As my friends see it, one of my more unusual passions is functional endocrinology. Even my friend and business partner, an internal medicine specialist, was somewhat astonished that I would forego a hiking adventure on the coast to spend an entire California spring weekend delving into the mysteries of human glandular function. She’s a convert now, though, and as we walk the Sierra trails, our conversations often wind through hormonal conversions and hormonal effects on human lives.
Just what is functional endocrinology? Functional endocrinology is the study of the ebbs, flows, and complex interactions of hormones, and their effect on mind, body, and spirit. In functional endocrinology, rather than dosing a body with single, synthetic hormones, we use diet, lifestyle, herbs, nutrients, and other medicines to support, balance and optimize the functioning of the entire endocrine system. No one gland functions independently of the others. As I often explain (sing) to my clients, just as the foot bone is connected to the ankle bone, ankle bone connected to the shin bone…. the ovaries are connected to the adrenal glands, the adrenal glands connected to the thyroid, thyroid connected to the pituitary…
Functional endocrinology is an interest that makes sense in the context of my life. I have a professional interest as well as a personal interest. In my practice, as my clients and I have grown older, my work has evolved through a concentration on premenstrual syndrome and fertility to aging ovaries, sluggish thyroids, stressed out adrenal glands, and loss of libido. In the mid 70’s, my fascination was with lunaception, a study of the influence of natural and artificial lighting on the hormonal control of the female fertility cycle. We slept in tipis then, and wrote odes to ovulation consciousness and papers on fertility awareness.
In my home now, I am a peri-menopausal woman living in a house with an andropausal husband and an adolescent son. My fascination is with the compelling power of raging hormones, and the potential they bring for chaos and creativity. One quickly realizes that though the physical transformations each one of us undergoes are perhaps the most apparent of the changes that these life altering hormones put us through, they are not half the story. As hormones wash over us, they affect every system in our bodies. We are profoundly affected physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually.
In other times and in other cultures, pathways were and are provided for understanding and celebrating the changes we undergo. These days, though, many of us more or less muddle through, imposing new lifestyle patterns on physiological systems which evolved in the days in which we were not bearing babies in our forties, creating new careers for ourselves in our fifties, changing partners in our sixties and living through our eighties. Since when have sons and daughters been entering puberty as parents were entering retirement?