We Are Our Hormones
A book that sets the record straight on the influence of hormones — for the readers of Dick Swaab
Hormones are invisible chemicals produced by our bodies that, by way of blood vessels, enable and direct different bodily functions throughout our lives. They are essential to our quality of sleep, the rhythm of our hearts, our body temperatures, sugar levels, digestion, stress responses, reproduction and much more. When our hormonal systems derail, the consequences are of vital importance to our health, and in some cases even to world history: during the Cold War, US President John F. Kennedy’s wildly swinging hormones almost caused nuclear disaster (to name just one example).
In We Are Our Hormones, Professor Max Nieuwdorp, an international authority on the human endocrine system, interweaves scientific discoveries, stories of patients and centuries of medical history to unveil hormones as the conductors of our bodies. We are, as it turns out, not our brains: ‘It’s a little subtler, the brain is not an absolute ruler, but is rather shaped by hormones. When our hormones go haywire, our brains function differently.’ Nieuwdorp explains and clarifies the role of hormones in pregnancy and birth, puberty, aging and seniority, the nurture vs nature debate, the spectrum of sexualities and genders, hunger and our intestines, weight loss or gain, our immune systems, contraception, the thyroid, as well as meno- and penopause.
Influential though hormones may be, Nieuwdorp does put their power in perspective and debunks the many pseudo-scientific conceptions surrounding them today. While hormone research has advanced in leaps and bounds over the last seventy years, there remains much we do not know. For example, how large the influence of our gut bacteria is on our hormonal balance, or all the changes the female body undergoes during menopause. According to Nieuwdorp the research is, however, clear in this regard: We are not just our hormones. We are the interplay of environment, body and mind. Hormones might muddle one’s ability to make decisions, but they are no excuse from responsibility for one’s actions.
In the end, this is a wonderfully informative plea to doctors everywhere, against standard treatments, and for taking into account the far-reaching roles played by hormones throughout each human body. Especially given that endocrine disorders such as diabetes and thyroid issues are so common in the world.