Those of us who monitor the physical condition of our horses know that strong bones, a glossy coat, and stamina are all positive indicators. Similarly, we know that we ourselves are fit if we feel strong and energized and enjoy life.
But what we may not understand is that all these signs of good health are rooted in a balanced endocrine system and properly functioning hormones.
Balanced hormones = a balanced life
When people consider the subject of hormones, they generally think about women who use hormone replacement therapy (HRT) to ease the passage through late middle age. If you're a woman in your 30s or 40s, you may not even want to use the word menopause to describe some of the symptoms you're experiencing. If you're a post-menopausal woman, you may not connect some of your current health concerns with hormonal problems. And if you're a man with health issues, the idea of hormonal imbalance may be so foreign as to not even occur to you.
However, the fact is that the multiple and varied hormones produced by the endocrine system rule our physical and emotional welfare in significant ways. They travel throughout the body as messengers that stimulate metabolism and growth, organ health (including heart and kidney), reproductive function, and psychological well-being. When hormonal imbalances occur, these functions also become unstable.
Menopause for her, andropause for him
For many women, menopause can be a roller coaster ride providing a dramatic display of hormonal imbalance. Symptoms may begin as early as the 30s or as late as the mid-50s, and include the well-known signs of hot flashes, night sweats, moodiness, lack of energy and lowered libido, memory loss, and weight gain. Some women also suffer from more serious medical issues,
These signs of hormonal imbalance are caused primarily by a faulty relationship between levels of progesterone and estrogen. These two female hormones exist in a delicate dance, with varying amounts having varying effects on a woman's health. The amounts of these hormones that a woman's body produces from month to month depend primarily on ovulation (or the lack thereof), but also on important factors such as nutrition, stress, and exercise.
Hormonal imbalances can also create difficulties for men. Andropause?or male menopause is no myth. It affects many men, although most of them do not frame it as a genuine syndrome. Caused by lowered testosterone levels (which can occur at any age), it results in a lack of energy and vitality and a loss of interest in work and social life, even for men with successful professional lives who are used to being intellectually and physically active.
A double balance Surprisingly, women need testosterone, and men require estrogen.
A recent study has shown that lowered testosterone is an independent risk factor for heart disease, regardless of proper diet, sufficient exercise, and cholesterol management. Why Testosterone is an anabolic steroid, and anabolic steroids build bone and muscle and the heart is the largest muscle in the body.
Men also require the correct ratio of estrogen to testosterone. When they start losing testosterone, they start overproducing estrogen, which can diminish a man's ability to perform sexually.
And too little estrogen is now being linked to Alzheimer's disease in both men and women.
The importance of adult growth hormone
Human growth hormone is one of several endocrine hormones whose levels decline as we age. As its name suggests, it is a hormone that helps humans grow in many valuable ways it supports tissue repair, muscle growth and bone strength, metabolism, and brain function (including mental health and memory).
Adult growth hormone deficiency is now recognized as a clinical syndrome with numerous effects, including increased body fat, decreased muscle mass and lower bone density, higher cholesterol levels, reduced cardiac and kidney performance, lower immunity, and thinning skin. Psychological effects include a reduced sense of well being, low energy and loss of libido, mood swings, anxiety, and depression.
Take control of your hormonal health
Hormone therapies can provide a better quality of life for both women and men. But there is a fundamental difference between hormone replacement and hormone regulation.
People need to take control of their own hormonal health management by insisting on more responsive protocols from their doctors. This does not mean abandoning conventional medical treatment, but rather expanding hormone therapies to ensure that hormonal imbalances are addressed specifically through proper hormonal compounds, proper diet, and proven nutritional supplements.
The first step in any regimen of hormone regulation is blood work that establishes your current hormone levels. These panels are useful to help doctors regulate unbalanced hormones for patients ranging from an overactive child who might otherwise be placed automatically on drug therapy, to a moody teenager with unchecked hormones, to a woman struggling with postpartum depression because of depleted progesterone.
Traditional practitioners will not always meet your demands with acceptance. Patients have to face doctors who tell them not to worry about a natural rite of passage or the effects of stress. The fact is that historically most doctors have received only minimal training in endocrinology during their medical residencies and may lack comprehensive understanding of the specific roles that hormones play in overall health. For women this may mean prescriptions for incorrect levels of synthetic HRT or unnecessary surgeries, and for men this may create reticence in confiding problems related to hormonal imbalance.
Explore all hormone therapy options
For menopausal women, serious questions have been raised about the safety of conventional HRT, which relies on hormones synthesized from animals or created in a lab that have come under scientific scrutiny because of the risks of stroke and heart attack.
One alternative is the use of bio-identical hormones natural hormones that mimic the hormones produced in our bodies. Some require the help of a compounding pharmacist and many are used and recommended by highly qualified medical doctors and other health-care practitioners. They include natural estrogens, progesterone, and testosterone (available in capsules and as creams), and DHEA.
DHEA is the most common steroid in the body, produced mainly by the adrenal glands and metabolized into other sex hormones, including testosterone and the estrogens, and up to 150 individual metabolites. Youthful DHEA levels are closely associated with good health-after age 35, declining levels have been connected to heart disease, diabetes, Alzheimer's disease, and other maladies. Supplementing with DHEA may allow the body to select and synthesize required hormones, resulting in an amazing range of benefits, including lowering cholesterol, burning fat, and boosting the immune system.
In a similar manner, adult growth hormone deficiency can be effectively addressed through a medically supervised program of recombinant human growth hormone therapy. Research results show decreased fat tissue, enhanced muscle and bone strength, improved cholesterol balance (higher HDL, lower LDL), better cardiovascular and kidney function and lower blood pressure, a healthier immune system, and healthier hair and skin. Other benefits include improved mental functioning and emotional stability.
Nutrition is #1
Eating well provides the best natural support for balanced hormonal health. Anyone beginning a hormone regulation protocol needs to be especially conscientious about nutrition, seeking out wholesome foods and special supplements that contribute to hormonal health.
Shop wisely at the grocery store --and start new habits
Seek out fresh fruits (particularly blueberries, raspberries, papaya, and mangos) and vegetables (especially cauliflower, broccoli, leafy greens, and yams); lean meats; essential omega-3 fatty acids found in certain fish, flaxseed, walnuts, and pumpkin seeds; soy products; and nuts, raisins, and other healthy snacks.
Check food labels to avoid metabolic disruptors like nitrosamines and sodium nitrite, and cook with healthy oils like canola and olive oil. Steer clear of chemicals, transfats, hydrogenated oils, and preservatives, as well as sweets and pastries. Don't skip meals. Eat smaller portions. And stay away from fast food.
Finally, try adding new foods to your diet: Substitute different grains, such as spelt, for wheat, and rice milk or almond milk for cow's milk. For beverages, try iced herbal teas and juices. And drink plenty of water during the day?it is a commonly overlooked and beneficial nutrient.
Take your vitamins Numerous supplements support hormonal balance. Among them are:
B-complex vitamins. B6, B12, and folic acid are particularly important for both men and women. These vitamins control elevated levels of the amino acid homocysteine, which is now regarded as a major contributor to cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer's, osteoporosis, infertility, and spontaneous abortions.
- Calcium, magnesium, and vitamins D and K for healthy bones
- Antioxidants (with vitamins A, C, E, and beta-carotene)
Be kinder to yourself
We're all getting older, but that doesn't mean we must lose our love of life and the vitality that makes it worth living. Just as there are positive steps you can take to encourage overall health and hormonal balance, there are negatives you can strike from your life: Stop smoking, cut down on alcohol and caffeine, and turn off the TV and move.
Health really is the foundation for everything else that we build. Always work with your doctor to put in place new programs for hormonal regulation or diet and exercise. Then step forward into the next chapter of your life
Remember: Genuine well being and balanced health comes from informed self-management of all your health choices.
"The Nutritional Approach to Conventional Medicine Is the Key to Perfect Health."
Rossana Figuerola, an international expert in human and animal nutrition, holds an M.S. in holistic nutrition, a doctorate (N.D.) in traditional naturopathy, and a Ph.D. in naturopathic science. She has studied Chinese medicine and botanical compounds in the Amazon, and is the founder of the Figuerola Research Foundation, Figuerola Group INC., and Figuerola Laboratories, which maintains a complete line of high-end nutraceuticals. http://www.figuerola-labs.com/ . She breeds and promotes Peruvian Horses, producing ?Alma, Corazón, y Vida? (?Soul, Heart, and Life?), a documentary on The Peruvian Horse filmed in Peru and USA, and has written articles on equine health for many national and international magazines. With her sons, Antonio and Alejandro, she is involved in a variety of philanthropic efforts, including humanitarian causes in South America, a water-wells project in Africa, and the creation of an international foundation in memory of her late husband, Alfonso Figuerola, to support early-childhood education in disadvantaged communities.
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