Special health series part two: Fortifying our endocrine system

Welcome back for part two of our health quest together.

Since tackling some of the ways we can boost our heart health last week, we now forge on to another top-ranking organ set—our endocrine system.

This system is complex by nature and regulates so many different functions in the bodies of both men and women and seems to touch nearly every organ in some way.

All the more reason to make sure we are in tip-top-endocrine-shape.

Piecing together the puzzle

So what are some of the basics?

(From “Biology, Oakland University Edition,” by Brooker, Widmaier, Graham and Stiling, a McGraw Hill book.)

To really simplify our endocrine system, we can categorize the key players as glands and hormones. (There are other organs that act in the endocrine system, too—not just glands—such as the heart, stomach, our brain, even fat tissue and more).

Read more about The Endocrine System from Pacific Medical Training and the PMT Scribe Academy.

ENDOCRINE 2Grand glands and chemical messengers

Glands are the many parts of our bodies that produce or secrete chemical messages known as hormones to tell another part of our body what to do.

“I’ve heard it said that we’re just a bunch of hormones,” Anne Baker, certified nutrition therapist of Nourish Holistic Nutrition said. “And hormones are really so very important in everything that’s happening in our bodies, all the time, every day.”

They range from messages like the antidiuretic hormone sent from our pituitary gland (in our brain) telling our kidneys to retain more water, to our pancreas making insulin (lowers blood glucose or sugar) and glucagon (which raises blood sugar) and so much more.

Just for fun, here are some other hormones found in our body:

  • Cortisol and epinephrine (produced by our adrenal glands in response to stress)
  • Melatonin (made by the pineal gland in our brain to regulate daily rhythms like sleep)
  • Gastrin (found in our stomach and intestines and helps with digestion)
  • Our thyroid makes thyroxine (or T4) and triiodothyronine (T3) that regulate metabolism and growth
  • The familiar testosterone, estrogen and progesterone that play key roles in our reproductive health, to name a few.)

Becoming the wild scientist inside, helping our bodies to function properly at a chemical level

It might go without saying that with all these chemical messages zipping around our body every day, that it is important to promote our endocrine health. But you might not realize that some of the perks to internal upkeep include:

  • More energy (Who doesn’t wish they could get everything done while still feeling perky)
  • Stabilizing our mood (Always a good idea for ourselves but also our coworkers and even families—no one likes a sour apple)
  • Improving brain function (So you can ace those cranial teasers on the latest Natural Geographic television show “Brain Games”)
  • Avoiding chronic inflammation, which leads to an array of diseases. (Be sure to check out anti-inflammatory foods on our list of mealtime ingredients to support endocrine vitality)
  • And finally, the domino effect that supporting gland health has on balancing other systems of our body. (It’s all a balancing act)

How can we eat to support our internal chemical laboratory?ENDOCRINE

Baker returns this week to share some holistic meal tips along with Nancy Raymond, MSMS, MS, RD, FAARFM of Your Optimal Health Solutions, LLC who also weighs in on finding the best sources for endocrine-minded nutrition.

And Teresa Jungling, health pioneer and creator of www.LivingNaturalToday.com shares her first-hand success in treating her adrenal fatigue through these food choices. (She will also return next week to talk about digestive health!)

  • Celtic sea salt: Juggling thyroid and hormonal problems along with her extreme adrenal fatigue, Jungling says she actively adds celtic sea salt to her diet. This helps to raise blood pressure as many who are chronically fatigued have low blood pressure.
  • Vitamins B5 (pantothenic acid) and B6 (pyridoxine) help support our adrenal gland health. Vitamin B5 can be found in foods like sunflower seeds, crimini mushrooms, yogurt, winter squash and broccoli. While Vitamin B6 is found in bananas, chicken, salmon, spinach and potato (with the skin).
  • Vitamin C: Can be found in papaya, red peppers, broccoli, brussel sprouts, strawberries, mango, cauliflower and kale.
  • Minerals: Help us maintain endocrine vitality and are found bountiful in seafood and seaweed.
  • Selenium: Also naturally occurring in seafood and is a protector against mercury that goes into fish as well.
  • Artichokes and sweet potatoes: Really support proper thyroid function, Baker said. This is important because our thyroids are actually very fragile and can be damaged by a multitude of things daily!
  • Sage: A protective herb for balancing estrogen and progesterone in women.
  • Nutmeg: A great spice to add when cooking because it eases adrenal gland exhaustion.
  • Flaxseed oil: Is beneficial for overall balancing of hormones in both sexes but has been known to have a dramatic impact on women’s health, Baker said.
  • All anti-inflammatory foods: healthy fats and Omega 3s from fish, walnuts, avocadoes, extra virgin olive oil and chia seeds are good choices, Raymond said. Eating lots of green veggies that are alkaline (or make our insides less acidic) also have lots of fiber.

In addition to adding some of these foods to your diet, Raymond also reminds that keeping good blood sugar control is crucial in supporting adrenal gland health. So she recommends eating low glycemic index foods that are high in fiber, unrefined and foods with healthy fats and proteins as well as eating often—every few hours to keep your blood sugar stable.

“It’s just the little things.”

“What we do is cumulative,” Baker said, “the more we can start early, the better off we’re going to feel when we’re mid-aged and older.”

And don’t get overwhelmed, she said. Start with just one or two changes for the next few weeks—such as committing to drinking more water; getting some vegetables in before dinner; snacking on raw vegetables mid-afternoon, rather than reaching for a candy bar are some possible ways you can do this.

“Then build on that,” she said. “That’s how new healthy habits are created. It’s just the little things.”

Catch part three next week:

Be sure to visit us next Thursday for part three of our health quest—detailing our digestive system.

If you are interested in more on Anne Baker, visit www.NourishHolisticNutrition.com for her latest findings. And if you want to read more from Nancy Raymond, you can find her most recent tips at www.YourOptimalHealthSolutions.com.

For those interested in learning more about adrenal fatigue, Teresa Jungling suggests a great read: “Adrenal Fatigue:  The 21st Century Stress Syndrome” by James L. Wilson. Be sure to visit her website at www.LivingNaturalToday.com, too.

About Jen Bucciarelli

Veggie lover and aspiring word chef, reporter Jen Bucciarelli covers all things health and medicine for Rochester Media and The Community Edge. She is always on the hunt for local experts who can help improve the lives of our readers. Send her a note at JenBucciarelli@gmail.com.


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