Amongst the many things I enjoy doing, flying is one of them. As an instrument-rated pilot, we have to have our attention in many different directions at the same time. If you’re not good at multi-tasking, don’t try to fly an airplane! Flying an airplane and flying around the hormones – or endocrine system - have many things in common.
In the cockpit, we have a lot of instruments, but the most important 6, frequently referred to as the “six pack” is where the greatest of our attention continually is. We are constantly scanning this six pack – we look at the gauge, interpret what it’s telling us, put in an input (add more or less power, turn a certain way, change our rate of climb or decent, etc.). It is a constant scan, interpret, act. Of course, the larger airliners have most of this automated now, but us little guys still have to do it the old-fashioned way.
How does this relate to hormones? In more ways than you can imagine. Let’s take a look at our six – pack. Our hormonal system is a complex system. Our incredible instruments, our glands, are continually monitoring hormonal levels and making adjustments accordingly – more hormones, less hormones, or different hormones.
The endocrine system is comprised of several organs or glands that produce a hormone – sex/reproductive hormones, “happy hormones” in the brain, hormones that monitor blood sugar levels, inflammation, blood pressure, sleep, pain, temperature control – the list goes on. In fact, there are approximately 50 hormones, all tuned in to receive complex messages. Hormones are the chemical messengers relaying information back and forth between the organs and glands that regulate function.
The first instrument in our airplane’s six-pack is the altimeter. This gauge tells us how high we are flying. Knowing how high you are flying can make the difference between crashing into the side of the mountain or flying so high that oxygen is no longer available and you just go to sleep, never to reawaken. Pretty important little gauge! We have glands that give us similar information. For example, cortisol when elevated can cause depression, and brain chemicals and hormones such as serotonin, endorphins, oxytocin and dopamine can regulate moods. How high or low you are, are dependent upon the interaction of some pretty awesome feedback mechanisms.
Our plane also has an airspeed indicator that lets us know how fast we’re flying through the air. Some of our stress hormones, such as epinephrine, norepinephrine, and blood sugar hormones such as growth hormone, insulin and cortisol regulate our get up and go.
How fast we climb or descend is dependent upon certain hormones, most of which come from the thyroid and adrenals – such as T3, T4, and the pancreatic hormones. This is akin to the Vertical Speed Indicator in our airplane.
Next is our Attitude Indicator. Most can say that people with hormonal issues need an attitude adjustment! This instrument is a gauge of how level we are. Are our wings straight and level? Is our nose pointed in the right direction – flying level, climbing or descending. Melatonin, produced by the pineal gland is a hormone that regulates sleep. I think any one with sleep deprivation can attest to how their sleep affects how level they feel. The hypothalamus and pituitary glands release hormones that are key to regulating internal balance, or homeostasis.
Other gauges include the Heading Indicator, Turn Coordinator and some additional instruments also pretty critical, such as a magnetic compass, but I think you get the point.
Why do I bring all this up? Because hormones fly our plane. There is a constant sensitivity to changes in the body that stimulate or inhibit responses in a dynamic feedback loop. Every gland has to do their job. Every gland has to be in a state of constant vigilance. Continually sensing changes, interpreting them, and responding to them, just like our six pack.
What happens when they don’t? We crash. How we respond to this crash is the essence of this article – it will be discussed in part two of Flying Around our Hormones.
© 2018 Holly A. Carling, O.M.D., L.Ac., Ph.D.
Doctor of Oriental Medicine
Doctor of Naturopathy
Dr. Holly Carling is a Doctor of Oriental Medicine, Licensed Acupuncturist, Doctor of Naturopathy, Clinical Nutritionist and Master Herbologist with nearly four decades of experience. Dr. Carling is a “Health Detective,” she looks beyond your symptom picture and investigates WHY you are experiencing your symptoms in the first place. Dr. Carling considers herself a “professional student” – she has attended more than 600 post-secondary education courses related to health and healing. Dr. Carling gives lectures here in the U.S. and internationally and has been noted as the “Doctor’s Doctor”. When other healthcare practitioners hit a roadblock when treating their patients nutritionally, Dr. Carling is who they call. Dr. Carling is currently accepting new patients and offers natural health care services and whole food nutritional supplements in her Coeur d’ Alene clinic. Visit Dr. Carling’s website at www.vitalhealthcda.com to learn more about Dr. Carling, join our e-mail list and read other informative articles. Dr. Carling can be reached at 208-765-1994 or firstname.lastname@example.org and would be happy to answer any questions regarding this topic.