Hormones are chemical messengers that signal cells to do things. Humans and all animals, plants, fungi and even bacteria produce similar hormone messenger molecules. Hormones tell our bodies to change as we go through life’s stages and respond to stimuli. Most of what we call “feelings” or “moods” are hormonally induced changes that might include altering your heart rate and blood pressure.
It takes a ridiculously tiny amount of a hormone to create a big change. When I say tiny, I mean tiny as in a few parts per million tiny. This is roughly on par with a speck of dust floating through your house. This is because a hormone is usually simply the messenger.
Large amounts of hormones sometimes produce the exact opposite effect that small amounts have. For example, the drug cocaine inhibits the “off mechanism” that tells your body to stop producing dopamine, while simultaneously telling your brain to produce more of it. Dopamine quickly builds up in your body, often producing an intense temporary “rush.”
Dopamine is the feel-good hormone that we make in response to successful task completion, sunsets and fuzzy cuddly things with big eyes. However, too much dopamine floating around your body produces distinctly non-feel-good sensations including paranoia, anxiety and panic. This is a very different suite of sensations from the feelings of pleasure and euphoria and wakefulness sought by users of cocaine. If you want to scare yourself, look up the effects of long-term cocaine use on the brain and body. Too much happiness hormone Is not a good thing.
This then is the back story to this issue’s missive. Hormones’ messengers are produced and consumed by all living things including us, and we evolved to function and thrive in this environment. Hormones are powerful in very tiny amounts, affecting our bodies and our emotions. Larger amounts of a hormone usually have the opposite effect.
Now here’s where things get truly wacky. It turns out that our current state of civilization produces a veritable witches brew of unintended toxic by-products. Some of these are actually identified by our bodies as hormones. Scientists call them endocrine disruptors, and they are a huge obstacle on our path to ever greater convenience. According to the National Environmental Institutes of Health’s (www.niehs.nih.gov) web site, “Endocrine disruptors are found in many everyday products including some plastic bottles, liners of metal food cans, detergents, flame retardants, cosmetics and pesticides.”
What do beer cans, tomato paste, tires, new car smell, many fragrances, children’s toys, medical devices, furniture foam, hydraulic fluid, soy beans, triclosan, vehicle exhaust, cigarettes, dental floss and water in clear flexible plastic bottles all have in common?
ALL of these diverse and common accoutrements of our civilization contain endocrine disruptors. Taken all together it is very difficult to parse which staple of the economy and modern lifestyle is causing what ailment. In the face if this hormonal mimicking onslaught, what can you do as an individual to protect yourself from hormonal pollution?
First off, never drink plastic water. If it smells and tastes like plastic, you are getting poisoned. The thinner, more flexible and clearer the plastic the more you are getting poisoned. Plastic water bottles are bad for you, and they are bad for the planet. If you care about your body and the body of the earth, just say no to plastic water. Forever. Please and thank you.
Eat mostly organic food. USDA certified crops are audited natural, from farm to package. Organic farming methods trap carbon in the soil, produce less pollution and use few pesticides and herbicides. The pesticides and herbicides that are used include soap, mulch and burning. Any chemical inputs are few and far between and must completely break down within three days. Organic farms have a lower chemical load, higher nutritional value, and trap carbon, which contributes to the current global warning trends.
Organic farms never use hormones. Growth hormones have been banned by the European Union since 1998 and banned from Australian poultry since the 1960’s. Even tiny amounts of a hormone can produce big changes.
Daily physical exercise helps to normalize your hormonal balance. Develop a program that works for you and stick with it. Do a mix of both hard and steady exercises to get full benefit. Use it or lose it. You’ve got to move that body!
Stress is a huge influence in our lives and in our bodies. Stress kills, and it does it hormonally. Yoga, meditation, painting; whatever works for you, do it every day and you increase the likelihood of living a longer, healthier and more hormonally balanced life.
Right now, there is a worldwide movement to reduce single-use plastics. Be part of that change to a more sustainable, reduced plastic future. Your hormones will thank you for it.