When I am explaining hormone function (or dysfunction) to my clients I often use a spider’s web analogy. Visualise the many outer points of an elasticated spider’s web with an important hormone at each point. The ‘big’ hormones I normally use in this analogy are the sex hormones, estrogen, progesterone and testosterone, the stress hormones, cortisol, noradrenaline and adrenaline, the blood glucose hormone, insulin, the sleep hormone, melatonin and the metabolic hormone, thyroid. They are all linked together in some way with a meeting point in the middle. Say the thread of the spider’s web is super strong, but very flexible. What would happen if you pulled the web in one direction? Wouldn’t the whole web move with it? Ok – now stretch it in 2 directions. Now it’s even more out of shape and starting to get a big over stretched. Stretch it in 3 directions and it could be close to breaking point. This is what happens when hormonal balance is lost because we have been pushing one or two hormones too far. An ideal situation, would be a state of hormonal harmony whereby the hormones are all working together to keep that spider’s web balanced and in tact.
So how does hormone dysfunction happen? Say you have a habit of eating a nice sugary breakfast, and biscuits for afternoon tea resulting in insulin spikes. The first pull on the spider’s web. You also have a very stressful job and/or home life so your cortisol is perpetually higher than it should be. Second pull on the spider’s web. You are now perimenopausal and on a hormone rollercoaster. Third pull on the spider’s web and often the breaking point for the other 2. You are gluten sensitive (and probably not aware that you are) and this has resulted in an antibody attack on your thyroid. Fourth pull on the spiders web. You have a habit of using your smartphone all the way up to bed time so your melatonin has no idea when to kick in. Fifth pull on the web – have we reached breaking point yet?? I mentioned perimenopause earlier and that is usually when it truly hits the fan! The hormones have been under the pump for a while but the hormone rollercoaster that accompanies perimenopause can certainly knock them over the edge.
The mistake many men and women make is that they underestimate the impact that their everyday food and lifestyle choices are making on their hormonal health. The scenario above is common place in today’s society with many parents working full time jobs, and caring for kids and grandparents at the same time. And I truly mean men AND women. Usually when we mention hormones, everyone automatically assumes that we are talking about women but men can suffer from a wide array of hormone dysfunction too. The high insulin response from a standard Australian diet (known as the SAD diet by nutritionists!) and a high stress job can play havoc on testosterone levels and lead to estrogen dominance (man boobs and erectile dysfunction are the unpleasant symptoms that can accompany this type of dysfunction). So men need to take hormone health into account too.
Every part of our body is linked so disorders in other areas of our body can have a profound effect on our hormones. For example, some non-beneficial bacteria in our gut can produce a compound called beta-glucoronidase that can deconjugate excess estrogen marked for excretion from the body and releases it back into the blood stream leading to estrogen dominance (not a desirable outcome). Also, our liver plays a major part in processing hormones so if you are not looking after it, it can send your hormones into disarray. Have you ever noticed that your normal, monthly pain free cycles go a bit haywire and can become very heavy and painful after a particularly drunken and sugar-laden Christmas? It’s the spider’s web telling you to calm down!
All of the hormones that are part of my Hormones Spider’s Web play very important roles in our overall health. If hormone dysfunction occurs it can have a major effect on how we feel. Fatigue is the epidemic of the 21st century and many cases I see in the clinic are hormonally driven. When hormones go wild, you can feel tired, unmotivated, down, anxious and have a deep down feeling that something just isn’t right. There can also be very physical symptoms such as weight gain, fibroids, breast cysts, loss of libido, erectile dysfunction, skin break outs, immune dysfunction, muscle aches and pains, hair loss – the list is endless! Trust your instincts – if you feel that your Hormone Spider’s Web is being pulled in too may directions, see a professional and let them help you bring it back to into balance. Make sure that all aspects of your health are discussed and taken into account. It can take time but harmony can be restored.