Hormones: Understanding the Mighty Messengers of the Endocrine System
While we all have a basic understanding of hormones, many people don’t realize the extent of the work that these mighty molecules do day in and day out. We tend to think they only are on duty during puberty or pregnancy. When in reality, they’re working around the clock.
You’ve Got Mail
Hormones are like mail for your body. These chemical messengers use your blood as the highway for getting to tissues and organs throughout your body to let them know it’s time to get to work! While they do play a large role in reproduction and sexual function, they also regulate a number of other processes such as sleep, metabolism, mood and cognition, and body temperature.
If hormones are the messengers, then the endocrine system is like the post office.
This complex network of glands is comprised of the pancreas, adrenal glands, pineal gland, thyroid, parathyroid, pituitary gland, ovaries, and testicles. Each of these glands play a specific role in the body- they only deliver mail on their selected routes.
The thyroid regulates essential bodily functions like metabolism and body temperature. The tiny pineal gland has the incredibly vital job of sending out melatonin to maintain your circadian rhythm, or natural sleep and wake cycles. Ovaries are in charge of the reproductive hormones estrogen and progesterone, while testes secrete testosterone.
Mayhem in the Mailroom
Now that we’ve got the basics down, what happens if there’s a malfunction at the post office? Or if one of the delivery glands goes off route? In order to survive and thrive as humans, we depend on these little messengers to do their jobs effectively and efficiently. But with so many factors cloggings our highways, sometimes things get a little out of control.
There are a number of ailments and illnesses that can occur when one of our little messengers goes haywire. Some of the most common ones we see amongst women are diabetes (malfunction in the pancreas), thyroid disorders, sleep disorders which can be associated with multiple glands, and reproductive issues associated with the ovaries.
While each of these problems are regulated by separate glands, they work together to create harmony in the body. Imagine whoever is sorting the mail at the post office gets things mixed up or is behind schedule- everything thereafter is thrown off. This means that if you have a hormonal imbalance in one zone, chances are it will affect multiple areas of your life.
Your Environment, and Your Health
What exactly is causing our little mail messengers to malfunction? Many of the hormonal issues we see today are a result of living in modern society. Spending too much time indoors, staring at screens, poor diet, hormonal birth control, high-stress levels, and pollution all play a large role in the health of our endocrine system.
While many hormonal imbalances are genetic, it is often these environmental factors that activate them or causes them to flare up.
Hormonal imbalances (https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321486.php) can range from barely noticeable to life-threatening. Here are some warning signs to look out for: irregular sleep patterns, painful periods or PMS symptoms, trouble conceiving, unexplainable weight loss or gain, irregular appetite, and anxiety or mood disorders.
We understand it can be incredibly frustrating not feeling like your best, to not be able to pinpoint exactly what’s going on, or how to get control of your health. So here are some helpful tips to naturally aid your endocrine system in regulating your hormones.
Cut Out Plastics
Most plastics contain chemicals that act as endocrine disruptors. It’s like an imposter mailman that looks like it’s going to get the job done by mimicking the hormone, but instead causes the gland to secrete a harmful amount (too much or too little) of a certain hormone. If you do choose to buy plastic, opt for BPA free products.
We all know it, but sometimes we need to hear it again: A healthy diet is one of the most crucial parts of maintaining a healthy body- especially when it comes to your hormonal health. Load up on your fruits, veggies, and unprocessed whole foods to keep your messengers happy.
Other sneaky culprits to watch out for include sugar, alcohol, and caffeine.
Limit Screen Time
While we aren’t totally sure how much of an effect screen exposure has on our bodies yet, there is growing evidence that they indeed negatively impact our hormonal health. If possible, limit screen time before bed as this can interfere with your melatonin production- affecting your sleep.
If you work in front of a computer, you may even consider wearing blue-blocking glasses that help filter out harmful blue lights.
If you suspect a hormonal irregulation, you may want to seek out care from a holistic health provider like a Chinese Medicine practitioner or naturopathic doctor before turning to conventional medicine. These practitioners use a variety of methods like acupuncture, herbal care, and homeopathic medicine to treat you without or in conjunction with pharmaceuticals.
This one is huge. We get it, life is stressful. But how you manage this stress can make a world of a difference when it comes to your health. Your health has to come first, when you feel good, then every other area in your life feels more balanced. Do what works for you.
Whether that be exercise, meditation, spending time in nature, or laughing with loved ones. This is your medicine. Consider it an investment in your health.
Healthy, Happy You
If you suspect you may have a hormonal imbalance that is interfering with your life, talk to your doctor, and then follow your intuition to find a method of care that will work for you. Everyone deserves to live a healthy, thriving life with what they have been given.
Understand that in order to do this, you need to prioritize your well being over your to-do list.
Natasha (she/they) is a full spectrum doula, reproductive health content creator, and sexual wellness consultant. Her work focuses on deconstructing the shame, stigma, and barriers people carry around birth, sex, and beyond, to help people navigate through their lives with more pleasure, softness, and sensuality. You can connect with Natasha on IG @spectrumoflovedoula.