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Hormone homeostasis

Our human body is an incredibly sophisticated and coordinated system. Essential to the functioning of this system are hormones - the endocrine system.

Hormones are molecules produced by cells that have different effects. Cells therefore act on each other (or on themselves) through hormones. A hormone produced by a particular cell can travel almost anywhere in the circulation. 

Hormones are sensed by so-called "receptors" located on the walls of cells. As soon as the receptor senses the hormone (the hormone binds to it) it starts to act-ultimately the hormones send a signal to the nucleus where various gene changes (in the DNA) are triggered. So ultimately it is the genes that are responsible for the hormones' actions.

There are many hormones in our bodies - each with different effects - and their levels are constantly changing - so our DNA and genes are constantly changing. The levels of some hormones influence other hormones, of one hormone is upset, it will affect many other hormones (domino effect). It is therefore very important to balance hormone levels.

If a hormone is continuously overproduced over a long period of time, the receptor that senses that hormone will eventually become desensitised, leading to hormone resistance. The best known example of this is insulin resistance, where the hormone insulin, which is essential for regulating blood sugar levels, is barely recognised by its receptors.

If a hormone continues to be overproduced, the cells that produce it are damaged and less of it becomes available - this is the case in type II diabetes (pancreatic insulin production is damaged), adrenal fatigue (cortisol production is damaged), etc.

As we age, we produce less of certain hormones, the best example being sex hormones.

In men, testosterone levels begin to decline over time, with unpleasant symptoms such as loss of libido, impotence, fatigue and depression. To increase testosterone levels, the best known herb is cherry melon (tribulus terrestris) extract.

In women, as they age, estrogen levels decline and menopause sets in, where menstrual periods, which used to be monthly, cease, and the levels of several other hormones (serotonin, insulin, etc.) are disrupted in addition to estrogen. We also recommend supplements such as Maca and Dong Quai extracts to prevent early menopause and relieve the disconforts with menopause.

In women, the other major problem is oestrogen dominance, whereby oestrogen levels are higher, which is associated with a number of other hormonal changes (e.g. insulin resistance, higher testosterone levels). Herbs containing phytoestrogens that have anti-estrogenic effects may help in the treatment of oestrogen dominance. These include Yam root, yarrow, milk thisle, chamomile and dandelion. 

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