How the body processes hormones is called hormone metabolism.

By: Dr. Nathan Goodyear 

Metabolism is presented as simply the means to gain or lose weight. Metabolism goes far beyond this simple definition.  Metabolism is the mass production of day to day cellular processes that help the cell survive and thrive or not.

In reality, metabolism is a measure of optimal cellular and thus body homeostasis. Thus, metabolism can correctly be defined and applied to all cellular and body functions that result in day to day cellular homeostasis.

Hormone metabolites are just as important as the individual hormone levels and the hormone balance themselves. In fact, it may be more important as they reflect the flow, the trend of hormone movement which is so important in the assessment of function.  We need to look at function, not static values.  The body functions. The body is by no means static.

Hormone metabolites are just as they sound—the breakdown products that are the result of hormone metabolism. Whether hormones are endogenously made by the body or whether they are exogenously administered through hormone therapy, hormone metabolism manages the breakdown of these hormones to help the body survive, thrive or not.

The error is to think that hormone metabolites are merely waste products without any activity or physiologic significance. This has been the long-held thought. The truth is that hormone metabolites are very much active in hormone signaling.

In fact, hormone metabolites provide much of the risk and side effects equated to hormones and hormone therapy in cancer that is often overlooked. Not all hormone metabolites are bad. Some of these hormone metabolites can also provide significant protection.

Hormone Receptors

Hormone receptors are just what the words imply. They are the receptors that the individual hormones bind too. Once the hormones bind to the respective receptors, the signal of the hormone is then internalized inside the cell through a series of secondary messengers.

Hormone receptors are the doorway to the cell. Most of these signals then interact with DNA to turn genes off and/or on. There are, however, non-DNA and non-hormone receptor signaling that occurs as well.

Again, simple need not apply.  As important as hormone receptors are to the signal transmission of hormones to the cell, they are impossible to assess except in the case of physical tissue specimens in biopsies.

Hormonal Regulation of Metabolism And Outside Influences

We are all products of our genetics (DNA) and our environment.  The DNA that we have inherited from our parents is hard-wired.  In contrast, the expression of DNA is not hard-wired but is in fact quite fluid.

The lifestyle choices we make and/or the environment we expose our DNA to influences the very expression of our DNA. Let this settle in for a moment. Though our DNA is fixed, we have the ability to determine whether genes are turned on or genes are turned off.

These effects can be good, or they can be bad. This is called the study of epigenetics or the study of things “above genetics”.  Above genetics includes things i.e. diet, stress, sleep… that are above genetics, yet influence the expression of genetics.  For example, studies have shown that our diet can affect our genetic expression to increase or decrease cancer risk [1].  Sorry, when your mom told you to eat your broccoli, she knew something that researchers are just now discovering. Broccoli anyone?

The same “environment” that can influence genetics can also influence the expression of hormones.  One might call it the study of epihormones or “above hormones” if such a study actually existed.  Based on the current dogma and outcomes of conventional medicine in hormones and cancer, it clearly should exist.

Physiologic Hormone Therapy When Treatment Is Required

The classic approach to most things these days is that more is better: super-size that drink, supersize those fries…  Unfortunately, the same super-size logic applies to medicine today.  This is no more apparent than in hormones. Just look at how conventional medicine handles low hormones: More is good, and a lot is even better.

The conventional approach to hormones is the same approach to chemotherapy: more is better; when the ole testosterone levels in men or estrogen levels in women are running on empty, you just stop off at your local doc station to filler up with more testosterone or estrogen.

The overdosing of these hormones is evident in the testing of these patients as well as the complications of these dosing strategies. If testosterone therapy causes cancer or thickens the blood (polycythemia) or causes aggressiveness/rage/anger issues, then why doesn’t endogenous testosterone production cause the same at age 24 when peak testosterone production occurs in men?

The point is that is doesn’t. These symptoms are simply the result of overdosing.  If testosterone doesn’t cause these symptoms at the peak age of production of 24, then it shouldn’t with optimal physiologic dosing.

It only does with overdosing. The exact same can be said of estrogen and breast cancer. If testosterone caused prostate cancer and if estrogen caused breast cancer, then every young man and every young woman would have breast cancer.

They clearly don’t. The more is better philosophy, or the super-size logic need not apply to hormone therapy. That is if your goal is health and healing.

[1]  Liu YC, Chen WL, Kung WH, Huang HD. Plant miRNAs found in the human circulating system provide evidence of cross-kingdom RNAi. BMC Genomics. 2017;18(Suppl 2):112. Published 2017 Mar 14. doi:10.1186/s12864-017-3502-3.

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