Metabolic Insight Series

Part 2 - Hormones

The Essence of Health and Longevity

Metabolic Insight Series (2/6)

Now that you are acquainted with Metabolism, it’s time to introduce you to your endocrine system, that is, the world of hormones — what they are, what they do, and how they interact.

What are Hormones?

Hormones are functional biochemicals that tell the cells of your body what to do. Think of them as coordinators that constantly send instructions or “signals,” to your cells. Your cells respond to these signals either by Building or by Using.

Hormones are like the operating system of a computer, the software that tells the computer’s hardware and other software what to do with the data you enter. Similarly, hormones tell the various organs of your body, at a cellular level, what to do and how to respond to the various inputs it receives from other organs and systems as well as from food, sleep, stress, chemicals, or movement. 

Hormone System Hierarchy

Your body has many different hormones that constantly interact with each other to keep you alive and functioning. These hormones have a pecking order; some are more essential than others. The most essential, what we call the “major” hormones, literally keep you alive and healthy. Examples of major hormones are insulin, adrenaline, noradrenaline, and cortisol. You will not survive very long without any one of these four hormones – in some cases, as little as a few hours! 

In addition to the major hormones, the body also has hundreds of “minor” hormones. Examples are Thyroid, Human Growth Hormone (HGH), DHEA and the sex hormones, testosterone, estradiol, and progesterone.

Even though these minor hormones do not play as vital a role in your immediate survival, they are still critical to your long-term health and wellbeing. Indeed, you can survive for many years after the loss or compromise of a minor hormone. However, any minor hormone deficiency will undermine the functioning of your major hormones, causing metabolic irregularities, making you age faster, and giving rise to numerous symptoms and conditions that diminish your quality of life. 

How Hormones Work

In very basic terms, hormones are biochemicals that are produced by various glands and then secreted into your bloodstream to travel through your body to your cells. Hormones then attach or “bind” to your cells at places called receptors and transmit their instructional signals to the cells. These signals tell the cells to perform a certain function, cause an end result, and/or produce and secrete other biochemicals that will, ultimately, cause an end result.  The cells’ responses to the instructions are known as the “hormone effect.”

The Interplay of Hormones 

As they go about their work, whether directly or indirectly, every hormone interacts with every other hormone affecting their respective functioning and effect and, therefore, every physiological function of your body. 

Because of this interrelatedness, if any of your hormones are missing, deficient, or present in excess, that deficiency or excess will affect the functioning and effect of all of your other hormones. For example:

If you skip meals, are stressed, don’t sleep well, etc., your body will overproduce adrenaline and cortisol. Both of these hormones block the effect of insulin — your major rebuilding hormone. So, you don’t Build as well.

In order to function optimally, insulin needs help from other hormones such as estradiol – a form of estrogen. If you no longer produce enough estradiol (think menopause) then your body will not get the full rebuilding effect of insulin.

In addition to wreaking havoc within its component sub-systems, a compromised endocrine system inevitably causes problems throughout all of the other systems of your body, such as your neurological, cardiovascular, immune, digestive, respiratory, and musculoskeletal systems. Everything is affected.

Remember that a balanced metabolism – Building keeping pace with Using — is the key to a long and healthy life and that it’s your hormones that determine whether you’re Building or Using.

So, now, of course, you have to be wondering – what regulates your hormones? The answer is: YOU DO! I’ll tell you why and how in Part III.