Love your hormones

On the yoga blog we have been looking at how yoga can help keep your endocrine system healthy
The endocrine system is composed of several glands which secrete hormones directly into the bloodstream. These hormones affect many body functions.  You might be interested to know that hormone imbalance is a factor in aging.
You can help keep your endocrine system healthy with a good diet, bursting with antioxidants such as vitamins A, C and E, selenium and zinc. It is also important to avoid environmental toxins wherever possible. Below is more detailed advice for each of the glands that make up the endocrine system

  • The pituitary gland is known as the 'master' gland.  It is situated below the base of the brain and secretes hormones including growth hormone and hormones that affect the sexual glands.  It also influences the thyroid and adrenals.  You can help keep your pituitary gland healthy by ensuring a good blood flow to the brain, through exercise and making sure your diet includes omega 3s in nuts, seeds, olive oil etc.
  • The pineal gland also known as the 'third eye' influences sleep/wake patterns (circadian  rhythm) and secretes melatonin.  The pineal gland is affected by fluoride in drinking water and toothpaste so filter your water and use a non-fluoride tooth paste. Also try to get some natural daylight each day to regulate your circadian rhythms. 
  • The thyroid gland is located in the throat and produces hormones that regulate metabolism.  To function efficiently it needs iodine which vegans can get through soya milk or a multivitamin and mineral supplement.  BUT too much iodine can cause problems for thyroid function.  Selenium is also important for the health of the thyroid and can be found in brazil nuts.  A single nut a day is all you need to supply your daily recommended selenium intake.  Imbalances in the thyroid can lead underactive thyroid with fatigue and weight gain or overactive thyroid with weight loss, irritability and racing heart.
  • The thymus gland is located in the upper chest and it is where lymphocytes are developed.  The lymphocytes have an important role in immunity, attacking viruses and bacteria which invade the body.  An imbalance would lead to a reduced ability to fight infections. The thymus gland is affected by stress, as I discovered earlier in the year when I was grieving for my mother. A routine blood test showed that my lymphocyte count was down.  Thankfully, through yoga and meditation I managed to restore my count before the blood test was repeated.
  • The pancreas is located in the abdomen.  It secretes insulin which controls blood sugar levels and digestive enzymes. My advice to maintain the health of the pancreas is to avoid overworking the pancreas.  A diet rich in processed foods and sugars will cause insulin 'spikes' leading to a 'tired' pancreas that becomes less efficient at producing insulin.  This eventually could lead to type 2 diabetes.  Stick to 'slow-release' foods such as brown rice, wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta etc and include plenty of fibre from fruits and vegetables in your diet.  If you have trouble digesting fatty foods, or flatulence it may be that you do not have adequate digestie enzymes.  However, before taking a supplement you should talk to your doctor.  The secretion of these digestive enzymes is also affected by stress so you may find that by taking steps to reduce stress you can improve your digestion
  • The adrenals are located on top of the kidneys and secrete stress hormones, cortisol and adrenalin. For 'happy',healthy adrenals reduce stress.
  • The sexual organs, ovaries in women, testes in men secrete sex hormones, oestogen and testosterone respectively.  Vitamin A found (as a precursor to vitamin A) in carrots, sweet potatoes, yellow melon, kale and spinach is essential to the health of the ovaries.  For the testes omega 3 (see above) and zinc found in pumpkin seeds and nuts are essential for testosterone production.  Imbalances in these endocrine glands can lead to infertility, menstrual problems, mood swings and acne.

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