A Story of Life and Death
Beauty is as the beholder sees it. It has no real or non-relative definition. But if one were to make a scientific attempt, it would probably be something like this: Beauty results when sound genes are acted upon by the right amount of hormones. Physical beauty is evident in youth and lasts for the duration of our optimal hormonal activities.
Hormones are those substances that allow us to follow our blue print as contained in our genes. Some say health is beauty. Arguably true. But it is better put: beauty starts with health. That’s an axiomatic fact. Endocrine health has to do with having the right amount of hormones in our blood stream. Hormones are like the icing on the cake; they are like the deft touches of oil-paint from an artist that gives his painting a perfect finish.
The story of the fall of Adam, in the Bible, tells us how Adam became cursed and sin made its way into the world (as did disease and hardship). We are told the world changed for the worse. No longer did the earth follow God’s original laid-out plan for her but a plan precipitated by Adam and Eve’s disobedience. No longer was the world perfect. With this new development, there were changes made to both our external and internal environments. The labor pain God said women would begin to experience is a testimony to the fact that there was once a time of no labor pains. This means that our physical bodies underwent changes.
The truth about the world today is: All of us, in varying degrees, have failed to follow our innate blue print- our latent perfect physical form (you might call it the divine plan for our physical natures) for the sole reason that sickness and disease have caused mutations in our genes. They have also made our hormones under-active or over-active or our bodies unresponsive to hormones. Make no mistake, we are all inherently and intrinsically beautiful (as God made all things beautiful) but the diseases of our world have hindered us from reaching our optimal physical form. This is not a reference in any way to evolution. The only similarity here is that environment influences our appearance. But I’m referring to something far less dramatic and less time-spanning than evolution. Take for example how having lost body fluid when we suffer from diarrhea or polyuria (excessive urination) brings about reversible changes to our physical appearance.
The beautiful people of the world are those who have executed their blue print to a greater degree than most. They tend to look healthier and may have more exquisitely defined features than others. It is the belief of some that we will reach perfection in our physical forms only when we get to heaven. Hormones are, therefore, like construction workers and genes are like the plan they try to follow. Both form a gateway to an anatomical and physiological nirvana. And (believe it or not), quite possibly, everlasting life, since the decline of hormones with age has been observed to lead to natural death.
A hormone is a substance released in the blood stream in one region of the body that is capable of affecting cells in another region of the body. They are released by ductless glands- also called endocrine glands because their secretions are internal in contrast to exocrine glands (or organs) like sweat glands, salivary glands, mammary glands etc., whose secretions are external (i.e. passing through ducts or passages to the integument of the organism). Examples of endocrine glands are the pituitary gland, adrenal gland, thyroid gland, kidneys, ovaries, pancreas etc… Let’s take a lay overview of the role of hormones in human development and biological success.
Hormonal glands in the body lie dormant until the time they are needed to bring about a certain development or maturation. This usually occurs in puberty. They are the biological clocks that prepare an individual physiologically and anatomically for the tasks of adult-hood by altering physical form. Tasks like reproduction are made possible by hormonal action on the body. Without these preparations the adult would be defective and biologically unsuccessful (sterile). The story of hormones is a story of growth and vitality (maturation and fertility) followed by cessation of growth, loss of fertility, debility and death. Hormones are, to a great measure, responsible for our physical strength and our general health. Their ultimate decline prefigures death- but to be more precise, the inability of our bodies to work properly. If we could prolong the duration of their action we could very well live healthier and longer lives.
The human body produces hormones in large amounts- particularly in adolescence. By the time we reach 30, this hormonal spurt slowly starts to plummet. The onset of disease-conditions resulting from a hormonal lack/defect is often subtle and difficult to detect. The long-term result, in some cases, is fatal. Usually the body’s organs begin to fail first. In diabetics, for example, the failure of the body’s insulin to regulate blood-sugar levels ultimately leads to death. Hormonal dysfunction can change our physical appearance or handicap us mentally or physically (or both) for the rest of our lives.
Hormones, in affecting our physical appearance, affect it in ways ranging from the lack of maturation (puerile features) to over-maturation (grotesque or hideous features). Dwarfism and the failure to develop secondary sex characteristics are common ways a deficiency of a hormone, like growth hormone, can affect us. Flaws in our body’s metabolism and our body-fat distribution, resulting from a hormonal imbalance, can give us various odd shapes and physical features. We are insensible to the activity of our hormones but when their work is complete we can all marvel or be horrified at the results.
Medicine, over the ages, has grown from simply taking care of our functional impairments to improving and fortifying our health and appearance. Advancements in medicine have come from a better enlightenment on how our bodies work. Now doctors are better able to prevent certain ailments and correct anomalies before they manifest. Unfortunately, despite this trend, Africa and the rest of the developing world are still lagging very much behind. Endocrine Medicine isn’t given the attention it deserves in these countries. And people in these countries, if not incapacitated, continue to thrive with their ailments, which are sometimes curable. Populations are more sickly and weaker in poorer nations. The fact that tropical climates in Africa and South-east Asia, which are hot and humid, provide the perfect incubation-temperature for many disease-causing micro-organisms hasn’t helped matters.
One hormone- cortisol, produced in the adrenal cortex, has many functions which are not all fully known. It is generally agreed that its presence gives a sense of well-being and its absence- a sense of malaise. Its main functions are in protein, carbohydrate and fat metabolism. It regulates the hormone insulin in its breakdown of sugar to release energy. Its other effects are on blood pressure, muscle strength (tone) and in the slowing of the immune system’s anti-inflammatory response.
Aldosterone is a fellow corticosteroid also found in the same region. It helps the body in maintaining its electrolyte (salt and water) balance. When the region that produces these hormones is damaged e.g. by surgery, cancer, auto-immune diseases, tuberculosis etc, there are subtle changes to the body before a crisis develops. These changes can best be likened to a sort of ‘drying up’ process. Hypoglycemia (low blood-sugar levels), fainting, loss of memory and sometimes psychotic behavior can all be brought about by this ‘drying up’ process. This ‘drying up’ also stops many natural body processes like menstruation. Corticosteroids like cortisol are arguably the most subtle of the hormones thanks to their wide-spread effects.
Various anti-aging pills make use of HGH (Human Growth Hormone), also called somatotropin, to regulate the activity of protein and enable the growth and repair of worn-out tissues. HGH is produced in high amounts in growing children. Their lack leads to various types of dwarfism. There is usually a decline in their production from the age 30 onwards. This means we have a decreased ability to recover from physical injury. In other words, adults find it harder to recover from injuries than children. A simple leg injury, which a child would normally fully recover from, would result in irreversible damage- a permanent limp in an adult. This continual inability to recover from damage is one way of looking at the phenomenon of growing old (senescence) and dying. Adults need to supplement their bodies’ natural production of HGH if they wished to slow down their decline. Hence, the reason for the use of HGH in anti-aging creams and pills.
Unlocking the mystery behind gene-coding could unlock the mystery of variability and give rise to new life-forms. It could very well be our doorway to breeding stronger races. Unlocking the mystery behind the spurt and decline of hormones could unlock the mystery of natural decline. Could man one day be able to create new improved species of the human race? Could man learn to prolong and improve his life (speaking in terms of length and quality)? Theologians would call it playing God; scientists would call it advancing the species.
Our present age (the age of Dolly the cloned sheep) appears to be a threshold period for genetic engineering- a denouement of some sort in the annals of man. It has become apparent that it is man’s innate programming to strive to overcome every hurdle he faces or could face in future. New scientific frontiers have been reached in an effort achieve a mitigation or an improvement of our circumstances. There may be some who, despite not subscribing to the advancing-the-species mentality of the scientifically minded, would say that the struggle to overcome our shortcomings as a race is a divinely ordained adaptation to a curse brought upon us by the disobedience of our first parents- Adam and Eve. But then, should there be limits in this quest? And if so, what are they? And have we already surpassed them?
The result of perfection in our world would mean greater life expectancies, alarming demographics and greater strain on our planet’s eco-system, a decline in the value and quality of life and, very possibly, an eventual population crash in the human population. To put it crudely, in order for people to live there is a need for people to die and so achieving perfection is just not in our best interests. Until this is no longer the situation, unlocking the mystery of our biological clocks is of specious benefit.
Written By Charles Opara