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Traveling the Hormone Highway: The Brain, the Glands, and the Gut 

In this month’s series, we are traveling the hormone highway. We are learning along the way just how vital these chemical messengers are to our survival, health, happiness, and functional capacity to meet the stressors in our daily life in such a calm, constructive and that does NOT break the body in the process. 

Our Human Design

We began in Hormones 101, Part 1, working our way from the top-down. This is where we can see that the brain, the hypothalamus-pituitary, influences every part of our body, and the hormones it produces help regulate many other vital functions. 

The hypothalamus-pituitary spits out the hormones adrenaline and norepinephrine, which moves your sympathetic nervous system (SNS) into action. The SNS then sends the message to the adrenal cortex (think adrenal glands), telling it to produce the hormone cortisol. Cortisol extends the life of the other two hormones, adrenaline, and norepinephrine (think extending and enhancing mental alertness). Remember when I said that hormones are lightning-fast problem-solvers? Well, here, you have it – it’s this hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis. It is your high-functioning human response system magnificently designed for your survival. 

It’s also the response that many of us get somewhat addicted to. If you have ever heard someone, say, “I’m an adrenaline junkie,” there’s truth to this. Making things happen in a pinch, performing under challenging circumstances, tight timelines, pressing our limits, is its own kind of high thanks to our hormones, our chemical messengers – our stress response. 

However, with the common progression of chronic stressors that are influenced by today’s modern world from both the outside-in and the inside-out, the body-brain gets stuck in a distress predominance state. Even though the body, by design, is constantly attempting to adapt to the myriad of stressors being thrown at it and recalibrate the load becomes too heavy to bear. The body begins to compensate, and you get undesirable changes to your system function, and that ends up causing you problems downstream in the form of weekend immunity (illness) and symptomatology such as weight you can’t lose, sleep you don’t get, blood pressure you can’t control, sex drive you can’t muster, mood changes that nobody likes, and so much more. 

What’s Your Gut Got to Do With Your Hormones? 

Maybe you’ve heard the expression that “shit rolls downhill”? Well, that’s the case here too. The chemical messengers, the stress response, exit upstream from the gut. Day after day, month after month, year after year, when your body-brain is Steeped in Stress, and it has not received the signals of safety that it needs to complete the stress response and “get the message” to flip from your sympathetic nervous system (SNS), also known as fight, flight, freeze to your parasympathetic nervous system (PNS), also known as the rest and digest branch of your central nervous system, all that cortisol cranking out consistently destroys your gut. More specifically, it harms the Intestinal Mucosal Barrier and diminishes its capacity to function well for you. 

  • We are talking about the small intestine and the small intestine’s lining, 18-21 feet long; it runs from your mouth to your anus. 
  • Much like the skin on your body, it provides an absolute physical barrier protecting you from the pathogens and toxins that have no business being in your bloodstream. 
  • 90% of your nutrient absorption and nutrient breakdown occur here. When the mucosal barrier is damaged by the adverse effects of stress (aka leaky gut), its working capacity diminishes. It can’t do its job breaking down and transporting the macronutrients essential to all body-bran functions. 
  • When it can’t do it, the job of protection, nutrient absorption, breakdown, and assimilation means things that aren’t supposed to be spilling over into the bloodstream, leading to an increased toxic burden in the body. 
  • 70% of your immune system is housed in your gut. When things that aren’t supposed to be in the bloodstream have passed through this barrier and are present consistently in the bloodstream, it triggers an immune response. The immune system starts making antibodies and turns your immune system against whatever foreign invader it has tagged as “bad.” Even when that foreign invader is the healthiest of foods, every time you introduce that food, let’s say it’s avocado or asparagus, you trigger an immune system response and inflammation. This immune response kicked on; the immune system begins attacking the healthy cells and the tissues that get caught up in the response. That, my friends, left unattended can lead to the diagnosis of autoimmune disease. 

WOMEN’S HORMONES 101 #ACTION  

Have you heard that all health begins with the gut? While there is a long list of reasons why it is essential to attend to gut health, you can see that all health does not begin with the gut; it begins with STRESS. And those symptoms you’ve been experiencing are the messenger pointing to hormones that may be going haywire. 

An empowering place to start your own healing journey may be with Functional Health Practitioner that can help you get your hands on the appropriate lab testing to find the missing pieces underpinning your imbalances, take a corrective action path to fix what is wrongs, and get back to feeling like your best self again.  Please join us at our upcoming Tea & Talk all about Hormones. Register here.

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