The number one question that I get asked about is “What about my hormones?” In the world today, almost every disorder, disease, or symptom has been related to a hormone dysfunction, and so naturally people think they need to fix their hormones. In most cases hormones become a big issue when one is trying to lose weight, gain muscle, increase libido, or get pregnant. But how much to do many people really know or UNDERSTAND what a hormone is, what it does, and why it’s important? Improving energy, mood, sex drive, and body composition means you need to understand your hormones, and how you can help them throughout the natural aging process.
What is a hormone and what is it doing in the body?
Hormones are messenger cells, and there is a vast number of them in the body. They are produced in the brain, glands, digestive tract, pancreas, and fat cells of the body. When a hormone is released it travels to the area of action, where a receptor that it fits into on other cells, is waiting for it. Depending on the hormone it begins to send signals to the cell to grow and divide, uptake other biochemicals, and has a vast array of functions. Receptors are really gateway cells- they attach to the receptors, thus allowing biochemical processes to happen even down to the DNA level.
What areas can hormones play a role in?
Hormones are highly sensitive, and each person’s biochemistry is different. Men and women carry all of the same hormones in their body, with differences in the levels of each. It’s obvious that men have testosterone, and women have estrogen, but you may not know that men also have estrogen and women have testosterone, just at different levels. There is a choreographed dance going on each and every second of your day with hormonal interactions, and they change in amounts and intensity as we age, encounter stress, and reproduce. Their roles are very important for keeping female and male traits, energy, body composition, and mood.
Here's some examples of how hormones and body functions are intertwined:
Energy/Metabolism- Thyroid, Cortisol, Adrenaline
Sexual Function/Fertility- Estrogen, Progesterone, Testosterone, Prolactin, Oxytocin
Brain Function/Mood- Progesterone, Cortisol, Adrenaline, NYR, Testosterone, Vitamin D
Fat Loss/Muscle Gain- Testosterone, Insulin, Estrogen
Digestion/Hunger/Cravings- Ghrelin, Leptin, Insulin, Incretins
Immunity- All of them
Bone Health- Vitamin D, HGH, Estrogen, Testosterone
The War on Masculinity- Hormone Toxins
In our daily life we are assaulted with toxins such as plastics, pollution, pesticides, herbicides, and many more. Known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs) many of these toxins are estrogen mimickers, attaching to estrogen and other hormone receptors, tricking the body. They are mainly fat soluble and become concentrated in body fat and cause estrogen excess symptoms. When you begin to lose fat, you will have more POPs released into your blood (we all have them from years of exposure) where they can do damage to the body. They also make you more weight loss resistant.
Science is proving a “biochemical war on masculinity” starting in the womb. It started many years ago when DDT was found to be causing male infertility, developmental delay, and cancer, just to name a few. When mothers are exposed to phthalates ( a group of POP’s) in plastics, cosmetics, and body products like lotion and perfumes, it decreases the size of the penis and scrotum in infant boys.
Testosterone does not do well with estrogen like compounds, which will cause enzyme disruption in testosterone formation. This will increase man boobs, more fat around the middle, and a "sensitivity" that isn't characteristic for men. It also decreases a man's motivation, since testosterone is a hormone that creates the desire to win, succeed, and push on, not to mention erection and sex drive. These may be common symptoms in older men who are T deficient, but it's happening in younger and younger men, and a big reason is exposure to these toxic hormone compounds.
Women and men are bathing most days in these chemicals with hair and beauty products, perfume, and birth control . Excessive estrogen in young girls leads to earlier breast development, periods, and weight gain. We would never think to give our young boys birth control, but exposing them to non natural lotions, perfumes, and other solvents will expose them to more estrogens. (We are going to talk A LOT about Testosterone and Estrogen- so stay tuned for future blogs) This "war" is being played out in both sexes, and is linked to many common health problems.
The thyroid gland is also very sensitive to POPs, and decreases the ability to make thyroid hormone, since estrogen has a negative effect on the thyroid. Thyroid disorders tend to be more common in women for this reason, but it's starting to happen more in men. This one thing alone is detrimental to metabolic function and energy
The body requires multiple enzymes to metabolize hormones, and for your body to detoxify. Genetics play a large role (which you can test- 23andme.com) in how well our bodies detoxify everything, but it's the choices that we make that will have the most influence on our bodies, and our genetics.
10 ways to Fight the War and POP Exposure
The truth is we are surrounded by these chemicals and they have created products that have changed our lives, good and bad. The modern world allows people to fly across the globe, saves millions of lives in hospitals, and make our lives easier, but with damaging effects chemicals have on our hormones, it's important to minimize what we realistically can.
It's not about being paranoid but aware, and for future generations it's good not to be ignorant to it. Other POP chemicals such as xylene, styrene, and benzene can cause neurological and psychiatric problems, cancer, and again- abnormal sexual development.
When thinking about toxins, think of your children and how you want their futures to be. Then take actionable steps to decrease plastics, styrenes, pesticides, cigarette smoke, and other toxicants in your house, diet, and life. Your house, work space (if possible), and body is the best place for you to take more control over POPs.
- When shopping, try to determine what you REALLY need and how much you will use it. When you go shopping, look around at everything with plastic in it. It's impossible to avoid, but overconsumption is really where this all begins. Landfills full of plastic are leaching into the water and soil all around the world. Try to use glass or stainless steel, and try always to recycle.
- Eliminate or reduce your non organic, phthalate, paraben, etc and fragrance filled products- especially if you are pregnant, but this means everyone. Choose organic makeup, soaps, hair care, and body lotions that are natural based. These days you can pretty much make all your beauty products, or buy chemical free. And guys this goes for that deodorant you are slathering in your armpits.
- Eating a low animal fat diet is key. Animals store the same chemicals in their body fat so eating their fat means eating POPs. Wild game is leaner, higher in EFA's, and may not have as much POP exposure. This will depend also on the poultry, venison, or elk. Those fed on grains etc that has been exposed to toxins will have POPs. Also eating lake white fish will have more contaminants.
- Drink out of glass, stainless steel, ditch the plastic. Put a water filter in your shower and sink. Chlorine is also a POP that is pervasive in municipal water sources. If you use plastic, heavier water bottles, don't put them in dishwasher, clean with luke warm water, and recycle when it looks like it's been scraped up.
- Don't heat your food up in plastic in microwave, don't put plastic in dishwasher, and never heat up anything in styrofoam.
- Do seasonal fasting or detoxification to support the liver in it's ability to clear these toxins. Your liver has a large role in hormone metabolism, and how well you will eliminate these toxins, and when it's overburdened it gets sluggish.
- Sweat- Move, sauna, steam. Sweating is an ultimate way to decrease these toxins in the fat. Exercise is essential- sweat, sweat, sweat. If you don't sweat well, consider getting an infrared sauna which can help your body tissues to "learn" to sweat.
- Always use gloves and have proper ventilation when applying chemicals of any kind to anything.
- Grow, buy, and support organic farming or minimize large consumption of heavily sprayed foods like wheat, corn, peas, barley, and soy. Food is something you will do most every day, multiple times a day, for all of your life. Try to get high quality as much as possible.
- Properly dispose of medications. Most medications end up in the water supply and affect us all. This is a big reason for a decrease in testosterone- oral birth control hormones in the ground water. If you have old medications dispose of them properly, don't flush them down the toilet.