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How does food impact our hormones?

Hormones are chemical messengers in the body that carry out a number of essential roles with one of their functions being to keep everything in balance through a process called homeostasis. You can think of them as your body’s thermostat: when the temperature gets too low, the thermostat will tell the heating to fire up; when the temperature gets too high, the thermostat will tell the air conditioning to kick in. In the same way that your thermostat keeps your house within a “healthy” temperature range, your hormones try to keep you working optimally by maintaining homeostasis in your body.

A group of these hormones control the use, storage and availability of nutrients in the body. In a healthy hormonal system, biochemical components in food trigger the secretion of these hormones into the bloodstream where they correct the shift in equilibrium caused by the influx of digested food. However, if you have hormonal dysfunction your body will secrete too much or not enough of the required hormones which has knock on effects to the systems they are trying to manage such as your metabolism, appetite, sleep cycles, growth, mood or stress. Even a small accumulation of visceral fat (the fat stored in and around your abdominal organs) is enough to promote hormone dysfunction. If you are eating too much or eat too many refined carbs or eat dietary stressors or have an unhealthy amount of body fat then the chances are you have hormone dysfunction to some degree or other and your hormones are in need of repair.

The endocrine system

The endocrine system is a chemical messenger system consisting of your hormones, the group of glands that secrete those hormones and the feedback loops which modulate hormone release. The major endocrine glands are the thyroid gland, pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, adrenal gland, ovaries and testis however a number of other organs in the body are also involved in hormone production. The human body manufactures some fifty different hormones with a wide variety of these being produced by endocrine glands but we are going to focus on five key players that are critical in digestion: the pancreas; the adrenal glands; adipose tissue; the stomach; and the thyroid gland.

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