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Hormone Stress and Body Symptoms

The first step in overall health and athletic capabilities, is understanding what hormones are and how to effectively adjust them with the utilization of raw foods and supplementation into your daily diet. By becoming a student of hormones, you will learn how to properly restore your optimal health and performance (athletically, mentally and physically). Within this article, we will discuss symptoms associated with hormone imbalances. In my opinion, Dr. Phil Maffetone has done a great job breaking down complex physiological principles associated with hormones into understandable segments. The following highlights are out of his book: The ABC’s of Hormonal Stress, please don’t get bogged down with the terminology, but instead focus on the end results as it relates to you the individual and athlete.
The main hormones we will be discussing within this article will be cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (also known as DHEA), testosterone, estrogen and progesterone. Imbalances within these hormones can produce various signs and associated symptoms in your everyday life. First a little background on hormones. Hormones are produced from your head down, mainly by glands throughout your body (there are a few produced in organs). The process begins in the hypothalamus of the brain, which is frequently associated with the nervous system. The hypothalamus also produces certain hormones that affect the pituitary gland (also found in the brain) which send the hormone adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) through the system to glands (i.e. adrenals) which in turn are stimulated to produce other hormones. This example is referred to as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. I realize all of that information can quickly become overwhelming, so take moment and re-read the entire paragraph and envision how the body produces and processes hormones.
Hormone production by specific glands comes and goes as needed by the body. Hormones are responsible for helping to regulate stress (in any form), body development, repair and growth. They are also instrumental in facilitating the utilization of sugar and fat for energy and regulating electrolytes and water during exercise.



Cortisol Adrenals DHEA Adrenals TestosteroneAdrenals, ovaries and testes Estrogen Ovaries Progesterone Ovaries Insulin Pancreas

Misc. Thoughts:

DHEA can be converted to estrogen & testosterone in men, testosterone can be converted to estrogen. The three major estrogens include estriol, estradiol and estrone. Both men & women make all three sex hormones – estrogens, progesterone & testosterone. The difference between genders is the amounts: women make more estrogens and progesterone and men make more testosterone.

As we review the various hormones and the affects on your body, the main hormone of review will be cortisol due to it’s presence associated with any stress (physical, chemical or mental) and how it influences numerous other hormones in your body. Clinical studies have illustrated that high levels of cortisol, the other hormones in your body become suppressed. As a result, a common situation (especially with athletes who train too hard and too long) of hormonal imbalance is high cortisol, accompanied with low DHEA, testosterone, progesterone and estrogen levels. When this imbalance presents itself, your body’s ability to repair and rebuild itself is adversely effected. In the world of physiology, we refer to your body’s conditioning in either an anabolic or catabolic state. When you are in an anabolic state, your body is rebuilding as an adaptation to training. It manifests itself in the way of stronger & leaner muscles, denser bones, increased blood vessels and enhanced immune system.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have what is referred to as catabolic physiological state. In a catabolic state, your body is breaking down at levels that are difficult to overcome due to high levels of stress and resulting hormone levels. When the body spends excessive amount of time in a catabolic state, injuries, illness and reduced performance levels are typical symptoms. If you were to have a blood sample drawn when these symptoms are present, you will find high cortisol and low DHEA along with low testosterone levels (in both men and women). In the world of athletic performance, when the athlete is in a catabolic state, the first noticeable characteristic is a reduction in performance. An additional characteristic is found within the mental performance realm in the form of poor memory, reduced concentration and even depression.

One little side note, most hormones within the body (with the exception of insulin) are manufactured from cholesterol. Many studies have illustrated that a low fat diet results in lower levels of some important hormones, with the exception of insulin which has been noted as increasing with a low fat diet.

Hormone imbalances result in a variety of symptoms, below are a few of the most common symptoms that Dr. Maffetone has experienced in his years of practice.
STRESS CYCLE: hormone imbalance is the result of and further provokes additional stress. Many healthy body functions, including brain function, begin to deteriorate.

REDUCED FAT BURNING / POOR WEIGHT REGULATIONS: the high cortisol and low DHEA levels imbalance causes your body to burn more sugar and less fat as a fuel, which in turn causes you to store more fat. Additionally, a low thyroid function is also common with this condition.

ATHLETIC PERFORMANCE: hormonal imbalances can push the body into a chronic catabolic state which will inhibit any physical recovery and ultimate improvement.

PREMENTSTRUAL SYNDROME (PMS): thought to be associated with reduced progesterone, high cortisol, low DHEA and/or the combination of several hormone imbalances.

POOR RECOVERY: high cortisol and low DHEA levels (frequently low testosterone is present)

LOSS OF MUSCULAR STRENGTH AND BONE DENSITY high cortisol and low DHEA levels along with low estrogen and progesterone in women/low testosterone in men.

AMENORRHEA: athletic women who lack a menstrual cycle, are seeing a direct sign from their body that they are under tremendous amounts of stress (of any kind – personal, professional or athletic).

REDUCED IMMUNITY: as the body attempts to adjust to hormonal imbalances, the body becomes fatigued and susceptible of to infections from bacteria, viruses and fungal infections. Normally these symptoms are treated with antibiotics rather than addressing the cause of the problem (i.e. hormonal imbalance) and external stressors (personal, professional and/or physical).

MISC.: symptoms include insomnia, depression and eating disorders. Insomnia occurs when cortisol is too high during the night.

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