How Hormones Influence Your Body And Mind


Published:

We like to think we are in charge of our own behavior -- that our thoughts are under our conscious control and that our actions are mostly reasonable. But our behavior is also in the sway of an ancient system of mind control: hormones. These protein messengers are best known for their fundamental duty as regulators -- think of insulin and blood sugar, for example -- but they also bathe the brain in chemical information that tells us about the world around us and the people in it.

Can a surge in a particular hormone make us feel and act like a totally different person? And if so, are we right to blame our out-of-control moments on some kind of biochemical signalling? Here, we look at some of the big notions about how hormones mess with your head and sift fact from fiction.

Oxytocin Equal Love

Of all the hormones, oxytocin undoubtedly has the best PR. Widely known as the love hormone and the cuddle chemical, it has a reputation for spreading goodwill among humankind. It has even been touted as a potential treatment for autism, anxiety, depression and chronic pain.

Released during childbirth, breastfeeding and orgasm, oxytocin induces maternal and mate-bonding behaviour in many animals, including ourselves. In 2005, the possibility of hacking this system first reared its head when researchers found that people given an oxytocin nasal spray were more likely to trust others around them. Subsequent studies have found that sniffing oxytocin increases generosity, cooperation and empathy. Now the sprays are sold online, promising to improve your sex life, reduce anxiety and create feelings of trust.

But not everyone believes the hype. Reviewing the evidence in a paper published last year, Mike Ludwig at the University of Edinburgh, UK, pointed out that no one has replicated the 2005 trust experiment, and that even the original researchers are backing away from its conclusions.

Nor has it been proven that oxytocin can cross the blood-brain barrier. Studies of cerebrospinal fluid taken from people who had sniffed the hormone just beforehand suggest that it might, but it is too early to say for sure, Ludwig says.

Even if oxytocin does indeed enter the brain, its effects appear to depend on context. Studies in mice suggest it alters brain circuitry so as to focus attention on socially relevant cues. Transplant such an effect to humans’ complex social lives and it could be a double-edged sword, promoting group bonding but perhaps also increasing hostility to outsiders. Other studies suggest that large doses of oxytocin may increase anxiety by making people oversensitive to what others say about them. All things considered, it might be best to get our warm and fuzzy feelings from real cuddles for the time being.

Ever felt ready to fight for the last biscuit? “Hanger” -- feeling angry due to hunger -- is incredibly common, and ghrelin, the so-called “hunger hormone”, is implicated. Released when the stomach is empty, it triggers a rise in levels of neuropeptide Y (NPY), a neurotransmitter involved in making us want to eat -- and in regulating anger and aggression. People with intermittent explosive disorder, characterised by impulsive aggression, have above-average levels of NPY.

What’s more, the more NPY in circulation, the greater the fall in the level of another neurotransmitter, serotonin. Low serotonin has been linked with reduced communication between the amygdala -- the brain’s threat detector -- and the prefrontal cortex, which regulates emotional responses. In such a situation, it might be harder to rein in emotions when we are stressed.

But hormone and neurotransmitter levels alone don’t dictate whether you are likely to lose it when peckish. The amount of connectivity between prefrontal cortex and amygdala varies between individuals, suggesting that some people may be more predisposed to hanger.

Those who are can take comfort from the idea that it could well be an adaptive trait. “From an animal perspective, being angry -- and possibly more aggressive -- when you’re hungry can certainly increase the chances of survival,” says Luca Passamonti, a neuroscientist at the University of Cambridge.

Is Cortisol The Bad Guy?

Cortisol is widely thought of as the bad guy, a “stress hormone” linked to chronic health conditions, and therefore many think its level in the body should be lowered at all costs. Supplements are sold online that claim to help rid the body of the stuff.

This might not be such a good idea, however. Cortisol’s job is to trigger the release of glucose into the bloodstream. This happens first thing in the morning to provide a much-needed energy boost to get us out of bed. And in times of stress, it gives us the energy to respond to a mental or physical challenge.

In the right context, then, cortisol is definitely not bad for you. People with Addison’s disease, who produce too little of it or none at all, experience debilitating symptoms including fatigue, and require daily treatment to top up the hormone. On the other hand, too much cortisol in the long term affects the brain in a number of ways. It can impair the generation of new cells in the hippocampus, a region involved in memory, and is also implicated in depression.

“It’s not the absolute level of cortisol that matters, so much as the pattern of cortisol reactivity and recovery,” says stress researcher Matthew Stults-Kolehmainen at Columbia University in New York. Fortunately there is a simple way to achieve a beneficial pattern. Regular exercisers experience useful cortisol surges, says Stults-Kolehmainen, and levels drop quickly after the stress of exercise has passed.

Testosterone Makes Men Seek

Raging testosterone has been blamed for everything from wars to hooliganism to the banking crisis. Yet its reputation for putting men on the attack does not stand up to scrutiny.

A study published last year, for example, showed that although high testosterone levels are linked to status-seeking behaviour, the form that behaviour takes depends on social norms. While men given an injection of testosterone were more likely to punish someone who treated them unfairly in a game, they were also more likely to reciprocate if their opponent was generous.

As for baldness, contrary to popular belief, it isn’t a sign of high testosterone levels. Hair loss is down to an enzyme called 5-alpha-reductase, which converts testosterone to dihydrotestosterone, a compound that causes hair follicles to shrink and die. Just a small amount of testosterone is enough to make a destructive dose of dihydrotestosterone, and genetics determines both the amount of the enzyme a man produces and how sensitive his follicles are to its product.

The idea that falling testosterone causes a male menopause is also largely a myth. Testosterone falls by an average of 1 percent per year after the age of 30, but only 2 percent of men experience full-blown symptoms, including loss of libido, a drop in physical fitness and fatigue. In most cases, the cause is not the age-related drop in testosterone, but being overweight. Abdominal fat converts testosterone to oestrogen and it’s likely that this causes the symptoms, says Herman Leliefeld, a urologist based in the Netherlands.

This article was republished from Prevent Disease.

See also:
Empower Your Adrenal Glands To Treat Pain With Traditional Indian Healing
The Ecology Of Estrogen In The Female Body

Edit Module
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags

Daily Astrology

September 22, 2019

Shortly after midnight the Moon settles into her home base, Cancer. The quiet pleasures of familiar places is accented, although a late morning lunar sextile to Uranus may bring unexpected messages or surprise visitors. An informal gathering of close…
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Alternative Health Directory

Browse all listings »

Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit ModuleShow Tags

Calendar

September 2019

It’s time for a workshop!  One plus one always equals two. In a similar fashion EFT plus Law of Attraction always equals effective and positive change. Teaching Emotional Freedom...

Cost: $40

Where:
21 Wiles Farm Road
Northboro, MA
View map »


Sponsor: Medicine My Way
Telephone: 508-523-7132
Website »

More information

In this 90 minute workshop you will find clarity in what brings you joy. You will create your personal vision statement that will help guide you to living a more satisfied, balanced life. This...

Cost: $25 early-bird till 9/20 ($30 after)

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

Witness the healing power of mediumship! Join New England's own trusted spirit medium Raylene Sousa and top UK medium Dominic Boag from Scotland for an afternoon of spirit messages. If...

Cost: $40

Where:
The Little Meetinghouse
723 Roosevelt Trail
Windham, ME  04062
View map »


Sponsor: Raylene Sousa Medium LLC
Telephone: 207-956-0220
Contact Name: Raylene Sousa
Website »

More information

Come shine with us! Join us in harmony and in our goal to bring the light of Spiritualism forward to all those who are searching.

Where:
VFW Post 2597
775 Boston Rd, Rt 3A
Billerica, MA
View map »


Sponsor: The Spiritualist Fellowship Church Of New England
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

2nd and 4th Monday of every month This psychic message circle is for anyone wishing to raise their connection using their psychic centers known as the “clairs.” Learn how to use...

Cost: $20

Where:
Messages From Heaven Healing and Learning Center
646 Central Street
Suite 3
Leominster, MA
View map »


Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Members of the Reflexology Association of NH will be offering “mini” hand or foot reflexology sessions at the Salt Cave within Bien Soigne in honor of World Reflexology Week.

Cost: Donations suggested $15 - $20

Where:
Bien Soigne Salt Cave
350 North Broadway
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: Reflexology Association of NH
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

September 25–October 29, 2019 Expert Tai Chi instructor and Qigong Master Instructor Terry Dunn will be giving a total of four five-day intensive workshops in October 2019 at Eastover...

Where:
Eastover Estate & Retreat
430 East Street
Lenox, MA  01240
View map »


Telephone: 866-264-5139
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

September 26–29 This training at the Center for Mindfulness and Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy (MBCT) uses mindfulness meditation and cognitive therapy to break the cycle of...

Cost: $1,390

Where:
Center for Mindfulness and Compassion
1035 Cambridge St, Suite 21A
Cambridge, MA  02141
View map »


Sponsor: Center for Mindfulness and Compassion
Telephone: 617-591-6132
Contact Name: Center for Mindfulness and Compassion
Website »

More information

Come detox, relax and renew yourself for the fall in our sanctuary! We have an intimate gathering of great readers and healers providing services at sampler rates to enjoy their services while...

Cost: $60: 3 Pack Service Special; $25: Single Service

Where:
Healing Power Of Flowers—Heaven and Earth
68 Stiles Rd
Salem, NH  03079
View map »


Sponsor: The Healing Power of Flowers - Heaven and Earth
Telephone: 603-275-7688
Contact Name: Stacey Smith
Website »

More information

Mirabai Starr was an adjunct professor of Philosophy and World Religions at the University of New Mexico-Taos for 20 years. Her emphasis has always been on making connections between the perennial...

Cost: $20

Where:
First Parish in Lexington
7 Harrington Road
Lexington, MA  02420
View map »


Sponsor: Lexington Community Education
Telephone: 781-862-8043
Contact Name: Craig Hall
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Maryellen Labelle, David Sholemson and Steve Cunningham are excited to announce Qigong for Inner Peace teacher training fall term 2019. This 50 hour certification training is appropriate for a wide...

Cost: $1100 / $800 early registration

Where:
Yoga Depot
17 Depot Square
Lexington, MA  02420
View map »


Sponsor: Qigong for Inner Peace
Telephone: 617-721-7215
Contact Name: Maryellen Labelle / David Sholemson
Website »

More information

Join life coach Cheryl Richardson and her husband, Michael Gerrish, a psychotherapist and gifted intuitive, for a special evening designed to help you upgrade your life! During this event,...

Cost: $35

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
386 Merrimack Street
Suite 1A
Methuen, MA  01844
View map »


Sponsor: Circles of Wisdom
Telephone: 978-474-8010
Contact Name: Cathy Kneeland
Website »

More information

This Dating Program is the follow-up to Kerri Morrison's workshop, Deliberate Dating: 5 Keys to Successful Online Romance; held Friday, August 16th, 2019 from 6:30-7:30pm. View that event...

Cost: $199

Where:
Awaken Holistic Counseling Services
2 Liberty St., Unit 2L
Newburyport, MA  01950
View map »


Sponsor: Awaken Holistic Counseling Services, LLC
Telephone: 978-255-7893
Contact Name: Kerri Morrison
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...

Learn Reiki—revitalizing self-care and healing in the palm of your hands. Facilitated by Lou Orsan, Reiki Shihan (master teacher.) This one-day class covers the...

Cost: $150

Where:
Northeast Reiki Center
61 Nicholas Road
Framingham, MA  01701
View map »


Sponsor: Northeast Reiki Center
Telephone: 508-808-5696
Contact Name: Lou Orsan
Website »

More information

With Laura Haley, IET Master Instructor Trainer  This class provides you with everything you need to conduct a powerful Integrated Energy Therapy session on yourself or others (either in...

Where:
Circles of Wisdom
Methuen, MA


Telephone: (978) 474-8010
Website »

More information

Learn the benefits of yoga for families as well as how to develop character in children to get them more focused, respectful, and confident before returning back to school this fall! This class...

Cost: $45 early bird till 9/25 (includes child and a parent), $50 after

Where:
Sohum Yoga and Meditation Studio
30 Lyman Street, Suite 108B
Westborough shopping center
Westborough, MA  01581
View map »


Sponsor: www.SOHUM.org
Telephone: 508-329-3338
Contact Name: Ritu Kapur
Website »

More information

September 28–29 Saturday 10 am Registration; 10 am–5 pm  Sunday 10 am–5 pm This practitioner training takes place over 2 days and offers students the opportunity to...

Cost: Course Fee: $450; Recalibration Appointment: $333

Where:
The Hampton Inn Coventry Warwick
850 Centre Of New England Boulevard
Coventry, RI
View map »


Telephone: 617-366-6042
Website »

More information

September 28–29 Learn hands-on techniques for the cervical, thoracic and lumbar spine, as well as the sacrum, psoas and ilium. Leave with tools you can use right away. Coming in...

Where:
Downeast School of Massage
Waldoboro, ME


Telephone: (617) 678-8920
Website »

More information

Learn to overcome spinal tensions through therapeutic postures, designed to decompress your spine and relieve pain. Taught by a certified yoga therapist, classes bring you through poses...

Cost: 5/$50

Where:
Bliss Through Yoga
484 Bedford St
East Bridgewater, MA  02333
View map »


Telephone: 508-331-3564
Contact Name: Janice O'Brien
Website »

More information

Show More...
Show Less...
Edit ModuleShow Tags
Edit Module Edit ModuleShow Tags