How much do you know about your own body’s internal functions? How often do you pay attention to internal cues?
It’s like driving a car. Most of us know how to drive, but have no idea how in fact the car works. Yes we do regularly put fuel, and occasionally add/change the oil, but often times we run the car to the ground, until it really breaks down when we finally take it to the mechanic. Often we hear the words “if you came sooner you could have avoided this now major problem”
Sounds familiar right? The way we treat our car is not much different than the way we treat our body, we use it for its basic needs and neglect its more complex functions. Not because we mean to, but rather from lack of awareness and understanding of the intricate ways our inner biology behaves.
Humans have been around for a few decades to say the least, and we still don’t quite grasp certain internal functions, such as the complete purpose of the Pineal gland, or the creation and function of Vitamin D hormone in our bodies. Yes. Vitamin D is in fact a hormone manufactured by the skin, the body’s largest organ, and an acting endocrine gland.
Most of us know the general parts of a car when looking under the hood.
Similar with our body we have organs that are part of an intricate system, such is the nervous system, endorcine system, digestive system etc. Like the motor under the hood of the car, we can take it apart and find fine-tuned structures that make up the workings of the entire motor. Lets say this motor is our endorcine system in the body. Breaking it down we find that it is composed of various glands located in different organs through out the body. All of these glands communicate and signal to each other responses coming from likely two places, the brain and then the digestive system, the second brain. Let’s create a pathway of understanding between these glands that govern most of our mental, emotional and physical states. Creating awareness of the flow of natural chemicals throughout your body, can in fact, teach you furthermore about the underlining symptoms of fatigue, exhaustion, mood swings and several other reactions we undergo stimulated by some external factors. Just like how the body adjusts its internal temperature to correspond with the external temperature, our behavior, thoughts and emotions can be adjusted via the internal pharmacy we all have.
Glands and their Functions
According to Ayurveda and many ancient mystics and religions, the pineal gland is the seat of the third eye, our essence, and the multidimensional gateway to the universe. This mystical gland produces a hormone called melatonin, that is synthesized from tryptophan. When the photoreceptors in the eyes no longer perceive certain amount of light, the pineal gland is signaled in the production of melatonin. Melatonin than released in the bloodstream, directs the slowing down of organ function, and prepares the body for sleep. In front of the pineal is the pituitary gland. Together with the hypothalamus they work in the signaling and production of multiple hormones. These hormones are in communication with multiple glands in the body. The hypothalamus is like the control center of the other glands in the body. It receives input via the nervous system from the other body organs, and then signals the pituitary gland to either produce or signal the production of particular organ hormones.
The Hypothalamus is mostly concerned with two sets of hormones. One is directly related to the Thyroid gland and in the production of thyrotropin release hormone (TRH). This hormone stimulates the pituitary to release a thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH) and this hormone than stimulates the thyroid to produce its necessary hormones. The other hypothalamus function is the secretion of the growth hormone. This hormone than stimulates the production of other hormones such as oxytocin and antidueretic hormones. Anti-dueretic hormones and oxytocin are produced in the posterior part of the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland is located just behind the bridge of the nose, a section deemed the Turkish saddle. The anterior part is in charge of six different hormones. It’s path connects with the Thyroid, Adrenals, and the reproductive organs. It stimulates the production of thyroid hormones, stimulates the adrenal cortex to produce hormones, creates a follicle stimulating hormone, luteinizing hormone ( that stimulates gonads and ovaries to produce their hormones), and stimulates the mammary glands through the release of prolactin hormone, to produce milk. You see this world of glands in our bodies is like poking buddies to each other, each supports the other, by stimulating it to do its job and vice versa,
Adrenal glands are located on the top of each kidney. Adrenals produce the most talked about hormones, the stress hormone cortisol, and epinephrine, among others. An individual under constant stress, produces constantly high levels of cortisol, a way of the system protecting itself. However, when there are constant high levels of cortisol, there are other elevated aspects that drain the body of its proper functioning. Cortisol is released daily into the body because it has many other important functions. It assimilates the body’s use of fats, proteins, and carbs. It suppresses inflammation, regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar levels and decreases bone formation. The glands begin the production of this hormone with the light of day, as it is needed for the start of the normal bodily functions. During the day, a surcharge of cortisol is released into the bloodstream when the body undergoes stress or excitement, in order to prepare the system with handling emergency situations. Cortisol is synthesized from glucose, thus it’s connection to raising the blood sugar levels and the production of energy stimulation. Constant high cortisol keeps blood sugar levels high as well, and leads to exhaustion of the body and weakening of the adrenals.
Epinephrine is produced by the inner part of the adrenals, called adrenal medulla. This hormone activates the “fight or flight” instinct in the body, by increasing blood flow to the brain, muscles, breathing, and heart rate. While this is happening, the blood flow from the digestive system is decreased, thus either hunger is subsided, or one‘s eating is not absorbed and digested properly. Together with high cortisol, these two hormones can cause a major stir up in the normal functioning of life.
Aldesterone, also created by the adrenals, signals the kidneys to allow the reabsorbtion of sodium in the bloodstream and release potassium into the urine. This hormone also regulates blood PH and electrolytes in the body.
Now, when the pituitary releases the luteinizing hormone, its stimulation triggers the gonads in production of estrogen and testosterone, in each pole respectively. This is a combination of hormone-stimulating-other -hormones in the production of the sex hormones that form in the ovaries and testes respectively. The testes are responsible of androgen testosterone, often released in large amounts in males at the start of puberty to aid in growth and strengthen bones and muscles, including the development of sex organs, and hair on the body. The ovaries, in females, produce progesterone and estrogens. Progesterone is released during ovulation and pregnancy, and is the hormone that prevents miscarriage. Estrogens, on the other hand, help in development of uterus, breasts, pubic and armpit hair, bone growth and regulation of the menstrual cycles.
The Pancreas was thought to be a vestige of the body for sometime, until scientists really began understanding the crucial importance of this organ. In fact, the pancreas is actually a large gland capable of both endorcine and exocrine functions. As an endocrine gland the pancreas releases alpha and beta cells. Alpha cells produce glucagon, that triggers muscle and liver cells from raised glucose levels in bloodstream to break down glycogen. Beta cells produce insulin, that lowers blood glucose levels after a meal. So, in other words, the pancreas is the control center of blood sugar levels in your body all through the day. Its exocrine glands on the other hand, excrete enzymes that break down proteins, fats, carbs and nucleic acids from food.
There is a gland behind the sternum called thymus, and it produces thymosin, a powerful hormone that trains T cells during fetal development and childhood to protect the body from pathogens.
As mentioned at the beginning, the skin, although not officially an endocrine gland, is in charge of the production of Vitamin D Hormone through the absorption of UVB rays. This inactive Vitamin D is then converted into its active form by the liver and kidneys. Vitamin D plays a key role in maintaining normal levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood, as well as aids in the absorption of calcium from the intestines for the building of strong bones.
I cannot emphasize enough the importance of Vitamin D. If deficient, this can cause low estrogen and testosterone development in the body and sends the body into a zone of alarm by overproduction of dopamine and seretonin, affecting our mood. Vitamin D deficiency strongly affects the immune system and can lead to auto immune diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Another fun hormone is Renin. This hormone is produced by the kidneys, again, not part of the endocrine system originally. Renin helps control blood pressure, stimulates the bone marrow to produce red blood cells via the production of a hormone called erythropoietin.
Even the bones are able to produce hormones even though they are not glands, research shows. Osteocalcin is secreted by osteoblasts, which are the bone development cells inside the bone. This hormone helps in stimulating secretion of and regulation of insulin. Basically, the skeleton here, helps regulate your entire energy metabolism.
There are many different chemicals that are released into our bloodstream every minute of our day.
Most of them are there to regulate blood pressure, energy metabolism, sugar levels in the blood. In the process of doing this upkeep, they stimulate other hormones for more particular and intricate jobs, such as the varying degrees of Thyroid hormones that aid in the absorption, processing and assimilating food down to the digestive tract. It is like the domino effect, each stimulates the other and vice versa. It is a hormonal support system, yet, constant high or low levels of a certain hormone, throws off the entire system and thus creates weakness within the organs and by the time it surfaces to the awareness of the body owner, the symptoms are often not the cause of the problem, and so far removed from the root cause.
When you are depressed you go to the doctor, and they prescribe you medication for depression. They don’t ask you simple questions such as, when did you stop smiling? When did you stop dancing? There is not such question of the root of your depression, simply a generic prescription labeled “fixes depression” . And you blindly abide, taking this chemical inside your already perfect pharmacy, furthermore disturbing your natural production systems, and potentially causing more damage to your inner checks and balances. Your mood swing and fatigue is connected to various different aspects of your daily life internally and externally. Seeking the easy way out, a generic “fix it all” likely will shift a process, but will not really return the functions within your endocrine system back to normal, hence how addiction is born. Now the body expects the stimulation of the outside chemical in order to begin its production of hormones. Therefore, instead of you healing your body, you’ve created a space of dependence within an aspect of your internal systems.
This is a science that is difficult to explain because there are so many factors to mathematically prove the correct solution for a large group of people. However, in Ayurveda, we look at the root cause by observing and understanding the individual and how THEIR systems function when normal, and when out of balance.
Mood and Hormones
According to the National Center of Biotechnology, the Neurochemistry edition presents research topics on the correlation between mood and hormones. The psychiatric manifestations of the inter correlation of the thyroid gland function and the adrenals often times results in a form of depression. Depression demonstrates as over production of CRH (corticotropin releasing hormone) by the hypothalamus, that signals the adrenals to hyper-secrete cortisol, and this affects the fluxes in reproductive hormones, which in turn influences mood swings. Increased concentration of Thyroid stimulating hormones also leads to the reduction in cerebral blood flow and cerebral metabolism which is another possible cause for depression. You see, there are various starters for depression and not all are born within the body from the same generic “Prozac fixes it all” reason. This intricate system of functions within our bodies is also quite delicate, thus a malfunction in one area is the start of a domino effect, and often times, by the time this imbalance reaches your awareness, you only are worried of the immediate symptoms, and that is exactly what Prozac targets. Inhibits the production of particular hormones, in order to keep your mood elevated. Eventually your body becomes complacent to being repressed, so it creates a physical addiction to the Prozac, as it adopts it as its own necessary hormone stimulating hormone for proper functioning. Eventually the endocrine system overrides the outside stimulation, and you are back in the dark corners of your mind with the world on your shoulders, seeking to up your dose.
Please do keep in mind, not all medication and western medicine is to be thrown out the window, but in fact I strongly urge you to evaluate the awareness behind your intake of chemicals that your body is capable of producing on its own, simply by shifting your lifestyle.
Remember that everything is a hormonal stimulation and in turn shifts the physiology in your organ functions. For example, when you first get excited about going on a date, that funky feeling in your stomach “butterflies in the belly” is in fact an overproduction of hormones in the bloodstream, creating this effect. In the correlation to this effect, the kidneys filter out and release higher amounts of phosphorus and salts, so there tends to be a particular smell of your sweat. Unlike when, you are not particularly excited, and are cranking it up at the gym. The sweat is likely sour and resembles the smell of our last meal.
When you are depressed, your body smells differently too, and the combination of hormonal charges in your bloodstream make it so.
Depression affects sleep patterns, and disturbs our night body clearing functions. Depression’s onset of mania results in decreased need for sleep, as the mind is overactive. What happens here is that the time to reach REM becomes shorter, however the length of REM sleep is longer, meaning busy brain activity during the short period of sleep in these individuals leading to tiredness when one wakes. ( For More information on sleep patterns, Click Here! ) Due to these shifts in sleep patterns, the core temperature of the body is elevated and there are abnormal nocturnal secretions of cortisol, growth hormone and prolactin. So how to reverse the order of these shifts?
Ayurveda explains that every single cell in our body has its own intelligence. Every cell responds to the appreciation of its function, and if recognized as anything other than this appreciation, it will shift out of its hostile environment and form its own network of support. This is how the shift in the body begins on a cellular level. The cell deforms, and cancer is born. What you are, and how you are with your thoughts, your emotions and feelings is also an expression on a cellular level. What we deem dislikable becomes disliked. Every cell has a consciousness and intelligence, and is capable of miracles. Just alone the functions cells do in our body every minute of the day is quite miraculous. In other words, you are a miracle, and with a divine potential to meet your higher functioning self.
So when your mind feels unsettled, your heart rate raises, and you feel yourself spinning out of control, before you reach out for that one thing that calms the nerves, from a cigarette, to a cocktail or medication prescription, try shifting your perception in understanding this; “ you and all trillion micro living organisms inside you including bacteria and vast amount of cells are in this together.” In order for all those microscopic creatures to do their job within you, the environment is to be inviting rather than hostile. Everything we hear, see, touch, taste, smell and feel is a process communicated down to an intracellular function. It needs to be absorbed, assimilated, processed, and the waste of it removed. When your awareness of the fact that you are not alone, but rather you are made up of an entire universe of living organisms, perhaps you can shift your awareness to how and what you consume.
Ayurvedic lifestyle suggests a path of maintaining elemental balance and becoming aware that we are part of nature, and nature is our nurturer. Our environment, food choices, friendships, relationships, thoughts and feelings, are our medicine… the choice is only on the mindset. Is our medicine healing or poisonous?
Now that you understand the basic functions of our Endocrine System in our bodies, I’d like to invite you to meditate with me. Simply letting go of the tension and stepping into the present moment where the movement of breath is the only occupation of the mind for at least 5-10 minutes per day, allows for a small shift and restart of the cellular functions in our body, it helps with blood flow, muscle tension release, and in turn, re-adjusts hormone production and stimulation.
I hope this article helps you bring to the awareness the magnificence of the human vessel and what we are made of, so you can begin truly living a life of divinity by changing your lifestyle today.
Should you find this guided meditation helpful, here is a chance to immerse yourself with this Beginning Meditation Package.