Menu Close

A Hormone Symphony for Optimal Health

Probably the single most important influence on physically feeling good is your hormone health. We all believe we're so full of willpower, so very "in control" of ourselves, when the reality is, when you get hungry, when you need to sleep, when you're feeling content, when you are feeling protective of your family or close to your friends, when you're feeling confident and strong, these are all dictated by hormone release within your body.

All your major hormones work together much like a symphony. They should all be considered even when you think you are deficient in only one. For example, testosterone is the most popular one discussed in men's health circles. But testosterone is influenced by and influences all the other hormones (the thyroid hormones, estrogen, cortisol, DHEA, and so on). For women, testosterone and progesterone are produced in fine balance with the level of estrogen your body senses that it has.

Not only are these critically important hormones in balance with each other, but they are also influenced greatly by how you live your life — not just what you inherited genetically. That means that even if you have a gene that puts you at risk for a certain disease, those genes may never express themselves depending on how you live.

The HPA Hormone System

The endocrine glands secrete hormones directly into the blood which communicates quickly with all the other endocrine glands and organs (target tissues). The endocrine hormones control every part of health and disease.

The master gland in your brain called the hypothalamus triggers the other hormones from the pituitary gland, thyroid gland, and adrenal gland. This cascading and interrelated system is known as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) system.

Just a few hormones of the HPA system that must be kept in balance that you may already know are melatonin, thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH), follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH), luteinizing hormone (LH), the thyroid hormones, Cortisol, DHEA/Androstenedione, adrenaline, and insulin/glucagon — among many others you have not heard of.

Consider for a moment how, for example, a reaction to stress can influence your hormone health: Imagine that you are communicating with your spouse about something that initially is quite simple. You have some hidden feelings left over from your interactions at work earlier in the day and your comments to each other escalate into heated words and blaming. Suddenly you realize your feelings of being affectionate have turned to feelings of anger and resentment and frustration. By your own words and lack of loving actions you have created animosity and feelings of separation instead.

This is stress, no doubt. You can feel it like a toxic poison in your body. These feelings and negative thoughts are triggering physical stress chemicals like epinephrine that are the opposite of "feel good" endorphins. These chemicals trigger the secretion of cortisol, a hormone designed to help the body handle the situation. Cortisol increases the body's glucose metabolism and energy production. Cortisol and its family of hormones are the "stress, wear and tear" hormones that protect you when you are under emotional, mental or physical stress.

However, constant cortisol release can result in:

  • weight gain, particularly around the abdomen and face
  • thin and fragile skin that is slow to heal
  • acne
  • for women, facial hair and irregular menstrual periods

Symptoms of not enough cortisol include:

  • continual fatigue
  • nausea and vomiting
  • weight loss
  • muscle weakness
  • pain in the abdomen

You can see how a fine balance is indeed needed for optimal health.

In addition to understanding optimal nutrition you should know that there are nutrient supplements that are scientifically proven to support the function of the HPA system in general:

  • Vitamin C
  • B Vitamins
  • Calcium and magnesium
  • Zinc, selenium, copper
  • Manganese
  • 5-HTP
  • L-theanine
  • Rhodiola
  • Phosphatidyl Serine (PS)

Many of these should be a part of taking a quality multi-vitamin each day. However, two, in particular, need attention via outside sources. L-theanine is a simple amino acid that you can ingest by drinking green tea, or via a powder or capsule supplement. The standard dose is 100mg, although some capsules and powders will dose their serving sizes at 200mg. Start with the smaller 100mg dose while gradually working your way up to larger 200 mg dose.

Is it effective? In the journal Nutrients, scientists tested the effects of L-theanine against a placebo for 30 days. In the end, the group taking L-theanine had improved latency of sleep (how quickly they went from fully awake to fully asleep), felt more relaxed, felt better, and even got some patients off their sleeping meds.

Phosphatidylserine (PS) PS is one of the single best nutrients for rejuvenating your mind and memory. In fact, it's the key building block for billions of cells in your brain. PS plays an important part in ensuring the proper function of neuronal membranes, helping them transfer nerve impulses. Phosphatidylserine also helps remove toxins from the nervous system. Dr. James Balch, MD, in Healthy Living, recommends beginning taking 100 mgs of PS at each meal or 300 total mgs each day for one month. Then reduce to 100 mgs at breakfast, daily.

Yours for the truth,

Bob Livingston
Editor, The Bob Livingston Letter®