Part 1 and 2 of this series discussed basic hormones and key players in their production. This week in Part 3, we will look at how various hormones and systems are interrelated and can affect each other. Hormones work together closely and when one process is off balance, it can create a domino effect throughout the body. Here are a few reminders before looking at these connections in detail:
- An overloaded liver due to over toxicity is unable to detoxify and has an impaired ability to convert/process hormones. This can lead to an imbalance in sex hormones such as estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. Remember that estrogen and progesterone work together to maintain a healthy balance and work to adjust themselves as needed.
- When adrenals are overtaxed from chronic stress, they secrete excess cortisol as part of a long-term response.
- An underactive thyroid due to deficiencies or damage is characterized by the inability to properly produce, convert or use hormones.
- An overworked pancreas as a result of constant high blood sugar levels and physical inactivity has to secrete increased levels of insulin in order to keep pushing excess into cells as they become more and more resistant to this hormone.
- Weight gain is caused by an accumulation and enlargement of fat cells.
Here are just a few ways in which how an imbalance in one system can wreak havoc on the other.
Thyroid & Adrenals
High cortisol directly inhibits the enzyme that converts the thyroid hormones T4 to T3, causes thyroid receptor insensitivity, slows TSH production and increases the excretion of iodide from the kidney (important for thyroid hormone production). The thyroid uses tyrosine as building block for hormones but it is also needed by the adrenals for the stress response, potentially creating competition and deficiency.
Thyroid & Pancreas
Repetitive insulin surges from the pancreas increase the destruction of the thyroid gland. Also, a malfunctioning thyroid can affect blood sugar levels and lead to insulin resistance.
Thyroid & Liver
Impaired detoxification can lead to abnormal thyroid function as a sluggish liver cannot properly convert T4 to T3. Excess estrogen levels also block uptake of thyroid hormones by receptors.
Thyroid & Fat Cells
The thyroid governs our metabolic rate. An underactive thyroid leads to a slow metabolism, low energy and resulting weight gain.
Adrenals & Pancreas
Under conditions of chronic stress, glucose levels remain high, which triggers the release of insulin. Therefore, chronically elevated cortisol may eventually lead to insulin resistance. In addition, spikes in blood sugar levels stress the body, further depleting the adrenals.
Adrenals & Liver
Cortisol and progesterone compete for the same receptor sites. When cortisol goes up due to stress, progesterone is decreased because receptors are full and estrogens increase as a result, leading to an imbalance. High cortisol levels also lead to a drop in testosterone and inhibits proper liver detoxification.
Adrenals & Fat Cells
Excess cortisol boosts abdominal fat storage, fuels a desire for fatty and sugar-laden comfort foods, depletes serotonin (leading to cravings), blocks leptin (appetite suppressant), eats away at muscle and triggers insulin resistance. It also causes fat cells to become larger, more resistant to fat loss and promotes more estrogen production in fat cells.
Liver & Pancreas
Insulin tells the body to absorb glucose from the blood and turn it into fat where it can be stored for energy. Some blood sugar is stored as glycogen in the liver. When the liver is constantly reaching its capacity to store glycogen, it can lead to a fatty liver that has trouble metabolizing hormones. In addition, elevated insulin levels will reduce glutathione levels inhibiting the liver’s ability to detoxify. Also, insulin resistance will increase the activity of the enzyme aromatase, which can lead to estrogen dominance.
Fat Cells & Liver
When the liver detoxification pathways are disrupted, it contributes to hormonal imbalances, toxin accumulation and fat gain. Poor liver detoxification can lead to a decreased rate of excess estrogen excretion, leading to estrogen dominance and “belly fat”. On the other hand, too much fat in the body can also lead to excess estrogen as fat cells can both manufacture and store estrogen. This creates a vicious cycle. High estrogens promote weight gain, yet fat cells are estrogen factories.
Fat Cells & Pancreas
Insulin is secreted by the pancreas and is pumped out to reduce abnormally high blood sugar (eventually storing it into fat cells when other stores are full). The body then gains fat as a result and over time cells. Fat cells also produce inflammatory compounds which increase insulin resistance.
Next to the thyroid, the ovaries contain the greatest concentration of iodine in the female body and they also have hormone receptors for thyroid hormones. An underactive thyroid can create menstrual problems, low sex drive and infertility.
. Elevated cortisol levels slowly destroy the immune system that lines the gastrointestinal (GI) tract, increases inflammation and prevents the cells from regenerating. As a result, the body has an increased risk of leaky gut and infections from parasites, yeast, viruses, and bacteria which further stresses other organs. Also, if you have gut issues, this may cause problems with mineral absorption, affecting proper function of other bodily systems.
- This column is sponsored by Good N Natural in Steinbach –