About Hormones and Hormone Problems

I had just finished a talk, and as usual, folks were milling around looking to get some questions answered. A woman named Nancy steps out of the crowd. She’s in her early 50’s with a whole slew of symptoms that I’ve heard many times before; Hot flashes, night sweats, insomnia, and anxiety. Her moods are swinging like a cheap screen door in a winter storm and loss of libido may end her marriage. She’s carrying an extra 30 pounds of body weight, and no matter how she changes her diet, she can’t drop them.

Hormones and Hormone ProblemsShe, of course, knows it’s her hormones. At least that’s what she tells me. But when I ask her what exactly she means by hormones she really can’t come up with much of an answer. That’s because she has little understanding of what is meant by this catch-all term “hormones”, and Nancy isn’t alone. Women like Nancy come up to me after every presentation that I do. I receive letters, take phone calls, and answer texts and messages on this subject many times a week.

Modern scientific understanding of hormones is over a hundred years old, but do a random survey amongst your non-medical friends to see how many people could really explain what a hormone is and/or what it does. Probably not many, if any. How can we really understand how to address hormone related health issues without having a basic grasp of what these things are and how they work.

In order to understand hormones, we have to understand cells which are best thought of as little extraordinary animals. Each one of these creepy-crawly blobs of goo, so tiny it takes 1000 to make an inch, is studded with hundreds of thousands of sub-microscopic switches called receptors. When these switches are activated, stuff happens.

A hormone is nothing more than a chemical that activates those switches. It’s a bit more complicated in the sense that there are different hormones for different switches and because combinations of hormonal switches get activated simultaneously, but, in essence, it’s just a question of switches and chemicals, i.e. the hormones that activate them.

Because the body’s functions all result from the activities of cells, if it’s happening in the body, it’s happening because of hormones. Hormones can be thought of as messages; the very word “hormone” is Latin for: “I arouse to activity”. That means that we are healthy (or not) because of hormones. In fact, from a physical perspective, we are everything we are because of hormones. To say you have a hormone problem when you are sick is like saying you have a money problem when you’re broke. Or a mechanical problem if your car breaks down. Of course, it’s true, but it’s tautological (saying the same thing twice in different words) and not helpful for taking care of the problem.

We have two major types of hormones. One type is fast-acting and rapidly broken down. These are substances that activate quick biochemical functions such as nerve firings, muscle contractions, and various secretions in response to food or some kind of irritant. These quick acting hormones have names like “prostaglandins” and “leukotrienes,” and they live fast and die young. They allow cells to respond to their environment in a speedy fashion, and they’re quickly broken down. In the brain, these hormone chemicals are called neurotransmitters, and they’re associated with various moods and brain functions.
When most people talk about hormones and hormone problems, most of the time they are referring to the second type, more long acting hormone substances called steroids, typically the so-called male hormone testosterone and the so-called female hormone estrogen. I say “so-called” because it’s somewhat of a misunderstanding to refer to these hormones in this sex-specific fashion as both genders produce both substances. Nonetheless, despite the fact that there are dozens upon dozens of various hormone substances in the body, when women blame their hormones, they’re usually referring to estrogen; likewise, when males talk about theirs, they typically mean testosterone.

So, if you’re a guy or a gal and you want to work on your hormones (testosterone or estrogen), what can you do? Well, probably the most important step you can take to return these two steroid substances back to their appropriate levels and potency is pay attention to intake of fatty foods and fat absorption. Steroid hormones are all derived from cholesterol which is a major component of fat-dense foods like eggs and dairy and organ meats, so making sure you’re getting enough of these types of foods can be helpful. You, of course, want to make sure that you’re absorbing these substances in the intestine as well. That means after you eat your omelet, cheese, and liver, you use digestive enzymes, lecithin, and apple cider vinegar– all of which can improve the body’s ability to absorb and utilize their cholesterol content.

Nutrients can help too. Below are 13 nutritional supplements that can help improve steroid hormone health:

Probiotics – 10 billion units/multiple strains daily
Magnesium Chelate -1000-2000mg daily
B-100 Complex – 2-3 tablets daily
Vitamin C -1000-3000mg daily
Omega-3’s – 1-2 grams daily
Evening Primrose Oil – 1-2 teaspoonsful daily
Zinc Picolinate – 50mg daily
Selenium Chelate -400mcg daily
Vitamin A -20,000 iu daily
Vitamin E -400 iu daily
Vitamin D – Sunlight 5000 iu daily
Pregnenolone -100mg daily
Choline – 100-200mg daily


Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health

Cholesterol and the Steroid Hormones

By Ben Fuchs | Pharmacist Ben

The human body is a roiling, seething, cauldron of chemistry. An apparently solid mass, which is in reality composed of and home to hundreds of trillions of endlessly morphing molecules and many thousands of different biochemical entities, none more important than the misunderstood, much maligned and massively functional molecule called cholesterol.

Cholesterol and the Steroid Hormones

By David Richfield (User:Slashme) and Mikael Häggström], via Wikimedia Commons

Cholesterol is THE key chemical entity of the human body. It distinguishes animals from plants (which do not make cholesterol), and plays and important part in muscle health, a well- functioning brain and nervous system and in helping maintain the moisturization and barrier properties of the skin. Yet of all the roles cholesterol plays in the helping sustaining the heath of the organism, none is more important than its parental responsibilities. Yes, cholesterol is a matriarch, a parent chemical that “gives birth” to many children.

The children of cholesterol are known as the steroid hormones. And the steroid hormones are the elites of the society of biochemicals. They regulate (i.e. control) many of the chemical reactions in the body. The cholesterol family is known for being hard working and very important in the society of the body. A couple of the offspring are Cortisol and Estrogen. These cholesterol children support the body in times of stress. Then there’s the virile and manly child Testosterone which is responsible for much of the body’s growth and repair. Pregnenolone and DHEA are cholesterol kids that are important for keeping the body happy and strong and resistant to disease. And perhaps the most potent and powerful cholesterol child, the one who has really made a name for himself in terms of impact is called Cholecalciferol, or as it’s more commonly known as Vitamin D. Thus, cholesterol is a parent, a chemical jumping off point, for many of the most important chemicals in the body. It is important stuff and a biological must-have.

Yet, sometimes the body’s cholesterol making machinery makes more than it needs. How much is too much, no one knows, (those silly cholesterol tests that measure HDL and LDL are based on correlations and statistics created by pharmaceutical companies that profit off the scores they invent) but the fact is that elevated cholesterol levels are associated with a leading cause of disease: dysglycemia and diabetes. But association is not cause. In fact, although elevated cholesterol levels are associated with diabetes it’s not the cause of messed up blood sugar, but rather an effect. This should come as no surprise. Biochemical breakdowns in blood sugar control messes up ALL of the body’s chemistry. Excessive cholesterol synthesis is an effect of poor blood sugar control. When you correct blood sugar and lower insulin secretion by changing the way you eat (basically eating less sweets, cereals, breads, pasta and potatoes among other sugar-rich foods) cholesterol synthesis slows down. It happens EVERY time! That’s because cholesterol synthesis is up-regulated as a result of the body being tricked by the intake of a high-calorie high sugar diet. These types of foods fool the body into initiating the processes of building cells and substance. And cells and substances require cholesterol.

In essence, excessive amounts of cholesterol are produced because of our lousy lifestyle choices. And, as always when it comes to lifestyle induced biochemical breakdowns, this is good news because we can fix the breakdowns simply by making better choices. Without drugs or doctors or health insurance. Reduce your intake of fast burning, high calorie carbs and your cholesterol levels will drop like a stone. And, it wouldn’t hurt to make sure you’re taking nutritional supplements that help the body process carbohydrates. Using niacin (200-500 mg timed release a day) and thiamine (500mg a day in divided doses) and chromium (200-600mcg daily, taken after meals) and magnesium (the glycinate form is best, try 1200mg daily) can help support sugar metabolism and they’ll help lower cholesterol as well. As a bonus you’ll lose weight and lower your blood pressure and reduce your risks of degenerative disease of all kinds and probably live longer too.

Posted by Ben Fuchs in Health