When you’re feeling moody, crampy, and totally bloated, your first thought is probably, Thanks, hormones. We blame hormones for a lot of things: the bad choices we made when we were teenagers, being snippy at work, and the little zit that pops up on our chin like clockwork once a month. But the truth is that hormones play a vital role in the function of our bodies. Sure, they might make us feel a little kooky sometimes, but we’re grateful for them, right? Because our hormones have a close relationship with the nutrients we ingest (and we’re all about nutrients here), we thought we’d do a dive into the wild world of hormones.
What even are hormones, though?
Hormones are signaling molecules that control and regulate a wide variety of physiological functions including (but not limited to) bone health, digestion, metabolism, respiration, tissue function, sensory perception, sleep, excretion, lactation, stress, growth and development, movement, reproduction, and mood. Yeah, it’s a lot.
How do they work?
Hormones are produced by our cells and can travel in our blood to reach organs and tissues near and far. When they reach the organ or tissue they’re looking for, they bind to their specific cell surface receptors (like a unique key inserting into their matching locks).
How do they interact with nutrients?
The nutrients from our diet can be critical to the proper production and/or functions of some hormones. Here ’s a look at some of our faves.
Vitamin D: This vitamin is particularly unique because vitamin D itself is a steroid-class hormone. Vitamin D keeps circulatory calcium and phosphorus levels optimal by regulating the synthesis of another hormone produced by the parathyroid glands called PTH (parathyroid hormone).
Omega-3: Omega-3 fatty acids including EPA and DHA are critical precursors of a number of hormones important for maintaining healthy and balanced immune function.
Boron: This nutrient has been shown to play supporting roles in the hormonal functions of vitamin D, estrogen, thyroid hormone, insulin, and progesterone.
Vitamin K: Vitamin K activates a little-known hormone called osteocalcin that helps put and keep calcium in bones.
Iodine: Found in sea vegetables, cranberries, and iodized salt, iodine is an essential mineral critical for thyroid hormone production. In adults, the most significant effect of thyroid hormones is the overall regulation of levels of activity in many organs and tissue. Most women get enough iodine in their diets, but pregnant and lactating women may need more because thyroid hormone is also critical for fetal brain and nervous system development.
Getting your recommended nutrients might not keep you from having mood swings, but it is an important step toward ensuring that your body has everything it needs to regulate healthy hormone function.