Outside forces like stress or temperature change are constantly acting on us. How do our bodies remain stable internally while such external fluctuations are present? Hormones are what make it possible for our bodies to respond at any moment to changes that threaten our internal equilibrium.
Stress and Arousal
The origin of the word hormone comes from the Greek-literally meaning "to arouse". Hormones arouse cells by altering cellular activity, increasing or decreasing the rate of normal metabolic processes to help maintain homeostasis.
Since hormones govern processes like growth, reproduction and food use by cells, it follows that our bodys normal state of balance can be radically altered when hormonal imbalances occur.
Our adrenal glands produce the hormones epinephrine and nor epinephrine when we experience stress. These two hormones signal a message to quickly increase blood sugar so that it can be used by the body to increase blood flow to muscles, and to increase our breathing rate and cardiac output.
In this way, the release of two adrenal hormones instantly prepares us for immediate action, a short-term burst of speed or strength to cope with a perceived external threat. The adrenal glands also have a backup system to support the short-term usage of blood glucose. The hormone cortisol is produced and secreted to increase blood glucose as a longer-term response, to help compensate for the blood glucose used in the short-term response.
Blood glucose and processed foods
We need some glucose for energy, and to cope with short- and long -term stressors. When theres an excess of blood glucose, the hormone insulin is there at the right moment to escort the blood glucose we dont need to the proper receptors to be metabolized.
Hormones are constantly working to restore balance, and its easy to see how we can support the process with better nutrition. Highly processed foods flood the body with sugar and then our glands secrete hormones to deal with it. Over time this can lead to exhaustion of our hormone producing glands and a weakening of our overall health.
It all comes down to three things
Hormones are really responsible for our equilibrium, and are secreted by organs on an as needed basis. They help govern Sleep, energy, growth and reproduction. We can support all of these processes and avoid hormonal imbalance by improving our nutrition, exercise and education.
Some of the information in this article came from Sexy Hormones by Lorna Vanderhaeghe and Alvin Pettle.
Anne Brownell, B.A., Assistant Manager at Natures Source in Oakville. She is enrolled in the Registered Holistic Nutritionist Program at the Canadian School of Natural Nutrition.