April 12, 2013
What does it take to have a happy holiday? After all it is the one time of year when we really do expect to be filled with love, joy and gratitude. And this is the issue. The stakes are high during holiday season, because our expectations often add stress and pressure to what should be a time of relaxation and sweet surrender. While we know there is a lot more to happiness than a perfectly working endocrine system, the absence of one can cast shadows on even the brightest day. Ensuring you have a healthy endocrine system puts you on the path of experiencing greater levels of joy and really feel peace and goodwill toward all men. Most of them at least.
THE LINK BETWEEN PEACE
A happy holiday may be about your own inner production of mind-altering substances as well as the bottle of bubbly.
HORMONES AND HARMONY
Virtually all of the emotions we experience on a daily basis are the result of hormones being released and secreted inside our bodies. When you are tired, giddy, moody, hungry, or perfectly content, your body is responding to hormones. Normal fluctuations are part of our daily lives and the body works very diligently to keep hormone secretions regulated and harmonious. There are hormones that are responsible for making us feel good like oxytocin, serotonin, and dopamine, but a disruption in these hormones can make us feel bad. Our actions and emotional responses also influence chemical reactions in the body and can throw our hormones off track. From eating habits to coping with various situations throughout the day, we can influence the flow of hormones because they also follow our signals. You might start the day off on a really high note, when suddenly something negative happens to dampen the mood, directly impacting hormones through your reaction to that situation.
For the most part, hormone management is a two-way relationship because hormones can affect our physical and psychological wellness, but our moods, lifestyle habits, and emotions can also impact our hormones. In many cases, whether it’s a symphony or cacophony of emotions, you have the power to direct and compose your hormones so they stay in tune. You can essentially transform a bad hormone day into a good one. When you’re feeling blasé, maybe hitting the gym for a nice endorphin release, feeling gratitude for your blessings, or simply steering your thought processes in a positive direction can perk things up and arouse those feel-good hormones. Since hormones dramatically affect your health, energy levels, attitude, and feelings, you can contribute to improving the harmonious flow and how you feel. With the holiday season approaching, it’s not uncommon to feel the doldrums and experience overwhelming levels of stress, melancholy, and low energy levels. This is generally a seasonal funk that can temporarily tinker with stress and hormone levels, but it will most likely pass. This is why it’s important to understand the body’s chemical processes in order to differentiate between normal instances of disharmony in the mind and body, and when a hormone imbalance is responsible for the abnormalities we might feel.
There are times when we get off course and are rendered powerless by the intensity of emotions, especially as we age and our hormones are not functioning as efficiently. Such hormone irregularities are often synonymous with premenopausal or perimenopausal women. In fact imbalances in both males and females can fluctuate dramatically before middle age so understanding the symptoms is essential, as diagnosis can be critical for well-being.
HOW HORMONES WORK
Hormones are mighty powerful, vitally important chemicals that help keep the functions of our bodies stimulated and regulated. They are essentially the body’s chemical messengers that transfer information from one set of cells to another in an effort to coordinate the functions of different parts of the body. They commute through the bloodstream to the tissues and organs and influence various biological processes such as cardiovascular health, development and growth, immune system, metabolism, mood and thinking processes, musculoskeletal systems, reproduction, sexual function, and more.
Hormones are specific messenger molecules that are synthesized and secreted by a group of specialized cells called an endocrine gland. The endocrine system is a collection of glands that use hormones to control and coordinate internal balance or homeostasis. This system regulates all biological processes from conception through adulthood and into old age, including the development of the brain and nervous system, the growth and function of the reproductive system, as well as the metabolism and blood sugar levels. The female ovaries, male testes, and pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands are major constituents of the endocrine system.
Hormones are in every cell of the body, so it’s important to keep them in check and well-balanced since even subtle variations can make big impacts, which in turn can cause a number of health and psychological disorders.
HARMONYAND HORMONES: WHEN HORMONES LOSE THEIR BALANCE
In addition to all the valuable wisdom that age bestows, it also brings natural changes in the body, specifically chemical variations, that impact hormonal releases from glands that can disrupt the harmonious flow. When the body experiences a hormone imbalance, it usually means that one or more of the endocrine systems in the body are not functioning well. Hormones can be released in disproportionate amounts that are either too high or low for the body to function normally. These imbalances can occur in both women and men at different ages, though more commonly beyond the middle age years.
Some of the physical and emotional symptoms experienced during hormone imbalance are similar among males and females, while others are more gender specific. Some of the shared symptoms include fatigue, skin problems or acne, mood swings, weight problems, diminished sex drive, and memory loss. Stress, infection, and changes in your blood's fluid and electrolyte balance can also influence hormone levels. When the body experiences high levels of the hormone cortisol or “stress hormone,” it can result in feelings of angst and tumult, and such extended periods of elevated cortisol levels can simultaneously cause fatigue and anxiety.
In women, the ovaries produce estrogen and progesterone, both of which contribute to normal sexual development and fertility. Additionally, both of these hormones decrease naturally when a woman approaches menopause and an imbalance occurs when too much or too little of either of these hormones is produced. Stress also plays an important role in the over production of estrogen by triggering excess release of cortisol, which causes an interruption of communication between the brain, the pituitary gland, and the ovaries that regulate the hormones.
Some symptoms associated with female hormone imbalances include intense premenstrual symptoms, mood changes, vaginal dryness, yeast infections, and hot flashes. Some women also suffer from unusually heavy, irregular, or painful periods. Infertility may also be the result of a hormonal imbalance. Men also have to contend with unruly hormones. The National Institute of Health estimates that approximately five million American men have low testosterone in the United States. Testosterone is the most important male sex hormone that helps the body produce and maintain adult male features. It also contributes to several metabolic functions including bone formation, liver function, prostate gland growth and production of blood cells in bone marrow. When testosterone levels are low, it can impair a man’s sex drive, lead to erectile dysfunction, and impact physical features and mood.
Also, as men age, they can experience MANopause, which is basically the male version of menopause. The more scientific term for MANopause is andropause, which marks the onset of hormonal decline around the late forties or early fifties, but it can also occur in the thirties. Andropause is becoming more widely accepted as men experience the loss of testosterone and the resulting symptoms. Since the reduction in testosterone is a gradual process, unlike menopause where drastic losses of estrogen occur, men start to experience physical and psychological changes over time. Some of the hallmark symptoms associated with andropause include irritability, fatigue, depression, reduced libido and erection problem. Andropause systems are minor in comparison to menopause, but they should not be ignored.
Hormone irregularities could also be attributed to genetics, conditions such as tumors or thyroid disease, or environmental substances that act like hormones. Environmental factors that can throw hormones out of whack are known as Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs). According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), these chemicals can be found in dust, soil, water, air, food, and consumer products, and may interfere with the normal functioning of the endocrine system. Some scientists propose that certain chemicals might be disrupting the endocrine systems of humans and wildlife, but since humans are exposed to complex mixtures of chemicals throughout their lives, it makes it difficult to identify a cause-and-effect relationship between specific EDC exposure and endocrine conditions. Although exposure to EDCs can’t be completely avoided, you can reduce your exposure by eliminating the use of consumer products containing EDCs such as bisphenol A, phthalates, parabens, several synthetic UVfilters, and pesticides.
It’s clear that hormones affect so many different aspects of physiology and psychology, the symptoms can be varied and nonspecific, leading to difficult diagnoses. That’s why it’s important to monitor radical changes in the mind or body and how it affects interaction with others.
SLEEP: Every insomniac’s dream. Every insomniac’s nightmare.
Sleep. It’s as natural as eating and yet it contains all the elements of the luxurious. It is as vital for our sense of well-being as having fulfilling experiences in our waking hours, and yet, for the most part, we are oblivious about what happens during the 6-8 hours spent in darkness. A good sleep is a nightly ritual shrouded in mystery. Some people do recall vivid dreams and believe they offer insights into the future, and others say that dreams are just the creative mind weaving together stories from subconscious impressions that occur in nano-seconds during the waking hours.
Whatever side of the bed you are on, sleep is undeniably a healthy practice. It is essential for coping with stress and maintaining balance in the waking hours. And yet some of us have such a hard time doing it, it is almost becoming an art instead of a natural function. In fact, insomnia is such an epidemic that there are sleep facilities and all sorts of aids to help the sleepless, sleep more.
Everyone from time to time experiences sleep deprivation due to circumstantial or physiological changes (most stressful are divorce/break up or its opposite – a brand new relationship - career change, moving to a new state or country, financial distress or physical changes like menopause) but circumstantial or physiological changes are normally temporary, and as your mind and body return to equilibrium, regular sleep patterns resume.
However, the seasoned insomniac doesn’t need to be going through any life changing experience in order to suffer from sleepless nights. Sleep deprivation could be the result of a condition called ‘sleep apnia’ when not enough oxygen is inhaled forcing the sleeper awake in order to get a good breath. If this is the case, then there are apparatus your doctor can prescribe that can be worn at night, and besides possibly having a disastrous affect on your love life, your sleepless nights shall be cured. More often than not, insomnia is the result of an underactive pineal gland, which could be the result of getting older (this gland produces less melatonin with age), lack of light absorption, or according to the British scientist Jennifer Luke, it could be the result of fluoride deposits calcifying in the pineal gland. If you are noticing that as you get older you are more and more sleep deprived, then try and get as much sunlight as possible, try the Ayurvedic treatment ‘Shirodhara’ (the pouring of warmed oils between the brows), book in for a weekly massage, and ensure you exercise daily before night fall. A healthy lifestyle with lots of fresh leafy greens (these contain small amounts of melatonin), herbal teas and sunlight should help give your pineal gland a kick start. If fluoride deposits in the pineal gland could be the issue, then the cure is simple. “Frequent exposure to outdoor sunshine, 20 minutes or so at a time, will help stimulate a fluoride calcified pineal gland. Just make sure you take off your hat.” (naturalnews.com)
If you’ve tried all these natural methods and still can’t sleep, then you can take melatonin supplements. But beware. Besides giving you vivid dreams, making you even more groggy in the morning, the side effects include that they “may make you drowsy.” Well, we would hope so.
Besides focusing on melatonin production, take a look at your psychological state of wellbeing. Are you a worrier? Well stop it. Worry is detrimental to sleep. Also, if you are a thrill seeker and find that you are in a constant state of anticipation or anxiety, then don’t expect to fall asleep any time soon. And if you feel you have acted inappropriately, or you feel guilty for any number of reasons, these are definitely not sleep-friendly states of consciousness. While we can’t necessarily change the way we feel in any given situation, we can definitely become aware of these sleep depriving emotional and psychological states of being, and start changing our internal dialogue to be more conducive with our desire for a deliciously oblivious sleep. Ah the luxury.