Specific hormones' role in longevity and healthy ageing is a hot topic at the moment.
In fact, it formed the basis of key discussions at the recent International Congress of Neuroendocrinology in Pittsburgh and the Paris Anti-Obesity Therapies Congress.
According to the latest theories, the following hormones may be key to healthy ageing:
1. DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone):
This hormone, produced by the adrenal glands, is the most abundant hormone in the body.
Its anti-ageing effects include: protection against dementias and Alzheimer's, heart disease, breast and ovarian cancer, and osteoporosis (the higher the DHEA levels in the body, the higher the bone density).
This hormone is produced by the pineal gland, which is situated in the brain.
The hormone's anti-ageing effects are tied to the fact that it helps one to sleep. Sleep, in turn, leads to the production of the major anti-ageing hormone, HGH (human growth hormone).
The hormone also seems to have anti-cancer effects. In research studies, women with breast cancer all had low levels of melatonin.
Melatonin is also a potent anti-oxidant. It also helps to alleviate depression.
Italian researchers found that melatonin supplementation in mice extended their lifespan by 25%.
3. Thyroid hormone:
The thyroid hormone is involved in many processes in the body.
When there is a lack of the hormone, one may experience the following: cold hands and feet, and inability to lose weight, memory disturbances, mental confusion, poor concentration, thin hair, dry skin, brittle nails, and lack of interest and energy for sex.
4. HGH (human growth hormone):
Experts refer to this hormone, produced by the pituitary gland in the brain, as "the master hormone of youth".
The anti-ageing effects of this hormone include: reduced body fat, increased muscle mass, increased bone density, increased energy, enhanced sexual performance, improved cardiac index, improved breathing capacity, improved renal blood flow, and improved skin thickness.
5. Other hormones:
The sex hormones progesterone, oestrogen and testosterone also have a part to play.
Lack of progesterone can lead to: anxiety, difficulty sleeping, restlessness, nervousness, agitation, water retention and swollen breasts.
Lack of oestrogen, on the other hand, can lead to: hair loss on the top of the head, vertical wrinkles above the lips, droopy breasts, a hairy face, dry eyes, hot flushes, depression and tiredness.
And lack of testosterone may lead to: a slack and wrinkled face, loss of muscle tone, a fat belly, chronic tiredness, decreased libido, erectile dysfunction and inability to reach orgasm (male and female).
Good foods for the hormones
Some scientists believe that the hormone levels can be normalised by eating more of the right foods and by cutting out certain other foods. This, the experts say, will not only slow the process of ageing, but will also boost weight loss.
Proponents of this theory believe that it's best to follow a diet where the focus is on a moderate-to-high intake of the correct type of protein, a moderate intake of fats (all of the healthy kind, of course) and a high intake of fruit and veggies (especially the organic type), while certain forms of carbohydrate should be limited.
Take a look at the list of foods that seem to be beneficial, as well as the foods to avoid:
Foods to include:
Fruit and vegetables: These help with the conversion of T4 to T3 (the more active thyroid hormone).
Protein: Protein-rich foods will increase levels of insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1) and adrenal hormones like dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), counteract the unwanted wasting effects of cortisol in the body, reduce high insulin levels, and also help with the conversion of T4 to the more potent form, T3.
Fats (including saturated fat, but not heated or burnt fat): In normal levels, fat boosts the functioning of all the sex hormones as well as human growth hormone (HGH). In excessive amounts, fats reduce HGH as well as the thyroid hormones.
Foods to avoid:
Grains and cereals: These are not easily digestible and cannot be eaten raw, so this is a second-rate food for humans. Try the sprouted grains (e.g. rye and quinoa) and limit the ones that are unable to sprout. Each time the insulin goes up because of these high glycaemic-load foods, the level of other hyperglycaemic hormones, like DHEA, HGH, testosterone, estradiol and glucagons, go down. Grains also bind strongly to steroid hormones in the gut and prevent these hormones from being reabsorbed into the blood stream.
Dairy products: The human body is unable to break down the proteins from dairy, as we have lost the enzymes to do this. No species drinks the milk from other species. Cheese is especially difficult to digest. The milk gets moulded (with bread) inside the gut as the normal intestinal flora multiply and grow out of control. It reduces the levels of the thyroid hormones.
Sugar: Most people already knows this, but needs to be reminded that this highly refined product is not good for you. It doesn't give energy – instead, it makes you tired on the long run. Honey is marginally better, but has the same effect on your insulin levels. You can eat fruit to get enough fruit sugar (fructose) for energy purposes. Refined fructose isn't good either, but better than sugar (sucrose).
Coffee: This dehydrates the body, reduces melatonin at night and increases serum cortisol.
Alcohol: This increases oestrogen in men (which leads to an increase in breast size and a bigger stomach or "beerboep"). Alcohol consumption also leads to an increase in prostate size and hardening of the prostate.
A natural approach
It looks like you can boost your HGH levels naturally by:
eating sufficient amounts of calories in the form of fruit, veggies, eggs, meat, poultry and especially fish (steamed or raw);
taking L-arginine and L-glutamine supplements (both are amino acids, the building blocks of proteins);
eating organic food;
avoiding alcohol, vinegar and caffeinated drinks;
quitting the use of tobacco, marijuana and other drugs (including medical drugs).
- Information for this article was supplied by Dr Pieta Erasmus, MBChB/DOH (UOFS) / Diplomate in Anti-Ageing (USA).
References used by Dr Erasmus:
1) The Hormone Handbook – Dr T. Hertoghe, MD
2) Hormone Solution: Stay Younger Longer – Dr T. Hertoghe
3) The Omega Zone – Dr Barry Sears
4) Spa Medicine – Drs Simpson, S. Sinatra and J. Suarez-Menendez
5) Endocrine Physiology – Susan P. Porterfield
6) The Anti-Aging Revolution – Dr Ronald Klatz and Dr R. Goldman
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