What is the hypothalamus? Start by drawing a picture: Your stomach begins to churn. It’s been long since you last ate, and you can feel intensely hungry. You start craving for all the food available, and it starts to get harder to focus on. The only thing you can think of is food, which makes it unbearably unpleasant, so you decide to eat. Does this sound familiar?
The cause of all this process is the hypothalamus, a small subcortical structure in the brain’s center. The pea-sized hypothalamus plays a role in regulating some of our daily lives’ essential functions, such as diet and homeostasis.
It is on the underside of the brain. It is located just below the thalamus, above the pituitary gland, and attached with a stalk. In humans, the hypothalamus’ size about the size of a pea, accounting for less than 2% of your total brain volume.
Many of the hypothalamus’ important roles are related to what is known as two Hs, hormones and homeostasis.
Homeostasis refers to a healthy and balanced physical condition. The body is constantly trying to achieve this balance. For example, hunger is a process in which your brain informs your body that more nutrients are needed to achieve homeostasis.
To this end, the hypothalamus acts as a connector between the nervous systems and endocrine and plays a central role in many important functions of the body, including:
- body temperature
- appetite and weight control
- sleep cycles
- production of digestive juices
- sex drive
- heart rate and blood pressure
- balancing bodily fluids
When different systems and parts of the body send signals to the brain, they alert the hypothalamus about imbalances that need to be addressed. The hypothalamus then reacts by discharging the appropriate hormones into the bloodstream to balance that imbalance in the body.
An example of this is humans’ amazing ability to maintain an inner temperature of approx. 37 degrees Celsius.
When the hypothalamus receives a signal that the core temperature is too high, it tells the body to sweat. When you receive a signal that the temperature is too low, your body shakes and produces its own heat.
Love and Hypothalamus:
One of the most vital brain function is emotional processing. These emotions are processed in the limbic system. Hypothalamus is an important part of this system because it is responsible for letting the whole body know what emotions the brain is feeling. How emotions are processed in the brain is a complex task, but the hypothalamus is responsible for feeling love. The hypothalamus produces phenylethylamine, a neurotransmitter that has a similar outcome to amphetamine. This is why we feel happy and euphoric when we fall in love. This neurotransmitter also increases norepinephrine and adrenaline, which increases heart rate, oxygen levels, and blood pressure.
What could go wrong with my hypothalamus?
The hypothalamic function can be affected by brain tumors, head trauma, infections, significant weight loss, surgery, and radiation. It can lead to disturbed temperature regulation and energy balance, chaotic body rhythms (insomnia), and pituitary deficiency symptoms due to hypothalamic control loss. Hypopituitarism ultimately causes a deficiency of hormones produced by the gonads, thyroid gland, and adrenal cortex.
Diet for hypothalamus health:
Keeping the hypothalamus healthy is very important because the hypothalamus plays a central role in the body. Although a person cannot completely avoid genetic factors, they can routinely diet for ideal hypothalamic health to reduce the risk of hypothalamic disease.
The hypothalamus controls hunger, and food in the diet affects the hypothalamus. A diet rich in saturated fat diet can change how the hypothalamus regulates energy expenditure and hunger.
Sources of saturated fat include lard, meat, and dairy products. Studies have also shown that a diet high in saturated fat can cause inflammation in the body.
A diet rich in polyunsaturated fats, like omega-3 fatty acids, can help relieve the inflammation. These fats can be a safe alternative to other kinds of fats and oils. Foods high in omega-3s include fish, nuts, flaxseed, and lush greens.
Therefore, the hypothalamus has extensive effects on the body and behavior due to its role in maintaining homeostasis and stimulating hormone release so we must endeavor to look after this amazing body part and function.Tags: brain power, education, Health, mindset, wellness