One thing that I have learned is that healing is a journey. Complex endocrine and hormonal issues take time to correct. There is no doubt about it: hormone and endocrine issues can be some of the more complex and involved issues to resolve, largely because the endocrine system is quite complex, and there are many factors that influence it. Additionally, there are many body systems that are part of endocrine activity, while not being part of the endocrine system.
The HPA axis (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) is a pivotal endocrine system to monitor in all related hormone and endocrine issues because this system regulates the body’s stress responses. Additionally, the HPA axis has a strong influence on the development of both “male” and “female” hormones such as Luteinizing Hormone (LH).
The hypothalamus initiates the stress response by releasing a hormone called CRF. This sets off a cascade of “downstream” hormones which activates the adrenal gland’s production of cortisol and adrenaline.
If the HPA axis becomes uncoordinated due to prolonged stress and continual cortisol production, there are consequences. One example is the impact that the stress response has on thyroid hormone production and synthesis. High levels of glucocorticoids such as cortisol have an inhibitory effect on the conversion of T4 into T3. Cortisol also has been shown to inhibit TSH release from the pituitary.
Stress Response & The Limbic Brain
The limbic system, comprised of glands such as the amygdala and hippocampus have a very important role to play in memories, emotions, processing of feelings such as love and empathy. Cortisol production and stress greatly affects the function of the limbic system, because these glands are loaded with cortisol receptors. Additionally, studies have demonstrated that highly emotionally charged events trigger the amygdala to initiate a cortisol cascade. The implication here is that the HPA axis can be governed by emotions and traumatic experiences.
Liver & Related Organs
Steroidal hormones such as cortisol, progesterone, estradiol, testosterone and DHEA are derived from cholesterol, which is synthesized in the liver. The liver excretes “old” and “used” hormones through the bile, which is produced by the liver. Additionally, the conversion of T4 into thyroxine (T3), the active thyroid hormone, takes place in the liver.
Therefore, a loss of liver function due to liver toxicity or liver damage may impair the normal synthesis of hormones as well as the excretion of hormones.
The pancreas has a very important role to play in the regulation of blood sugar. The pancreas produces insulin, a hormone which facilitates the transportation of glucose from the blood into the cells, thus lowering blood sugar. Glucagon, another pancreatic-produced hormone raises glucose levels. Functionally speaking, a loss of normal glucose homeostasis will directly affect hormone and endocrine function. Consider that the adrenal hormones cortisol and adrenaline are primary means through which the body can raise glucose.
Both the pancreas and liver are crucial for normal blood sugar regulation. The liver is responsible for the release of glycogen, which is a storage form of energy that is used to free up glucose.
It is all too common that people in a prolonged stress response have erratic blood sugar, sometimes fluctuating from very high to very low. Normalizing glucose levels is pivotal in order to get the stress response under control. How this is accomplished is absolutely not the same for everyone. Some individuals respond far more favorably to higher amounts of purine-rich proteins and significantly lower concentrations of complex carbohydrates, whereas other individuals respond very poorly to this protocol, and in fact require a much higher concentration of complex carbohydrates and very low purine-containing proteins. Biological individualism dictates in all instances.
Changing Lifestyle Factors That Initiate The Stress Response
For many people these are the hardest factors to adjust, yet are often some of the greatest influencing factors affecting the stress response. Modern society is more like a mechanistic human production factory than it is a culture. From a very young age, children are conditioned and taught to succeed and not to fail. Society rewards those who are more aggressive and who are capable of fitting its molded structure. Society breeds sociopathy and psychopathy. The unnatural habitat in the human kingdom comprised of concrete jungles, office cubicles, unnatural lighting and prolonged periods of working overloads the cerebral cortex and associated endocrine glands. The “Standard American Diet” is devoid of nutritional factors necessary to sustain life at such an unnatural level of function.
Those individuals who do not fit into the established order of societal structure are outcast. Their vulnerability is then exploited by the pharmaceutical drug industry, which in turn preys upon their psyche by implicating that their irrational behavior and physical symptoms are the result of some recently-created disease name of unknown etiology.
When an individual living in such a society becomes ill with a degenerative disease, it is quite often the case that the individual has no idea why such a disease would occur. “It must be genetics” insists the physician, who himself is working 14 hour shifts and is subsisting on donuts and soda.
Stepping out of this model of existence is not easy, as one knows no other way of functioning. Simply being aware of the multitude of factors that are influencing one’s stress responses is a very valid starting point. Needless to say, all things that assist the body’s management and recovery from the insanity of life itself are valid and deeply needed.
There are emerging modalities and therapies that aim to restore the function of the limbic brain, and the associated glands that have been imprinted and damaged from excessive, prolonged and aberrant cortisol production.
Combined with such therapies, the correct nutritional intervention tailored to the needs of the individual have powerful potential to restore function and to heal.