Nutrition Information | Exercise and Physiology Information

Harmony of Hormones and Neurotransmitters
Justin Opal, RPT

 

 

Who we are is greatly dictated by the delicate balance of hormones within our bodies. Hormones are regulated by the endocrine system which is sensitive to environment, thought, stress and diet. Hormones and neurotransmitters are chemical messengers that relay vital instructions through out our entire bodies. All of our hormones were designed to be in harmony with each other and nature’s circadian rhythms (night and day cycles and seasons). Even one hormone out of balance will send the whole system into dysfunction. Hormonal dysfunction can lead to weight gain, insomnia, depression, uncontrollable appetite, fatigue, mood swings, inability to think or remember, see, hear and make decisions. As you can see our hormonal health deserves our focus. What we eat and how we live has a major influence on how our hormones work. The increasingly poor diets of today have had massive impacts on our health and hormones. Modern diets have caused chronically high levels of stress, obesity, diabetes, and other degenerative diseases. Little attention has been paid to the importance of hormonal harmony.

Though all is not lost, the time to act is now. Every one of our 100 trillion cells is doing everything it can to make sure we function at optimal levels, but they have to work with what we give and tell them. For example, to fully reap the rejuvenating and revitalizing effects of growth hormone (GH) we need to give our bodies a chance to do their magic. Growth hormone is mainly secreted in short bursts during the later phases of deep sleep. If there is insulin in your blood stream when you go to sleep the proper sequence of events for GH to be secreted is interrupted. Insulin is produced in response to the food we eat and stays in our blood system for 2 to 4 hours. To allow GH to be secreted we need to make sure we have met our nutritional requirements in time to stop eating at least 2 hours before bedtime. This is just one example of how our eating habits affect our hormonal health. Below is a brief overview of our crucial hormones and neurotransmitters.

Anabolic Hormones and Neurotransmitters = cellular repair systems
Insulin: -required to store energy (glucose as glycogen) and synthesize proteins from amino acids
-insulin allows us to use blood sugar in the fuel mix for our cells
-produced in the pancreas after meals and when blood sugar is elevated
-when insulin levels are low you feel tried because your cells do not receive enough glucose
-when insulin levels are high insulin receptors shut down and you store excess glucose as body fat
-elevated insulin levels cause artery and vascular walls to swell, which decrease their diameter and makes it more difficult to circulate nutrients and oxygen
-elevated insulin levels of insulin are the norm for individuals who are over weight due to the fact that insulin production is greatly influenced by body weight
-eating excess carbohydrates and processed foods sends our insulin production through the roof and burns out our receptor sites making it extremely difficult for us to stop our cravings for sweets, which leads us on a downward spiral towards adult-onset diabetes and obesity

Testosterone: -equally important for men and women
-increases muscle mass, metabolic rate, red blood cells and promotes strong bones
-initiates protein synthesis
-promotes the release of growth hormone (GH)

Growth Hormone (GH): -released from the pituitary gland during deep sleep
-provides us with a sense of well being, increases muscle mass, strengthens bones, reduces body fat, and strengthens our immune systems

Serotonin: -a neurotransmitter that affects our cravings, obsessive behavior, appetite, tranquility, peace of mind, and comfort
-serotonin mitigates negative impulses and behaviors
-too much causes nausea and diarrhea, while too little causes a person to be anxious, restless, depressed, impulsive, and aggressive
-serotonin has to be balanced with melatonin (below), imbalances cause increases in stress, poor impulse control, depression, overeating and drinking
-serotonin is produced in the brain from the amino acid tryptophan
-when levels of tryptophan rise and fall so do levels of serotonin

Melatonin: -influences our biological clock
-effects a wide range of functions including fertility, immune function and insulin production
-is the strongest anti-cancer hormone
-made from serotonin
-production and release is influenced by day/night cycles and seasonal variations
-turned on from daylight and off by darkness

Dopamine: -stimulating neurotransmitter
-naturally is released before we wake up and causes that get up and go feeling we should have when waking up
-if you go to bed too late in the dark cycle it will not be released and you’ll feel sluggish and drowsy
-operates the fight or flight response with the release of adrenaline
-causes involuntary movements like blinking, emotional drive and spontaneity
-dopamine reduces with age and can be burnt out faster by abusing drugs like marijuana, speed, crack and cocaine
-dopamine deficiency is known as Parkinson’s disease

Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA): -the most abundant hormone in our bodies
-produced in the adrenal glands
-considered the mother hormone because it is used to produce other hormones such as estrogen, progesterone, testosterone and cortisol
-balanced levels of DHEA send messages to each of our 100 trillion cells to repair, rebuild, restore and revitalize
-improves our memory, mood, immune system and longevity


Catabolic Hormones = cellular degradation
Cortisol: -produced in the adrenal glands
-designed to be a short term coping mechanism to deal with extreme stress
-today most of us function on chronically elevated levels of stress, not only from the obvious causes (work, traffic, politics) but also from poor diets full of processed foods with increase stress on the cellular level to deal with such pollutants
-when cortisol levels are too high the immune system is suppressed, insulin, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels increase which may lead to brain damage

Glucagon: -processes glucose
-balance between insulin and glucagons dictates whether there is storage or depletion of energy stores
-produced in the pancreas and causes increases in blood glucose levels between meals by stimulating the breakdown of glycogen by the liver
-Glucagon increases with age and promotes elevated glucose levels

Epinephrine and Norepinephrine: -both work with cortisol during times of danger to stimulate the nervous system, increase heart rate and make us more alert
-epinephrine is also called adrenalin
-norepinephrine is also called noradrenalin
-too much can cause anxiety attacks and mess up the insulin-glucagon balance

Thyroid Hormone: -controls our resting metabolic rate
-we are very sensitive to any imbalance
-too much increases metabolism, aging, and makes you agitated or jumpy
-too little makes you depressed and unresponsive


We are able to correct dysfunctions with our hormones through lifestyle choices. Diet and exercise are factors that are completely under our control and have a profound influence on our hormonal balance. Meditation and sleep patterns can also help restore the delicate balance. Millions of dollars have been spent on products that try to duplicate what proper nutrition and sleep can do for us naturally. We often spend too much time and energy on factors that we have little control over. Here is a chance to take control and improve how we feel and live. Below an example of a daily menu that can boost our hormonal system and restore balance:

-Breakfast: After fasting for the entire evening it’s important to give your body a nourishing meal to “break the fast”. A combination of 40% protein, 40% carbohydrates and 20% fat will do the trick. This combination may include 1 whole egg and 2 whites from free range chickens fed a healthy diet high in essential fatty acids on a gluten and sugar free piece of toast with a large glass on water.

-Morning snack: Berry-hemp protein smoothie or a mixture of nuts and seeds

-Lunch: A combination similar to breakfast. I highly recommend meals such as a spinach tuna salad or salmon with steamed vegetables and all natural tofu.

-Afternoon snack: raw vegetables or fruit.

-Dinner: Should include complex carbohydrates such as legumes with a high quality source of protein like wild game and more fresh vegetables.

Making hormonally sound nutrition choices is your best strategy to reduce stress, improve your energy levels, food cravings, sleep patterns and mood. The above menu is only one example. It is equally important to not get stuck in a rut of food choices. Variety is more than the spice of life it ensures that we are not slowly developing deficiencies over time. The greater the variety in your diet the greater your chances are of meeting all of your bodies nutritional needs.

Reference: Sam Graci, The Food Connection, Macmillian Canada 2001

For further information check out www.opalathletics.com or contact:
Justin Opal
Cell 604-219-4075
E-mail jopal@opalathletics.com