Today’s blog is on human growth hormone, one of five Key hormones that we have discussed in earlier blogs, the other four being insulin, glucagon, testosterone and oestrogen.
This blog has been written with the intention to support those learners enrolled on the Level 3 Diploma in Sports Massage and those interested in or operating as a Sports Massage Therapist.
WHAT IS HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE?
Also known simply as growth hormone (GH), this is one of the most important peptide hormones that the human body manufactures.
Produced naturally in the pituitary gland, it is secreted into the bloodstream before being converted into growth factors by the liver, most importantly, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1).
Levels will peak during puberty; during pregnancy it will be produced by the placenta. However, once we reach our early to mid-20s, our levels of GH will naturally decline and this will continue into middle and old age.
WHAT DOES HUMAN GROWTH HORMONE DO?
As its name suggests, GH aids growth and development through childhood. However, it also has essential functions in adults, for example:
• Balances other hormones
• Promotes a healthy heart and keeps cholesterol levels low
• Helps maintain muscle mass and metabolise fat and protein
• Reduces inflammation
• Promotes bone density
• Promotes cell growth and helps the body to heal
• Increases energy levels
• Maintains a sense of wellbeing, reduces stress
HOW DOES GH ACHIEVE THIS?
By stimulating the release of insulin growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which promotes the growth of tissue.
WHAT HAPPENS IF YOU ARE DEFICIENT IN GH?
Children deficient in GH will not grow and develop at the usual rate. Kidney disease and genetic disorders, such as Turner’s syndrome in girls and Prader-Willi syndrome in boys, are often treated with the administration of synthetic GH.
A severe deficiency in adults in the form of AGHD – adult growth hormone deficiency – is rare and tends to affect individuals who have undergone a brain injury affecting the part of the brain that controls the pituitary gland, or damage to the gland itself, for example from tumours. Adults with short bowel syndrome or HIV/Aids might also become GH deficient.
WHAT IS SYNTHETIC GH?
This is a manmade version of the hormone that is prescribed by a doctor to help those diagnosed with AGHD.
However, it is also used by some gym goers when the natural production of GH slows due to the ageing process – or even before this happens – in a bid to reduce belly fat and increase muscle mass.
Medically prescribed synthetic GH is only given in the form of an injection – pills and creams are generally not considered effective.
WHAT ARE THE ALTERNATIVE TO SYNTHETIC GH?
While naturally produced GH will decline over time, there are plenty of ways you can boost your levels of GH and keep them high for longer.
• Eating a healthy diet with fewer processed foods
• Taking regular exercise, in particular cardio-vascular
• Getting plenty of sleep
• Keeping stress levels low
• Reducing alcohol intake
As all of your key hormones work together for an overall balance, if you are deficient in other areas, such as testosterone production, a medical professional may suggest boosting this to help boost the natural production of GH.
While a doctor can test for clinically low levels of human growth hormone and prescribe a safe supply of synthetic GH if medically required, it’s not advisable for individuals to take matters into their own hands without medical consultation.