Hormones: Chemical Messengers and the Chiropractic Link

Chiropractors, in comparison to conventional medical doctors, undergo similar instruction during their professional training. They both learn that the functions of the body are regulated by two major control systems: (1) the nervous system, and (2) the hormonal system. The nervous system, in particular, is of special interest to chiropractic.

Why is this nervous system important to chiropractic? Chiropractors recognize that the nervous system controls and coordinates the functions of the body. Chiropractic philosophy teaches that, if you interfere with the signals traveling over these nerves, parts of the body will not get the proper nerve messages and will not be able to function at 100% of their innate abilities. In other words, some part of the body will not be working properly.

Interestingly, a recent study published in the September 2000 issue of the Journal of Manipulative and Physiologic Therapeutics showed that chiropractic adjustments have an effect on the autonomic nervous system. This is a division of the central nervous system responsible for the control and function of internal body organs and glandular control via hormonal chemical mediated responses.

This research was designed to measure the changes in Edge Light Pupil Cycle Time (ELPCT), which is one of the light reflexes of the eyes controlled by the autonomic nervous system. The results showed a decrease in the Edge Light Pupil Cycle Time. The implications of this research may go well beyond the study itself. This is because chiropractors have said for over 100 years that interference to the nervous system creates a situation whereby various parts of the body will not be functioning at their fullest innate potential. This study demonstrates a direct link between a chiropractic adjustment and a response in the autonomic nervous system.

Chiropractic is based on a vitalistic philosophy, which recognizes that life and, therefore, health, is an expression of an inner wisdom—an innate intelligence orchestrating every cell within our bodies. So, then, how does the body truly “get” the proper nerve messages? One system in general may provide some additional answers to innate intelligence.

It is this author’s contention that the hormonal system, and its role in chemical messengers, may equally serve a significant role in innate intelligence.

In general, the hormonal system is concerned, principally, with the control of the metabolic function of the body, rates of control of chemical reactions in the body, substance transport through cell membranes, growth, and secretion. Some hormonal effects occur in a matter of nanoseconds, while others over an elaborate process of several days to months or even years.

Many interrelationships occur between the hormonal system and the nervous system. For instance, the posterior pituitary gland, some of the anterior pituitary and the adrenal medulla, secrete their hormones only in response to nerve stimuli. All of the major anterior pituitary hormones besides growth hormones exert their effects by stimulating “target glands:” the thyroid gland, the adrenal cortex, the ovaries, the testicles, and the mammary glands.

A hormone, simply defined, is a chemical substance that is excreted into the body fluids by one cell or a group of cells that, in turn, exerts a physiological controlling effect on other cells of the body. A hormone, then, is a chemical messenger.

For our purposes, hormones may be divided into local and general hormones. An example of a local hormone would be acetylcholine, released at the parasympathetic and skeletal nerve endings, causing a specific local effect. On the other hand, the general hormones, located at specific endocrine glands, are secreted directly into the blood and they cause a physiological effect at distant body tissue sites.

The endocrine gland hormones almost never act directly at a local site to control cellular reactions; instead, they combine with hormone receptors at the membrane surface or inside a cell. The combination of hormone and receptors will exert a cascade of reactions in the cell. Either all or nearly all hormone receptors are large proteins and each receptor is almost highly specific for a single hormone. Many hormones exert their effects on the cells by first causing cyclic 3”, 5”-adenosine monophosphate (cyclic AMP) to be formed in the cell. Once formed, the cyclic AMP acts as a second messenger for hormone mediation, the first chemical message being the original stimulating hormone.

Today, there are also many recent medical studies that demonstrate the beneficial effects of hormones in disease protection, improved function and healing and providing a better quality of life. For example, studies indicate that progesterone in women affects our blood vessels, improves our lipid profiles, our bones, our brains and even our estrogen activity. Progesterone does so much more than manage fertility, and its decline can produce a lot of dramatic effects.

Progesterone down regulates estrogen receptors, protects against endometrial cancer and enhances protection against osteoporosis.1 Progesterone is synergistic to estrogen’s effect on bone, and has been found to stimulate osteoblasts to build bones. Women using progesterone experienced significant improvement in vasomotor symptoms (hot flashes thought to be result of dopamine decline), somatic complaints and anxiety and depressive symptoms.2

One study indicated that all women on natural progesterone had a decrease in total cholesterol and an increase in high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Those on (synthetic) conjugated estrogens and progestin had no significant change from baseline in total cholesterol.3 The physiological levels of both estrogen and progesterone are associated with reduced foam-cell formation, consistent with a protective effect against early atherosclerosis.4,5

For a long time, in women’s natural healthcare, progesterone wasn’t as well known when it came to its sister hormone, estrogen. We, instead, have always known progesterone simply as the hormone of pregnancy. Recent medical research is now telling us a different story and, perhaps, even demonstrating a complementary role concerning the hormonal system, its chemical messengers and the chiropractic link.

Dr. Molina is the Clinical Chiropractic Consultant for Sarati Laboratories, offering a progressive new concept in hormone support and re-balancing solutions for men and women. Dr. Molina provides nutritional and technique seminars that address the Chiropractic Management of Aging and the Effects of Hormonal Therapies on Quality of Life Issues. She maintains a group chiropractic practice in San Juan Capistrano and may be reached at [email protected].

1. Hargrove J, Osteen K, et al. An Alternative Method of Hormone Replacement Therapy Using Natural Sex Steroids. Menopause. 1995: Vol 6:5:653.
2. Fitzpatrick L, Pace C, Wiita B et al. Comparison of regimens containing oral micronized progesterone or medroxyprogesterone on quality of life in postmenopausal women: a cross-sectional study. Mayo Clinic. J Women’s’ Health Gend Based Med 200 May: 9(4):381-7.
3. Hargrove J, Maxson W, Wentz A et al. Menopausal Hormone Replacement Therapy. Am J Obstet Gynecol Jan 1999: 180:42-8.
4. McCronhon J et al. Estrogen and progesterone reduce lipid accumulation in human monocycte-derived macrophages. Circulation. 1999 Dec 7:100:2319-25.
5. Rosano G et al. Natural progesterone, but not synthetic, enhances the beneficial effect of estrogen on estrogen-induced myocardial ischemia in postmenopausal women. J Am Cardiol 2000 Dec; 36 (7):2154-9.

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