Obviously, to act most hormones must be present in the bloodstream. What happens if a hormone or hormone-containing food is consumed normally? Is there any way for the hormone to reach the bloodstream?

A related question is whether hormones are destroyed by digestive enzymes and chemicals, which include hydrochloric acid and bile salts. If hormones are destroyed by these chemicals then it may be impossible for them to enter the blood stream.

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    $\begingroup$ Yes, some hormones can be absorbed from the digestive tract. Birth control pills are a perfect example. $\endgroup$ – MattDMo Jan 15 '16 at 17:52
  • $\begingroup$ @MattDMo Well in that case the drug is encapsulated a special "enteric coating" that protects it from stomach acid. $\endgroup$ – Imprisoned Rhesus Jan 15 '16 at 20:03
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    $\begingroup$ @ImprisonedRhesus peptide hormones (e.g. growth hormone, insulin, pituitary hormones, etc) are denatured by stomach acidity and digested by proteinases - as MattDMo says above the steroid hormones (testosterone, estrogen, bile salts, etc) can be absorbed by the GI tract $\endgroup$ – Vance L Albaugh Jan 15 '16 at 22:32

This entirely depends on the kind of hormone. Hormones can be chemically completely different things. For example, estrogen is a steroid hormone and is chemically very stable so that it can pass the stomach without being harmed by the acidic conditions (even without enteric coating. AFAIK enteric coating is only used in emergency contraceptives, not in regular ones. And for the emergency contraceptives it is used in order to reduce side effects such as vomiting). As such, estrogen in your food or drink will have an effect on your body and there are many studies suggesting that this is a reason for reduced fertility in men.

On the other hand, insulin is a peptide, which would be digested and its hormone function completely inactivated when swallowed.

There is even the notion, that the gas nitric oxide may have a hormone function. In that case, it could reach the blood stream even through inhalation.

In summary, whether or not a hormone can be active after ingestion entirely depends on the kind of hormone.


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