Movie Mondays at the Martini Mansion
(aka short documentary at my crappy apartment)
Having put on my student of science cap last night, I watched an hour-long documentary on hormones by the name of The Fantastical World of Hormones, with Dr. John Wass (see Mr. Wass below).
I feel like it is widely accepted that hormones control just about everything in our lives. From the exciting (libido, emotions, passions) to the boring (puberty, hairline, voice). I watched this short film with a learning mindset, and here is what I found out:
1. The study of hormones is called, “Endocrinology.” It’s a unique and sexy area of scientific inquiry with many discoveries remaining to be made. How scientists study the tiny mysteries involve bizarre albeit intelligent experiments, as the endocrine system is not an anatomical system like the cardiovascular or nervous system (meaning that it cannot be seen). One crazy experiment involved removing the sexual organs – testicles for males and ovaries and part of the wombs for females – of different animals and inserting them under the animals’ skin in a different area of the body. No matter where the sexual organs were placed in the animals’ bodies, they continued to deliver hormones throughout the body. This particular discovery revolutionized women’s health and endocrinology, because hormones were finally understood as chemicals independent from the nervous system (ovaries didn’t need to send estrogen through the nervous system to different parts of the body).
2. Hormones are chemical secretions that travel by blood. In men, for example, the testicles release testosterone into the blood, and the bloodstream carries the chemicals to different parts of the bodies, spurring physiological changes (i.e. puberty).
3. If a man is castrated before puberty (such man-boys are called “castratos”), then his voice will remain at that angelic choir-boy pitch despite their physical growth– this was somehow a common procedure for male opera singers that continued until the early twentieth century.
4. Doctors used to believe that ovaries were the cause of various physical and mental disabilities, and would, in hopes of curing the ailments, remove the ovaries of the afflicted women (Is anyone else greatly disturbed by this?) If both ovaries are removed, women experience early menopause symptoms such as hot flashes, irregular periods, insomnia, and bladder irritability.
5. Cortisol is the stress hormone, while addrenaline is the fight or flight hormone, and oxycotin is the bonding hormone. Each hormone is aimed at a particular cell and only works on that target cells.
6. The pituitary gland regulates the distribution of hormones. . . Generally. Apparently, there are other parts of our bodies functioning as hormone regulators as well, such as our fat. Fat creates the hormone leptin, which in turn, affects the amount of food we eat. It works like this: Leptin is constantly being produced by our fat cells, and the more fat stores we have, in general, the more leptin flows in the blood. This hormone essentially tells our brain that we’ve eaten enough, and we lose our appetite. BUT, the system doesn’t always work properly. Sometimes, fat cells don’t produce leptin, and those afflicted won’t be able to control their appetites. Often times, these people overeat and become obese. As the inability to produce leptin is genetic, let’s take the time to blame the original villains in our lives: our parents ;). I’ll say this, though: it’s not always a lack of self-control, #mondaymotivation; sometimes, it’s a hormone deficiency.
Endocrinology, as a science, is a relatively young field of inquiry, being just over 100 years old. There has been a lot of progress with the abandonment of male youth castration and oophorectomies (procedure removing the ovaries), but as doctors discover more about the ways hormones affect our minds and bodies, I’m sure we’ll see new and potentially horrifying methods and procedures to retain and/or regain youth and beauty.
Would I recommend watching the movie?
If you like documentaries and are interested in human chemistry with a pinch of history, it’s definitely worth the watch! That said, I might have spoiled a lot of those fun, “What?! I didn’t know that!” moments. While I watched it on Amazon Prime, it is also available to watch on Youtube.