The endocrine system is made up of ductless glands that produce hormones. These hormones are messengers, signals or “cellular directors” that affect cells throughout the body. Hormones affect or regulate every tissue, organ and system in the bodymind. They must be balanced to activate the body’s powerful systems of repair and self-healing. This is why it is the first pillar in the 7 Pillars of Healing.
The endocrine system is the most powerful control system in the human body. The breadth and depth of its action is only rivaled by the microbiome – our bacterial reality that establishes our physical unity with all life on earth.
Most people live in a state of glandular depression and hormonal disruption. Hormones can go wrong because of poor nutrition or sleep, dis-stress, environmental toxins, heavy metals, vaccines and other pharmaceutical drugs, manmade radiation and more. This reduces our ability to adapt to life’s stresses. Clinically, in natural functional medicine, to restore and maintain the strength and balance of the endocrine system, which increases vitality and resilience, we use two primary principles:
- To clear and unburden, through detoxification and autoantibody reduction, and
- To feed and build through nutrition (diet and food-based supplementation) and herbal medicine.
A wholistic perspective on the endocrine system includes the principle that its central pole is the HPA axis, more accurately described as the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Thyroid-Pancreas-Adrenal-Gonadal axis. The hypothalamus is the bridge between the mind and the body, between the nervous system and the endocrine system. It is triggered by thought, and manifests that thought in the body through the hormones. So, the hypothalamus embodies thought. It translates thought into a bodymind experience, through the endocrine system.
Circumstances → Central Nervous System (CNS) / Choice Point → Hypothalamus → Pituitary
→ Other Endocrine Glands ( e.g. thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, gonads (testes and ovaries).
Now this flow is not in just one direction. There are many feedback loops which tell the CNS and hypothalamus what the resulting hormone levels are, and whether more stimulation is needed or if there’s enough. The hypothalamus also responds to light, smells, blood sugar and infections.
Neurosurgeon Russel Blaylock, MD, one of the courageous physicians who has exposed the irrefutable truth that vaccines do far more harm than good, writes in “Aspartame, MSG, Excitotoxins & the Hypothalamus”: “The hypothalamus is a small area of the brain, no larger than the fingernail, that despite its small size, is responsible for controlling some of the most vital neural systems in the body. The wiring of the hypothalamus is some of the most complex in the nervous system, with connections not only to the pituitary, but also to the limbic system (emotional control system), hippocampus, striatum and brain stem. Through these connections it regulates emotions, autonomic control (parasympathetic and sympathetic), hunger and satiety, immunity, memory input, and anger control. Disruptions in this vital piece of brain can result in anything from minor behavioral problems or endocrine malfunctions to major disruptions in sexual functions, obesity, immune suppression and endocrine gland failure.”
The hypothalamus, even with our current and incomplete knowledge, is critical to regulating nearly all aspects of body function. And so, anything we do to positively affect it has broad benefit to the bodymind. There are three main ways to improve hypothalamic balance and function:
1. Inner Shift: change the Choice Point: opening to a larger sense of who we are (identity); choosing compassion in how we see situations (perception); giving most of our attention to what is right with ourselves and others; maintaining an attitude of thankfulness, gratitude and appreciation; expressing kindness and integrity in our relationships.
2. Nutrition: a nutrient-dense, low-glycemic, whole-foods diet, high in healthy fats, protein, vegetables and fruits, and low in sugar, wheat, pasteurized dairy and genetically modified foods. And the correct nutritional supplementation specific to hypothalamic function. Finally, diet and correct supplementation is the best way to optimize the health of the gut microbiome, which also strongly regulates the HPA axis.
3. Botanical Medicine: the phytochemicals in medicinal herbs remove the roadblocks that can impede optimal function and vitality.
Currently the most popular approach these days with most physicians is to use Hormone Replacement Therapy. This is where the actual hormone, (i.e. Testosterone, Estrogen, Progesterone), is given in a chosen delivery to the body directly. In the short term the patient will feel the quickest change, but as with most reductionist approach drugs, the long term effects are counterproductive and have significant health risks.
I have treated many patients who have been harmed by synthetic isolate supplements and pharmaceutical drugs to manipulate neurotransmitters and hormones, and helped far more using food- and plant-based supplements to naturally encourage optimal hypothalamic function.
Over-the-counter drugs / synthetic hormone replacement like Testosterone, Estrogen, DHEA and melatonin should be avoided, or used briefly and with great caution under professional supervision. In most countries, DHEA is properly regulated as a drug, and not as a supplement, as it is in the US. It activates the feedback loop which regulates its production, and will often lead to atrophy of the adrenal glands.
All Hormone Replacement Therapy, this include birth control, results in reducing the body’s own production of that specific hormone via this bio-feedback loop. As a result it ends up being counterproductive in the long term.
It makes sense first to rebuild and support your body’s endocrine glands to enhance your own production of these hormones. This will lead to balance in the body as a whole.
THE NUTRITIONAL APPROACH
In 1921, Sir Robert McCarrison observed that the endocrine glands were among the first structures to atrophy or degenerate following nutritional deficiencies.
Glands must have vitamins A, B, C, and E complexes, potassium, zinc, manganese, calcium, magnesium, enzymes, essential fatty acids (including omega-3s), total protein, and all other nutrients to function and produce hormones as they should. Dr. Royal Lee questioned the logic of treating a person who had starved, atrophic endocrine glands with hormone drugs when the proper nutrition might revive those glands “into something like normal activity.” Before atrophy becomes irreparable, real nutrition can produce profound improvements by feeding the glands so they perform properly. “Certainly the nutritional approach is the best if it offers any practical possibility of results, for it cannot do harm while the hormone approach may.”
Consumption of altered fats can upset hormonal systems. Refined oils, partially hydrogenated fats, fried foods, and other fat fiddlers adversely affect glands and the hormones they produce. Steroid hormones are formed from cholesterol; food sources are often avoided. Refined sugars and flours as well as altered fats may wreak havoc on cholesterol composition and metabolism and increase chances of glucose intolerance.
Some studies indicate that advancing age does not necessarily affect some hormones. Other hormones which are affected by time perhaps should not be manipulated – there may be good reasons why they decline. Lassitude, insomnia, depression, or plummeting potency may be among the signals to lose some weight, eat more wholesome foods, take food supplements, exercise more, and/or stop smoking – rather than inexorable signs of aging.
Increasing levels of and exposure to pollution and toxic chemicals disrupt hormones. Turning to organically-raised foods and avoiding as many toxins as possible may go far in preserving healthy hormonal levels.
No one has shown that hormone drugs or supplements containing high-potency, synthetic or
isolated ‘nutrients’ will add years to people’s lives. Many of these potions can cause harmful side effects. “The right balance of hormones helps us stay healthy, but the wrong amount can be dangerous.” Instead of taking something into the body that may stimulate, suppress, imbalance, or disrupt, it makes more sense to supply the body with whole, natural foods and food concentrates that will allow the body itself to build and balance whatever it needs. No one knows as much about an individual’s body as that individual’s body.
I have found that Standard Process food-based supplements, with 80% of their ingredients coming from their own beyond-organic farm, to provide the best results, in the least time, with the fewest side effects. Natural foods and supplements provide the building blocks and raw materials, like the lumber needed to build a house. In addition I use botanical herbal formulas to facilitate and activate the endocrine glands of the body. This in combination with the proper rebuilding nutritional support my patients can see changes sooner.