Biology requires extraordinary coordination to achieve its collective function. 70 Trillion human cells is an impossible number to wrap one’s mind around. For that galaxy of cells to maintain all its compartmentalized duties – liver, kidneys, brain, bone, muscle, each cell knowing its unique identity and function in the context of the greater whole seems to me the very definition of miracle.
It is all achieved through extraordinary communication. The endocrine system is composed of the eloquent network of glands – pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, bone, pancreas, ovaries and beyond. The hormones produced by each gland serve specific roles in the coordination of the symphony of the human body. There are hundreds of hormones produced in the human body, but only roughly 50 of these have been named and functionally characterized. The longer I have practiced medicine the more humbled I become in the face of the extraordinary intelligence of this system that we have only begun to understand.
From that view point is astonishing to me that functional medicine and classic allopathic pharmaceutical medicine alike are so cavalier in the use of exogenous hormones. From prednisone to insulin, from thyroid hormone to estrogen, we act as if we know how to wield these single hormones in a biologically intelligent fashion. The endocrine system is an ever-moving target, for every action is an immediate reaction from the other hundreds of hormones, receptors for each hormone can be created in more or less abundance as well.
Thousands of genes are affected by something as simple as the steroid hormone of Vitamin D. We are foolish to think we are smart enough to micromanage the endocrine system. Instead, we should strive to alter this system as little as possible, and instead come to understand how our connection to nature can balance this eloquent system without manipulation from our pharmaceutical war chest. To get there, doctors, we will have to listen closely to our patients, and look deep into our environment for new solutions to recover our endocrine systems.