Hormones get a lot of bad press, especially when people are talking about food. So what are these things, why do we care, and are they good or bad?
Hormones are basically messengers. They are little proteins that are made by one part of the body, they travel through the blood to another part of the body, and then they tell that part of the body what to do.
For example… Insulin is a hormone. It is made by the pancreas, travels through the blood to all the other tissues and cells in your body, and tells your cells when to take glucose out of your blood and into the cells. The cells then use glucose for energy.
Another hormone is thyroid hormone. (This one is near and dear to me.) Thyroid hormone is made by your thyroid gland, travels all over your body, and does things like tell you how much energy you have, tell your heart how fast to beat, and tells your stomach and intestines how fast to move and how much nutrients to absorb from your food.
Some of the hormones you might be more familiar with are estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. These are reproductive hormones. Among other things, they tell women’s (and female animal’s) ovaries when to cycle, when to ovulate, and determine whether or not a female can get pregnant at a specific time of the month. They also have effects on male reproduction, and on secondary sex characteristics in people and animals. (Remember back to high school biology, hearing about secondary sex characteristics? These are things like body hair, voice changes, breast development, and fun things that happen during puberty. Animals go through puberty, too, it’s just not quite as visible as it is in people.)
All living things – people, plants, animals, and insects – have hormones. You can’t live without them.
So what’s the big deal in food? Many people are concerned about hormones in their food. Yes, it is true that many farmers are using hormones to help their cattle grow faster or their cows make more milk. And people are worried about how this will affect their own health. Absolutely valid concerns. And too much to tackle in this post today. Stay tuned, we’ll be talking more about this in the days to come.
What are your specific questions and concerns? I’ll do my best to address the issues you are worried about as we keep going on this topic.
Other posts about hormones: