What are hormones exactly?
I remember at a young age, I had dreams about hormones. They looked like animated keys with smiling faces, and were traveling through my veins. There were lots of them in different colors but mostly purple and orange, I don’t know why. But I do know why I dreamed about them. I’ve been struggling with health and menstrual problems from a very young age. I have had many different types of research done and plenty of doctors trying to explain to me how everything works. They told me that hormones work as keys, that only match a specific lock, somewhere in the body. Because I visualize all information I receive, I’ve been visualizing hormones like this. Of course I began to realise hormones don’t look like keys, but I still had no idea what they actually looked like.
At this moment these crazy little things, turn my life upside-down, and it has everything to do with the tumor on my pituitary. It causes an increase of prolactin as I wrote about in my last blog, and I feel like it disturbs my whole hormonal balance. People who know me, know I’m not very shy and I don’t get anxious that quickly. But since my hormones are so out of balance, I get anxiety like you would get a hot flash in menopause. And I know how hot flashes feel since I’ve experienced menopause when I was 17. It amazes me what impact hormones have on your body and your mind. They are fundamental to making us who we are. But what are hormones exactly? And what the hell do they look like? I really want to know more about them. Because I believe when I understand them, I would better understand myself. That’s why I’m trying to educate myself by doing research, read and learn more about them.
So, I learned that the word hormone is originally from the Greek word ‘hormon’, which means: set in motion. And that is literally what they do. Hormones are chemicals that work as communication between our cells. They regulate so many processes in our bodies. For example our growth (they turn us from children into adults), our appetite, and of course the menstrual cycle. But if something goes wrong in this communication, the body will get sick. Behind a lot of diseases, hormones play a big role. There are more than 80 different hormones in the human body, together they form the endocrine system. It’s last of the systems to be discovered, but one of the most important factors in running and regulating our bodies (Professor Wass, The Fantastical World of Hormones).
Unlocking the hormone mystery
I had no idea that the endocrine system is completely invisible. I thought hormones looked kind of similar to blood cells. It’s only now that I’ve learned they’re invisible. Every hormone has a different molecular structure, but they all work the same. They match the cells with the same chemical structure and when they “unlock the lock” it changes the way the cell behaves to make it perform a specific task. Think about when adrenaline reaches the heart, it makes it beat faster. Or progesterone making the endometrium (the lining of the womb) to prepare for implantation. It’s crazy when you realize that the study of hormones is just over a hundred years old. There have been a lot of amazing discoveries, but it probably is going to take many years before we know everything about them.
My Pituitary - my body thermostat
The pituitary plays a big role in regulating our hormone levels. It’s like a household thermostat, that makes sure levels of many hormones never get too high or too low. When some levels have gone wrong it sends a message to some of the major glands, getting them to produce more or less. This is what I find really interesting since I have a tumor on my pituitary. I’m not sure if prolactin is directly related to stress and anxiety, but I wonder if my production or cortisol is out of balance, because the pituitary is having a hard time regulating it due to the tumor. If anyone knows more about this, I would love to hear it!
How to find hormonal balance
So what I’m trying to do is to understand how hormones work, so I can do everything that I can to balance them again. There are so many things that influence your hormonal balance, for example, the menstrual products you use - as I wrote about in my Mondays blog 'Tampons, Pads & Cupcakes'. But our food and stress are one of the biggest factors that play a huuuge role in hormonal imbalance.
Things you can do to have a positive impact on your hormones
- Eat enough protein
- Consume healthy fats
- Consume Omega-3 (fatty fish is a good source of Omega-3)
- Avoid sugar
- Manage stress
- Get enough (high quality) sleep
Stress seems to play a role
Right now I’m focusing on balancing prolactin and cortisol. Especially cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone. It requires other and specific actions to balance this hormone. If you are curious about what I’m doing, feel free to reach out to me. And if you have good advice, please let me know! I’m a hundred percent sure my cortisol is out of balance because I experience a lot of symptoms such as: anxiety (spontaneous), sleeping problems, I am tired in the morning & but have energy in the evening (a sign of disruption of the cortisol cycle), a fast heartbeat all the time, irritable, and low energy. Research shows that prolactin levels rise significantly in a number of situations associated with stress. So if I control my cortisol and stress, could that be a natural way to cure my prolactinoma? And if I cure my pituitary, will it then be able to regulate and restore my menstruation? It all seems like a big puzzle, lucky me I like to puzzle and play games.
Can't live with them - can't live without them
Hormones are such crazy, mysterious and powerful little things. They control our bodies and rule our lives. We need them. And all I want is for me and them to become friends again, instead of pulling each other down.
by Louka, July 2020
Read more about Louka & her incredible journey with (n)ever-ending periods - all told with incredible honesty and bravery.
Start with her first guest post of Mondays with Louk