr. Mark Hyman. Chunks of the text may also be directly quoted from the book without me knowing it
Balancing Your hormones
There are three main communication systems in your body that together manage all traffic and messages from your nervous system which in turn handles communication between:
– Your gut (stomach), which can be likened to a second brain in the way that it has its own nervous system and many neurotransmitters just like the brain, as well as sporting 60% of your immune system) – This is key! Now you can easily understand why eating shitty food can make you sick and/or decrease the capacity of your immune system.
– Your endocrine or hormonal system
– The immune system
The three main communication systems are the following:
- Neurotransmitters. Messengers of the nervous system. Dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, GABA, acetylcholine.
- Hormones. Messengers of the endocrine system. Produced in the endocrine glands in your pituitary gland & hypothalamus.
- Cytokines. Messengers of the immune system (inflammation)
Together they are part of the PNEI (Psycho-neuro-endocrine-immune system)
There are three big epidemics of hormonal problems in America (and probably the rest of the western world) today; too much insulin (from sugar), too much cortisol and adrenalin (from stress) and not enough thyroid hormone.
All of the above negatively affect E.G our sex hormones.
Our genetic code evolved at a time when we were eating 20 teaspoons of sugar a year. That means our insulin response is designed to handle vastly lower levels of sugar than what we consume today.
– Dr. Mark Hyman
This all goes hand in hand with what you learn if you read a little bit about paleo.
INSULIN – and what too much of it does to you!
- Now we recognize insulin as a major switching station, or control hormone, for many bodily processes. It is a major storage hormone – fat storage that is!
- It also leads to mood and behavior disturbances such as depression, panic attacks, anxiety, insomnia, ADHD etc.
- Try as you may, as long as your insulin levels are high you may fight a losing battle for weight loss. It acts on your brain to increase appetite – specifically an appetite for sugar!
- It increases LDL or “bad” cholesterol, lowers HDL or “good” cholesterol, raises triglycerides, and increases your blood pressure. Insulin resistance causes 50% of all reported cases of high blood pressure.
- It makes your blood sticky and thus more likely to clot – leading to heart attacks and strokes.
- It stimulates the growth of cancer cells
- It increases inflammation and oxidative stress and ages your brain, leading to what is called stage-3 diabetes AKA alzheimer’s.
- It increases homocysteine because sugar consumption decreases B6 and folate. That decreases the effectiveness of the methylation process, making it harder for your brain to function and leading to more brain injury.
- It causes sex hormone problems and can lead to infertility, hair growth in bad places or hair loss.
–Dr. Mark Hyman
People often think that when they are craving food (especially sweets, snacks and junk food) that it’s a normal psychological urge. Personally I think the craving has to do with several different factors such as hormonal hunger (E.g insulin spikes), body composition (whether you are healthy or not and what you usually eat), as well as habits, self-discipline and your associations with the foods.
We often think that cravings are psychological in nature, but just the way a child who is iron deficient may eat dirt, if we are overfed and UNDERNOURISHED with too many empty calories and not enough nutrients, our brains may search for more nutrients.
-Dr. Mark Hyman
Common symptoms of poor thyroid function:
- Trouble getting up in the morning
- Memory loss
- Dry skin or dry hair
- Fluid retention
- Menstrual problems
- Premenstrual syndrome
- Hair loss
- Crack or chipped fingernails
- Low sex drive
- Weight gain
- Muscle aches and cramps
Most people are unaware of the connection between the environment, their diet, and their thyroid health. Yet these are increasingly important factors that need to be considered in order to resolve thyroid problems.
It seems that the thyroid hormone is critical for helping the brain make new brain cells through a process called neurogenesis, particularly in the hippocampus, which is the part of your brain responsible for memory and mood.
In fact, mood disorders in general, including bipolar disorder, are increased in people with altered thyroid function. Research shows that low-thyroid hormone levels reduce the function of serotonin receptors, which leads to depression.
Aside from the clear effect thyroid has on mood, it is also clear that low thyroid affects cognitive function, memory, and other indicators of slowed mental processing, and that treating the thyroid improves all areas of mental functioning, including mood, mental processing, memory and general cognitive function.
Another important factor in thyroid function is food allergy. Food allergies, like those to gluten, and other food sensitivities also negatively affect thyroid function and are frequently undiagnosed!
Important nutrients to IMPROVE THYROID FUNCTION:
– Selenium, zinc, fish oil, iodine and tyrosine.
-Dr Mark Hyman
Here’s a bunch of different quotes, together they fit together quite nicely to sum up the chapter.
“This suffering related to your reproductive life cycle is unnecessary. It is not bad luck, but bad habits such as drinking and smoking, our high-sugar and refined carbohydrate diet, environmental toxins, and chronic stress that deplete our adrenal glands.”
“it is also true that diary consumption can worsen hormonal imbalances because of all the hormones in milk. Even organic milk can come from pregnant cows – jacking up hormone levels.”
“Testosterone is a wonderful brain-boosting hormone that improves mood, memory, motivation and overall cognitive function. It drops significantly in women and men with age and has an enormous impact of quality of life. But it drops mostly because of weight gain, lack of exercise, stress, and high-sugar diets – not because we’re genetically designed to have less testosterone as we age.”
“The biggest reason I see low testosterone in men is insulin resistance. High belly fat drives insulin up and testosterone down. Those’s why men start looking like women and lose hair on their bodies, grow breasts and have round, soft skin – it is because they’re actually producing less testosterone and more estrogen at that point.”
The best way of correcting insulin problems is by eating whole foods (not processed), cutting out sugar and white flour from your diet, and start exercising and gaining muscles and do activities that naturally raise testosterone levels.
“Many things promote these imbalances in hormones, such as high-sugar, refined carbohydrate diet, caffeine, stress, dairy (if you’re sensitive to it), hormones in the food supply in dairy products and meat, and estrogen-like toxins from pesticide, plastics and pollution.”
“In fact beside eating whole foods and moving your body, getting enough sleep is the most important thing you can do for your health.”
-Dr. Mark Hyman
So basically sleep helps us maintain a low-level of cortisol – the stress hormone that makes us depressed and fat.
It is recommended to take a “2-hour vacations” before bed – establishing a sleeping routine where we get away from light and computer screens.
Next time in part 4 we will deal with inflammation!