Did you think hormones are women's territory? Take a look at how these chemicals affect men's health
Energy hormone: Thyroxine
Your thyroid gland controls metabolism, which is your body's mechanism for turning calories into energy. And your hypothalamus detects fatigue and then your pituitary gland signals your thyroid to secrete thyroxine. When this system trips, the result can be muscle breakdown and fatigue. While most thyroxine disruptions are genetic, some environmental compounds can block thyroxine via brominated flame retardants (BFRs) and polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs). BFRs are found in clothes, furniture, and electronics; PCBs, which are no longer in use, can still be found in the environment in farmed salmon.
Solution: If you're exposed to these, you could end up with hypothyroidism-an underproduction of thyroxine that causes low energy and weight gain. Or hyperthyroidism, which is overproduction of thyroxine. Fixes for both may include surgery or dietary changes, as well as lifelong daily doses of prescription drugs.
Sleep hormone: Melatonin
When the sun goes down, your pineal gland switches on to secrete melatonin, a hormone that helps you fall asleep. Production of melatonin peaks in the middle of the night, and the process can be disrupted by even low levels of artificial light. Evidence suggests that exposure to light at night might play a crucial role in cancer, diabetes and obesity. The WHO classified "Circadian disruption" as probably carcinogenic, and light at night is considered by some to be an endocrine disruptor that may affect melatonin, cortisol, ghrelin, leptin and testosterone.
Solution: You don't have to be asleep to have good melatonin rhythm, but you do need to be in the dark. Buy heavy curtains, cover your alarm clock, and turn off gadgets. Make it dark enough that you can't see your hand. Even if you are awake in the dark, you're stimulating melatonin. Enjoy the night. Even if sleep doesn't come, it's okay because it's still relaxing.
Stress hormones: Cortisol and epinephrine
Angry at your boss? Almost got run over by a bus on the way to office? Your body's response to stress is the same: Your hypothalamus floods your blood with hormones to frighten you into action via cortisol and epinephrine-your body's alarm-system hormones. They make your heart beat faster and dilate your bronchial tubes so they can feed oxygen to your brain and keep you alert. They also release fat and glucose into your bloodstream to provide emergency energy. Too much stress can keep your cortisol levels consistently elevated, which disrupts your metabolic system. This, in turn, signals your cells to store as much fat as possible. Worse, the fat tends
to accumulate in your belly.
Solution: Exercise one hour a day to disrupt stress hormone production, three to four times a week, and steer clear of pesticides and chemicals in food that trigger these hormones to overact. In short, move to organic and non-processed foods to keep that unsightly belly at bay.
Weight hormones: Leptin, ghrelin, CCK, insulin
You have loads of hormones telling you when to eat and when to put the fork down-ghrelin, cholecystokinin, peptide YY and then insulin. This signals that you're digesting a meal and that you shouldn't consume any more. This helps the body maintain a balance between hunger and satiation. When you put on weight, you start secreting excess leptin. Disruptions in leptin tell the
brain to send out hunger signals, even if you've just eaten. This can lead to fatty liver disease and insulin resistance. And excess weight.
Solution: To stop leptin disruption, reduce sugar intake-not just as sugar, but as simple carbohydrates like white flour and corn.
Sex hormones: Testosterone, LH, FSH
Testosterone is key for normal sexual health in men. Its production is prompted by luteinizing hormone, while the follicle-stimulating hormone helps produce the actual sperm. When you're aroused, your adrenal glands pump out epinephrine and norepinephrine, raising your heart rate and moving blood into your muscles, brain and penis. Then the hormone dopamine makes you want to have sex, communicates with the hypothalamus to create your erection. Elevated oestrogen levels can eclipse your testosterone, diminishing sex drive. When a man is exposed to oestrogenic chemicals-such as bisphenol A, found in plastics and food-can linings-he can experience
erectile dysfunction and weight gain.
Solution: Your best defence against an oestrogen invasion is to lose weight and build muscle. And yes, stop having tea or coffee in that plastic cup.
Reproduced from Outlook Business's Wellness Column by Rachna Chhachhi.