What are Human Hormones and Why do You Need them?
Incorrect Hormone Diagnosis
One of the medical buzz words out now is hormones. This has been the case for the last several years. In talking with my patients, I have come to learn that while many are interested in the concept of maintaining their hormone levels, few really understand what that means. More shockingly, I am also noticing that some of the clinicians that my patients have been working with, are fixated in the model of seeing an individual with a low hormone, and restoring only that particular hormone. Human hormones are far more complex than this. Pushing too much of a single hormone without consideration to the effects on other hormones, is a recipe for disaster, with you the patient, being the one suffering.
Human Hormone Balance
Human hormones have very specific roles. These roles are defined not just by the action of an individual hormone, but also by the interplay that occurs between hormones. Human hormones are most often talked about by their larger categories. These include the stress hormones, progesterone, the androgens, and the estrogens. Each of these categories when taken alone has a unique role that makes them worthy of consideration.
Hormone Roles In The Body
When looked at in isolation, we can think of the broad actions of these categories. For example, the stress hormones, specifically cortisol, help us accommodate to stress by controlling glucose availability and managing the inflammatory response. The androgens are the building hormones of the body. When tissues need to be repaired or when there is the necessity for increased growth of a tissue, the androgens are the responsible human hormone category. Estrogens are our stimulators. They promote growth and activity, especially in the female body. In contrast, progesterone has a slight building response, but it also acts to counter act the actions of estrogen.
The isolated action of human hormones is to some degree an unrealistic way to think about hormones. It is a good way to begin to think about some of these hormones and learn the basics, but it is not the way that hormones function in the body. Human hormones are synergistic and antagonistic. It is these balances, or lack thereof, that are often the reason for the hormone symptoms we often think about.
Stress Hormones & Androgens
Let’s think about the relationship between the stress hormones and the androgens. With chronic stress, the stress hormones are consistently released to aid in accommodation. As this process is prolonged, cortisol begins to affect muscle and bone tissue. It breaks them down. It can even have effects on the brain and short term memory. To balance this breakdown activity, you need to be able to build the body back up. This is not going to happen without the stimulus from the androgens. Androgens are going to offset the negative effects of the stress hormones to the extent possible. We can extrapolate this to the aging process and the reason that many become interested in their hormones anyway. If you are breaking your body down faster than you are building it back up, you are accelerating the aging process.
Estrogen & Progesterone
What about estrogen and progesterone? These two categories are directly antagonistic. The estrogens stimulate and progesterone inhibits. Thus, if you are “hormonal” and suffering from symptoms such as breast tenderness and PMS, you have a hormone deficiency, likely progesterone. The ability of both of these hormones to balance each other is at the core of procreation and motherhood.
Clearly human hormones are important. They are the chemical messengers our body depends on. Yet, if you truly want to know what hormones are and how to deal with human hormone deficiencies, you have to consider the interplay they have between each other and not their isolated role. May be the question should not be what are human hormones, but rather what are human hormones as they relate to each other.
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