Everything that affects the body also affects the mind; hormone changes are no exception to this rule. We are learning that our thoughts and emotions have a profound effect on our hormone balance and how they affect our bodies. In fact our mental, physical, emotional, spiritual and social aspects are all responsible for the inner rhythm of our health and growth. The problem is how do we get them all to participate and cooperate with each other?
This is an extensive study on the endocrine and nervous system. The two are so intimately linked together, you just can’t separate one from the other. These two systems are in constant communication with each other at all times, and are a constant reflection of our health. It is truly an extraordinary relationship, regulated by the pituitary gland (master controller) and the hypothalamus. Situations in our life are neither good or bad…it is our personal reaction or response to them that creates our positive or negative attitudes to them. Each of us is unique, my needs and your needs are not the same…we all have slightly different balances so it’s important that each of us get to know ‘thy self’, tuning into our body and finding what works best.
Together let’s try and understand and interpret the language of the endocrine and nervous systems. As we dig deeper, case studies will be discussed, some will be from my own notes, while others, will be documented by healers, doctors, researchers and scientists. Not only will we look at the nervous and endocrine glands physically but also spiritually, mentally, emotionally and metaphysically.
“The endocrine glands are both physical and spiritual. Each has a mind of its own, which directs hormonal output into the blood stream and neurological impulses into the nervous system. Each of these endocrine glands also has an energy component [known as the Chakras].” William A. McGarey, M.D.
Before we even begin to work on each of the endocrine glands, we need to understand the ‘generator’ behind this system. The hypothalamus has its own memory of stored emotions, these go way back to our primitive ancestral fears…..
“We lived in a hostile environment as hunters and gathers, surrounded by animals that hunted us, and we learned to protect ourselves either by running or by fighting. This was useful then but now that same flight/fright response is triggered by imaginary fears, traffic jams, the stock market, by things people say to us and that response has a very limited function. It is creating and causing the epidemics that are now inflicting our society – degenerative disorders, cardiovascular disease, cancer, a compromised immune system etc. But more importantly it has given rise to a legacy of war, and hatred, and tradition, and conquest, and confinement and ecological devastation. WE have become the predators of the planet earth. And just like other predators before us we are risking our own extinction and the extinction of mother earth and the universe of which we are a privileged species.” Deepak Chopra
The hypothalamus is the ‘real power behind the throne’; about the size of an olive, it is the main controller of the body’s flow of hormones. Most of its judgments are determined by our emotions as well as old fears, stored in its memory. This is probably why the hypothalamus has been called the ‘seat of emotions’. Situated in the lower part of the brain, known as the limbic system, this part of the brain controls our pleasure and pain and gives us the urge to run away when we’re in danger. And as we know, plays an important part in memory; this is why we never forget very pleasant or horrible experiences.
The limbic system consists of the hypothalamus, amygdala, and hippocampus, which regulate our emotions, memories, dreams, motivations, sexual and social behavior as well as lust and love. One of the hypothalamus’ main job is to help control the functions of the internal organs and maintain body temperature; it informs the brain about what’s happening in a variety of systems and organs inside your body. For example, if your blood contains too much salt, the hypothalamus will search for water to dilute it….if the blood contains too much sugar, the hypothalamus will suppress your appetite.
The hypothalamus also keeps your autonomic nervous system (sympathetic & parasympathetic) working and controls the movement of your heart, gut and bladder, makes you feel hungry and thirsty; feel angry or aggressive; grateful and forgiving; it works to keep you from falling asleep during the day. The autonomic nervous system controls over seventy thousand nerves throughout the body and controls the blood circulation and pressure, which affects the heart function.
There is no doubt that the nerves and endocrine system work continuously together. So do the many cells and tissues in the immune system. In fact they all talk to one another…there are 100 billion nerve cells in the brain and each is connected to thousand of others, making the brain more complex than any computer! And it needs to, just to keep you alive!
The problem is, the hypothalamus isn’t interested in your happiness. Since the beginning of time its main job has been your survival. It will selfishly pursue only what it thinks is in your best interest. Unfortunately, its continual rush of hormones can harm your health and affect your immune system, and an overactive immune system can be toxic. The whole bodily system can suffer and dysfunction, causing an array of problems, such as obesity, diabetes, menstrual problems, hypertension, listlessness, irritable bowel, prostate problems, aggressiveness, skin eruptions, insomnia, allergies, etc.
The primitive force of the hypothalamus can be spontaneous and unpredictable, creating a rush of hormones, depending on the circumstances. Adjoined with the thalamus these two glands are a major relay center for incoming sensory information and triggering your survival instincts. They respond emotionally and immediately to dangers, real and/or imagined. Messages are immediately transmitted through the nervous system and to every part of our body. Within a fraction of a second, our bodies go through immediate physiological changes….hormone and adrenaline levels increase, making our senses sharper and our heart pump faster. With this heightened alertness, we’re ready to fight or run!
For example, let’s imagine you’re attempting to cross the street and suddenly a speeding truck seems to be heading straight towards you or you suddenly hear the sound of squealing brakes. Or someone seems to be following you! Before you know it, you’ve already moved out of harms way. All this seems pretty simple but there was a flurry of activity within your bodily system, you weren’t even aware of.
When the hypothalamus perceives a threat, it goes into lightning speed action, releasing a hormone to the pituitary (master gland). The pituitary immediately releases the hormone ACTH (adreno-corticotropin ) directly into your blood stream to the adrenal glands with an urgent message, “produce hormones”, specifically cortisol and adrenalin hormones norepinephrine and epinephrine. These hormones race through the circulation to the brain and various organs. They arouse your brain preparing it for the flight/fight response, which mobilizes energy in the form of sugar and diverts blood from the abdominal area to the muscles and limbs. While all this is going on there is a storm of activity happening in the sympathetic nervous system (sympathetic and parasympathetic are connected to hypothalamus via the spinal column) as the hormones from the adrenals race between nerve cells towards your heart and other major organs. Heart rate and respiration increase, your blood pressure goes up, digestion slows to a crawl, your body sweats and the hairs on the back of your neck stands on end. All this happens in less than a second! Now your body is ready to assert itself with a massive burst of energy. Jumping out of harms way, the hypothalamus/pituitary/adrenal combination immediately stop the fight/flight production. The parasympathetic nervous system turns on and reestablishes the body’s equilibrium.
But if the electrical energy between the parasympathetic and sympathetic nervous systems are unbalanced, the sympathetic nervous system will remain on high alert and the parasympathetic nervous will not be able to do its job.
As mentioned earlier, the anatomic nervous system controls over seventy thousand other nerves throughout the body, and, the nerve fibers from the sympathetic nervous system ‘end’ in the adrenals. Our adrenals help to exert our willpower but too much cortisol and adrenaline in the blood exhausts the body; together these hormones can create inflammation in the lower back muscles by restricting the amount of blood flow there. When this happens the inflamed muscles clamp down upon the adrenal glands disrupting the proper balance of adrenaline/cortisone, and the male/female sexual hormones. Not only does this cause a tremendous drain on the immune system, it causes an array of physical stresses such as intestinal cramps, stomach ulcers, asthmatic flare-ups, memory loss, back pain, skin disorders and even impotency in men and a reduced sex drive in women. These two hormones also affect bone loss, causing osteoporosis and an increase in hip fractures.
As well, prolonged stress can restrict the flow of blood to the brain causing the formation of blood clots in the blood passageways within the brain. If a sudden surge of energy (fight/flight response) causes the heart to pump more blood to the brain, this can produce what we call a stroke. A stroke can disable various wirings of the brain affecting our memory, our ability to walk and speak.
More recently, high levels of cortisol have been found in people with Alzheimer’s…when there is too much cortisol in the system the body loses energy and drive. There is a desire to withdraw or disengage from the demands of life. I saw this happen with my own father.
“The root to our spirit is through the evolution of our own consciousness.” I’m not sure who said or wrote this quote, but I believe consciousness is a moment-to-moment awareness of what’s happening in our life right now. It relates to the health of our bodies and to the deep sense of ‘who I am’.
Persuading our bodies to change, especially our hormone balance is a slow process. You’ll probably notice erratic improvements; some months you’ll feel better and others it will feel like you’re sliding back. It may seem you are making no progress than suddenly, everything will seem to function beautifully. There are times you may even give up, then a few bad cycles will convince you to start all over once again. The first step is to act on it and mean it. Don’t worry where you are now. All this will be different a year from now. Never fear the next phase in your life; you’re going to make it a big experience!
“As we come to understand the essence and the symbology of the seven centers [endocrine glands], we can begin to comprehend what sort of result misuse of…emotions can and does create in our bodies. At times, they set up the beginning stages of an illness that might be experienced and diagnosed at some point in the future. In the same manner, we can see how strong emotional patterns formed deep within one or more past lifetimes can create the pattern of an illness we are currently experiencing.” William A. McCarey, M.D.
to be continued….