Hormone Q&A Series
Part 2: Hormone Regulation
If you missed Part 1 of this Hormone Q+A Series, you can read that here. Let’s now start where we left off: how hormones are regulated to stay in balance.
Wait, give me a quick recap! Hormones are a vital part of our overall health. Hormones are part of the endocrine system which is the communication network of the body that is responsible for coordinating most of its functions. Used as chemical messengers within the endocrine system, hormones are produced at the direction of the hypothalamus and pituitary glands in the brain. Hormones travel through the body via blood and fluids but can only affect specific target cells that have the right receptors tuned only for that certain hormone. The body regulates hormone production according to its needs via a negative feedback loop to keep things at the right level with the goal of achieving balance.
Right, so back to this Negative Feedback Loop, how does it work exactly? In a negative feedback loop, the amount of a substance in a system regulates its own concentration. What this means with hormones is that when the concentration of a hormone rises to above-desired levels, a series of steps are taken within the system to cause the concentration to fall. Conversely, steps are taken to increase concentration when the level is too low. To make this more clear, let’s look at thyroid regulation:
In this instance, the hypothalamus secretes thyrotropin-releasing hormone or TRH. TRH stimulates the pituitary gland to produce thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH. TSH, in turn, stimulates the thyroid gland to secrete its hormones. When the level of thyroid hormones is high enough, the hormones will feedback in reverse to stop the hypothalamus from secreting TRH and the pituitary from secreting TSH. Without the stimulation of TSH, the thyroid gland stops secreting its hormones.
So what happens if this Loop isn’t working? The above example of a feedback system below is quite simplified – in reality, the body relies on complex positive and negative feedback systems, often involving multiple different hormones, steps, and tissues to regulate bodily functions. Sticking with the thyroid example, if its feedback loop is disrupted, conditions such as hypothyroidism (low functioning) or hyperthyroidism (too high functioning) will result. Because the thyroid is the primary player in regulating our metabolism, with these conditions folks will experience symptoms such as weight gain, fatigue, constipation, depression, weak muscles, or foggy brain (all in HYPO function) or weight loss, heart palpitations, heat intolerance, irritability, increased sweating or vision changes (all in HYPER function).
Okay, none of that sounds too good. Right. When a hormone feedback loop is out of whack, your body WILL let you know it through a variety of signals, some of which we might (often) ignore which of course is not optimal. Because our hormones are at the core of so many functions, however, it can be hard to know which hormones might be out of whack and sending these signals. Is it your estrogen? Progesterone? Testosterone? How about insulin or cortisol? ALL of these matter so much, and keeping them in balance is key to your health. For that reason, I’ve put together a single page cheat sheet/checklist for you to compare what symptoms you might be experiencing to what signals your body may be giving you. Grab that resource HERE and then reach out to me so that we can dig deeper and restore your health with optimal hormone function!
*NOTE: This resource is not intended to diagnose anything – it is simply a starting place to help you try to focus in on what burdens your body may be experiencing. If you are bothered by any symptoms of hormone dysfunction, get in touch and we can talk about how to do a deeper investigation to get to the root cause of what your body is trying to tell you and how you can get things back in check!
In Part 3 of my Hormones Q+A series, we will talk about strategies you need to employ to help your body achieve and maintain hormone balance. To make sure you don’t miss these updates, follow me on Instagram and/or Facebook for announcements of new posts!
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