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The Hormonal Brain

by Michael Cheikin, MD

Hormones are chemical messengers that evolved early in evolution. A hormone is a molecule excreted by one cell to affect another cell. That other cell can be next door, downstream, or the cell itself (as a form of self-control). Plants had hormones before animals evolved. As organisms became larger and more complex, more coordination became necessary. In addition to more complex hormone systems, animals developed a faster system based on electricity, called the nervous system. Hormones are like snail mail, while nerves work like email. While email is faster and more dominant, we still need snail mail for certain functions. And most importantly, since hormones evolved first, they affect every nerve function, including the brain.

Phases of Life

While we typically think of hormonal life beginning at puberty, there are several phases of life when hormones change. The first phase of hormonal change is at birth, where the mother's hormones are cut off from the fetus and replaced with other hormones in breast milk.

The adrenal glands are influenced during gestation, but do not begin production until around three years old. From this point on, a young child is more vulnerable to "stress" because the adrenal glands make stress-survival hormones. Traumas at this age (physical, medical, emotional) can affect the hormones and brain for the rest of life.

A few years before puberty, the adrenal glands begin secreting sex-like hormones that develop secondary sexual characteristics such as pubic hair, change of sweat and acne. During puberty, which is called menarche and spermarche, in girls and boys, the ovaries and testes turn children into reproductively-enabled adults.

After the reproductive years, usually staring in the late thirties to early forties, sexual and adrenal hormones begin to decline, called menopause and andropause in women and men respectively.

Other hormones are involved in these changes, which

are controlled by regions of the brain such as the pituitary gland, hypothalamus, and sleep and emotional centers, and involve simultaneous changes in other hormone systems.

Hormones and the Brain

Each hormone, connected ito survival, pushes the emotional and cognitive (thinking) systems in certain directions to increase the chances of survival. While we often think of hormones affecting the female brain, the male version can look like sexual impulsivity, violence, erectile dysfunction, poor judgement and mood. The brain is also affected by other hormones, including adrenal (stress), thyroid, insulin, and others. For example, adrenaline drives flight-fight, while oxytocin affects love and connection. Leptin influences hunger and metabolism

Certain important hormones are rarely addressed in conventional medicine. These include pregnenolone, DHEA, and aldosterone. Each has important effects on neurological function. Pregnenolone is involved in concentration and short-term memory. DHEA affects sex and immune systems and has been used for certain autoimmune diseases. Aldosterone can help with tinnitus and hearing loss.

Other Factors: Gut, Toxins, Deficiencies, Infections

In addition to the hormones interacting with each other, there are additional factors which can influence hormonal-brain balance. These include the gastro-intestinal system and toxins such as mercury, lead, fluoride, bromide, plastics and pesticides. Infections such as Lyme and pollutants such as electro-magnetic fields coming from our phones and wireless technology are not adequately addressed. Our soils have been depleted since the 1930's and the RDA's for certain nutrients such as boron and omega-3 oils doe not exist. Sleep is a nutrient that is frequency deficient has powerful affect on the brain and hormones. With our world-wide epidemic of deficiency and toxicity. the epidemic of crazy behavior is understandable.

Holistic Options

The Holistic toolbox is robust with ways of measuring and treating the factors listed above. Understanding and desire for healing are all that is needed to make the lifestyle and other changes that can naturally improve quality of life.


1. This educational material may not be used to influence medical care without supervision by a licensed practitioner.

2. These contents are ©2015-19 by Michael Cheikin MD and may not be reproduced in any form without express written permission.

3. Dr. Cheikin's website has related articles such as “Hormonal Web," "Adrenal Fatigue", Neurotransmitters" and many others.

Michael Cheikin MD is a holistic physician, Board Certified in Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation ("Physiatry"), Pain Management, Spinal Cord Medicine and Electrodiagnostic Medicine and licensed in Medical Acupuncture. Dr. Cheikin has extensively studied yoga, diet and metabolism, Ayurvedic, Chinese and energy medicine and other alternative modalities for over 35 years. He specializes in obscure, chronic and severe problems that have not responded satisfactorily to other methods of healing.

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