When we hear the word hormones, sometimes our minds go immediately to women’s hormones, especially during certain times of the month or of their life cycle. While women’s hormones get a lot of press, they’re really only the tip of the hormonal iceberg.
Hormones play many important roles in everybody’s health and maintenance, including the metabolism of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, minerals and water. They also regulate DNA and RNA production, synthesize cell proteins and help produce enzymes.
That’s not all, though. Hormones are instrumental in energy production of mitochondria, which are microscopic structures found in every cell. They also regulate kidney function, blood sugar balance, sexual function and the body’s response to stress.
That’s all well and good when hormones are in the right amount and are balanced, but there are times when hormones can dwindle—and it’s not just when women hit menopause. Hormone production declines as we age. In fact, human growth hormone (HGH), testosterone and DHEA typically see a 50% decline from age 25 to 50, followed by a further decline by age 75.
For example, after age 20, HGH production decreases by about 14% each decade. Edward Lichten, M.D. of Southfield, Michigan says, “When HGH levels decline below normal, a person’s muscle, bone strength and energy levels most likely will decrease. Tissue repair, cell growth, healing capacity, upkeep of vital organs, brain and memory function, enzyme production, and revitalization of hair and skin also diminish.”
Likewise, melatonin continues a sharp decline after 40. Estrogen also starts to wane—a 30% loss from age 35 to 50, followed by a consistent, slow decline. Progesterone takes a 75% hit from age 35 to 50, then a continual slow decline thereafter
Age isn’t the only factor influencing diminishing hormones, however. Nutritional deficiencies, lack of exercise, exposure to toxins, endocrine disorders, sleep disorders, lack of sunlight, hypothyroidism, insulin resistance and the use of over-the-counter drugs can contribute to a case of missing hormones.
Let’s take a look at DHEA, whose levels peak around age 25 and then decline at about 2% per year after that due to the natural aging process. The truth is, however, that stress, unhealth, sugar intake, nicotine, caffeine and alcohol can also take their toll on DHEA.
It’s a similar story for melatonin. Poor diet, including overuse of caffeine and alcohol, deficiencies in magnesium, vitamins B1, B6 and B12, medication use, stress, not getting enough light and improper night lighting can all zap melatonin. That’s significant, too, because melatonin influences appetite, body temperature, sleep patterns, immune system function, and regulates growth, blood pressure, motor activity and mood.
So what can be done about the case of the missing hormones? Michael Galitzer, M.D. has some insight. “We continue to focus on ideal ways of administering natural hormones along with nutrients, botanical and homeopathic remedies, to maximize glandular function, increase hormonal effects, and improve brain/body longevity,” he says.
That’s good news for those who don’t want to end up with a case of missing hormones.