Hormones are chemical messengers produced by the various Endocrine glands in the body. The Endocrine glands are the Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Pineal, Thyroid, Parathyroid, Pancreas (Insulin), Adrenals, Ovaries & Testicles.
Figure 1 shows a Diagram of all the Endocrine glands (Hormone producing glands) in the body.
Hormones are amino acids (smaller units of proteins) linked together called Polypeptides. They are chemical messengers (keys) secreted from the endocrine glands (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Pineal, Thyroid, Parathyroid, Pancreas (Insulin), Adrenals, Ovaries / Testicles) into the blood stream
Hormones play a delicate and Complex role in our bodies affecting essentially all other Body organ systems and functions
Hormones are broadly classified as Fat (Lipid) soluble & Water soluble.
Fat Soluble (Long acting) hormones: Steroid Hormones (Estradiol, Testosterone, DHEA, Progesterone), Thyroid hormones & Vitamin D.
Once the hormone is secreted, because it is not water soluble, it has to be bound to a carrier protein molecule (Total hormone) for transportation. Upon reaching the target tissues, the carrier protein detaches from the hormone, setting it free (Free hormone)
The Free hormone then binds with (or goes into) a receptor site (lock on a door) on the Nucleus of the Tissue (Cell) (Figure 2) similar to a Lock and Key Mechanism. If the Hormone (Key) fits the receptor (Lock) properly, then the desired reaction is produced.
Once the Hormone enters the nucleus, it may regulate DNA and RNA production, the synthesis of cell proteins, production of enzymes, and influence the energy-producing center of each cell (Mitochondria), thereby helping the Cells & Organs function effectively and efficiently (Figure 3).
Water Soluble (Short-acting) hormones: include Epinephrine (Catecholamines), Proteins, polypeptides, and glycoproteins.
They are water-soluble, bind to the receptors on the Cell wall initiating a Hormone-receptor complex that mediates the actions.
Hormones play a vital and Critical role in maintaining Brain function, protecting the Heart, Strengthening Bones, regulating our body’s response to stress, maintain blood sugar levels, regulate menstruation, kidney function, and sexual function to name a few. Thus hormones play a dominant role in maintaining both our mental and physical well-being.
As we age, hormone production begins to decrease. This decrease in Hormone levels leads to decreased cellular stimulation, decreased cellular repair, decreased protein synthesis, which causes an inability of the cell to regenerate and gradual destruction of the cell. This is the process of Aging.
Bio-Identical Hormone Replacement Therapy (BHRT) is one of the important strategies for Age Management. It is the science of achieving Hormonal balance and Ideal health & wellness by restoring Hormonal levels similar to when we were younger.
Such restoration of Ideal Hormone levels may improve many of the diseases associated with Aging and help lead a healthier, happier life.
Brief History of Hormones:
Since the 1900’s conventional Medicine has utilized synthetic hormones of Equine origin for hormone replacement. Even today, most physicians including Gynecologists prescribe a combination of a Synthetic Estrogen and Progestin as the First line of Hormone replacement therapy.
Bio-Identical Hormones have been available since the 1930’s. When taken orally, Hormones which are peptides are destroyed by the Stomach acid. Hence they had to be given in an Oily Injection form, which was very painful. Also, anything that is Natural cannot be patented. Hence Pharmaceutical companies had the Incentive to manufacture synthetic Conjugated Equine Estrogen (CEE) and Progestins.
In the 1970’s Estrogen-only treatment was popular, until an increased incidence of Endometrial Cancer was identified with Estrogen-only treatment.
In the 1980’s when researchers observed a significant reduction of endometrial cancer in women who had adequate Progesterone balancing the Estrogen, a Synthetic Progesterone (Progestin) was developed.
In the late 1980’s with the advent of Micronization (reducing molecular size), Bio-Identical hormones (Estradiol, Estriol, Testosterone and Progesterone) could now be used orally and via Transdermal routes.
CEE is synthesized from a Pregnant Mare (Horse’s) Urine. In the WHI (Women’s Health Initiative) study, a combination of Premarin and Provera (Medroxy Progesterone Acetate) was used, which showed an increased risk of Breast cancer and DVT’s. This increased risk was shown to be due to the presence of Estrogens called Equilin and Equilenin that are specific to the Equine (Horse) species. These Estrogens produce metabolites that can cause Hypertension (High BP).
Most Physicians erroneously use Progestins and Micronized Progesterone synonymously. Progestin’s (Synthetic) have the opposite effect of Progesterone (Bio-Identical).
Factors affecting hormone production include:
- Aging / Senescence
- Nutritional deficiencies
- Exposure to toxins
- Lack of exercise
- Endocrine disorders
- Sleep disorders
- Lack of sunlight
- Some prescription and non-prescription medications