Hormones - How Do We Begin?
The month of August, I want to focus on Women's Hormones and go in depth with my patients on specific topics. Check out my video above and read our blogs, listen to our podcasts, and check out our social media posts this month!
Many times, in my clinic, women come to me to talk about their hormones. While they think they have thyroid issues, some of their health problems are related to sex hormones. The more I talk to women, the more I realized, “WE DON’T UNDERSTAND OUR OWN HORMONES!”
It is amazing how we learn about our own health through TV commercials, Ads, and false information. So, I wanted to start today with the 101 on hormones and really help you understand how hormones work and why you and your doctor may be misdiagnosing your condition. It’s not always about estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone in your sex organs, but how these hormones are told to communicate and how they are produced. It’s time to learn something new.
Let’s start with our basic glands that produce these hormones:
I like to start from the top
- Thyroid/ parathyroid
This little gland is in the brain. It releases hormones and regulates body systems. It has an important job. It basically talks to your pituitary gland and tells it when it can release hormones and when it needs to stop. Sometimes if the hypothalamus is not functioning people may have signs and symptoms of:
- Hot flashes and sensitive to cold
- Mood swings or depression
- Chronic sleep problems
- Extreme difficulty losing or gaining weight
- Appetite issues
- Sexual behavior and emotional issues
Your hypothalamus maintains homeostasis (normalizes the body). It controls body temperature and tells to releases hormones, which control different body processes.
Pituitary Gland: Master Gland
This gland is located in the brain as well. It is called the master gland because it produces hormones that control other glands and bodily functions. There are two parts to this gland:
Anterior and Posterior
The Anterior part produces 6 major hormones:
- Prolactin: Makes Breast Milk
- Growth Hormone: Growth and Metabolism
- Adrenocorticotropin hormone: Regulates Cortisol
- Luteinizing hormone: Triggers ovulation and testosterone production
- Follicle- stimulating hormone: Pquberty, ovaries function, testes function
- Thyroid stimulating hormone: Encourages production of T4 which then convert to T3 which is then need for metabolism of the body.
The Posterior part produces
- Oxytocin: social bonding, emotional bonding, sexual reproduction/arousal, childbirth (contractions and lactation). In men it controls the movement of sperm and the production of testosterone
- Antidiuretic: It’s made in the hypothalamus but stored here and tells your body how much water to store or release in your blood via kidneys. Your blood pressure and tissue water content are controlled by this hormone.
The pituitary talks to many glands such as the
- Thyroid: how much thyroid hormone to produce and release
- Ovaries: telling it to produce estrogen and to release eggs,
- Testes: telling it to produce testosterone and release sperm
- Adrenals: telling to produce cortisol
This gland is found in the brain and produces melatonin for sleep.
It is found in the in the center of the neck. It’s actually makes and stores hormones used by the body. It makes two hormones T4, (T3 which is made by the liver and converted by T4) and calcitonin.
We always think of Thyroid as our “Metabolism” to lose weight. Yet, the thyroid has many functions. It produces hormones for other glands, it helps with growth and development, needed for concentration and brain maturation, effects body temperature, and effects heart rate. It is what keeps your body and cells running.
Thyroid can make too much hormone, hyperthyroidism, or too little hormone, hypothyroidism.
Yet the pituitary gland tells it how much to make. The main function of the thyroid is to
- Supply the Thyroid hormone (T4 and Calcitonin)
- Convert the hormone by changing it from T4 to its active form T3 (this is what your cells use)
- Express the hormone: give the job it is supposed to do.
This gland increases blood calcium and magnesium levels, it helps with bone formation, and promotes the active form of Vitamin D
We think of this as an organ, but it is also a gland. A very large gland. This is my actual favorite. I personally believe it covers more processes in the body than we even realize. Yet, when we think of Pancreas, we think Diabetes/blood sugar.
What does the pancreas do?
- It produces insulin and glucagon
- It secretes enzymes for our digestion: carbs and sugars
- It is affected by the adrenal gland
To me this gland controls so many other glands and is the result of many syndromes and disease processes. The Adrenal Gland is known as your “Stress Gland”. This gland sits on top of your Kidneys. It has two parts, therefore has two functions.
- One part produces corticosteroid hormones
These hormones release cortisol an anti-inflammatory, controls blood sugar, regulates metabolism, helps with memory, and affects salt and water balance. and they affect mineral levels in the blood such as, sodium and potassium.
DHEA is a hormone produced, also reducing inflammation, supporting metabolism, cardiovascular health, and the nervous system. It serves as the precursor in the formation of male and female sex hormones (testosterone, estrone, estradiol). These hormones are naturally produced by the adrenals. “Wait, do you mean it’s not just the ovaries and testes that produce these sex hormones?” Yes! This is why people are missing the key link of hormone regulation by focusing on only ovaries and testes for sex hormones.
- The other part produces: These are the flight/fight hormones under stress.
This increases cardiac output and raises glucose levels in the blood.
Norepinephrine: tells the brain how to sleep, dream, learn, respond to emotions (mood and depression) and effects attention.
Adrenals regulate and talks to almost every gland in the body from the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, ovaries, testes.
The adrenal glands control your:
- Immune system
- Blood Pressure
- Response to Stress
- Digestive response
- Cardiovascular function
- Blood Sugar
- Sex Hormones
Produces estrogen and progesterone. They also make eggs for fertilization
They produce and secrete testosterone and release sperm
So, when women or men think hormones, stop thinking it is just your ovaries and thyroid. There are so many glands that talk to each other. These other glands make these hormones and tell these hormones what to do. I believe hormones have a delicate balance, and when we begin over medicating just one area of the hormone process, we may be causing more of a problem than we think. Follow the graph above and you can see the effects one gland has on another. It is time we take control of our bodies and learn that its not just a “female” thing. It is a “balance of our systems” thing.
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