The human body is a complex network of systems that work together in harmony. The endocrine system is an example of how the different systems work together to keep us healthy.
The endocrine system includes 9 major glands that produce hormones. Each small organ has a special function and also significant influence over other glands. Think of the each gland as a character in a village. Each villager has a special trade and they all work together to keep the community going.
According to Empower Your Health, “There are up to 40 different hormones circulating in your blood at any time. Once released into the bloodstream, a hormone circulates throughout the body until it reaches its specific target — or targets — to perform its function.
While all these glands normally coordinate with each other exceptionally well in order to regulate various metabolic processes, hormonal function is a balancing act of sorts. Too much or too little of one hormone can have an impact on the release of other hormones. If this hormonal imbalance occurs, some of your body’s systems do not work properly. In order to bring the hormones back to their normal levels, your body has built-in mechanisms to keep track and respond to any changes by means of a complex, but highly efficient, feedback system that links some endocrine glands with others.”
When it comes to endocrine system communication, it takes a village. Let’s meet the lively cast of characters….
Understanding the Endocrine System
Pineal Gland: The Time Keeper
Location: Center of the brain
Regulates: Circadian Rhythms and Sleep
The pineal gland is located in the brain and coordinates functions related to senses. The pineal gland senses the amount of daylight we’re exposed to and secretes melatonin accordingly. Melatonin is the hormone that helps us fall asleep. The amount of melatonin varies based on the length of the day. The pineal gland is sometimes referred to as both an endocrine clock and an endocrine calendar.
The Pineal Gland Time Keeper sends the hormone message, “It’s time to sleep!”
Hypothalamus : The Stabilizer
Location: Bottom of the brain
The hypothalamus is also located in the brain and responds to both internal and environmental factors such as body temperature, hunger, fullness, blood pressure and sexual arousal. It also responds to stress and changes in cortisol, estrogen and testosterone levels. When it detects that levels are out of balance, the hypothalamus sends hormones to correct these imbalances. For instance, if it detects fullness, it will send a message to the digestive system to curb appetite.
It produces a wide range of hormones including corticotrophin-releasing hormone, dopamine, growth hormone-releasing hormone, somatostatin, gonadotrophin-releasing hormone and thyrotrophin-releasing hormone.
The Hypothalamus Stabilizer sends the hormone message, “Stay Balanced!”
Pituitary Gland: The Messenger
Location: Bottom of the brain attached to the hypothalamus
Regulates: Hormone Distribution
The pituitary gland is attached to the hypothalamus and secretes hormones directly into the bloodstream. The pituitary gland secretes hormones that act on the adrenal glands, thyroid gland, ovaries and testes, which in turn produce other hormones. Through secretion of its hormones, the pituitary gland controls metabolism, growth, sexual maturation, reproduction, blood pressure and many other vital physical functions and processes.
The pituitary gland produces adrenocorticotropic hormone, growth hormone, luteinizing hormone and follicle stimulating hormone, prolactin and thyroid stimulating hormone. antidiuretic hormone, oxytocin and melanocyte-stimulating hormone.
The Pituitary Gland Messenger sends the message, “Keep Communication Going!”
Parathyroids: The Calcium Monitors
Location: Attached to thyroid
Regulates: Calcium levels
Parathyroids are four tiny glands attached to the thyroid in the throat. They release parathyroid hormone (PTH), which controls the level of calcium in the blood with the help of calcitonin. The ONLY purpose of the parathyroid glands is to regulate calcium levels. Calcium is a vital mineral for building strong bones, supporting muscle contraction and maintaining a steady heartbeat.
The body cannot produce its own calcium, but loses it daily through skin, nails, hair, sweat, urine and feces. If calcium levels increase or decrease within the very narrow range, the parathyroid glands recognizes it and releases (PTH) to the bones.
The Parathyroid Calcium Monitor sends the hormone message, “Maintain Calcium Levels!”
Thymus: The Defender
Location: Behind breastbone near heart
Regulates: Immune System
The thymus gland is located behind the breastbone and plays important roles in both the immune system and endocrine system. The thymus essentially “trains” T lymphocytes (T-cells) to fight infections during puberty. They fight off foreign invaders such as bacteria, viruses and cancer cells. T-cells also help other organs in the immune system grow properly.
The thymus gland produces several hormones including thymopoietin, thymulin, thymosin and thymic humoral factor. In adulthood, the thymus starts to slowly shrink and become replaced by fat.
The Thymus Defender sends the hormone message, “Attack the Threat!”
Pancreas: The Energizer
Location: Alongside the stomach
Regulates: Digestion and Glucose Levels
The pancreas is a large gland that lies on top of the stomach. The pancreas produces digestive juices with powerful enzymes that break down and digest food. It also produces hormones that manage energy levels for physical activity and exercise. The pancreas produces insulin to regulate blood glucose levels and promotes glucose storage in fat, muscle, and liver tissues.
It also produces glucagon to help release stored energy into the bloodstream to raise blood sugar levels. Glucagon and insulin work together to balance glucose levels. The pancreas also secretes pancreatic polypeptide and somatostatin.
The Pancreas Energizer sends the message, “Use Energy Wisely!”
Adrenal Glands: The Emergency Responders
Location: On top of the kidneys
Regulates: Stress Response
The two adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney. While the thymus actively attacks invaders, the adrenal glands help by supporting endurance during stressful times. Adrenal glands produce cortisol (the stress hormone) that gives your body an energy boost to manage stress. Cortisol helps monitor the use of fats, proteins and carbohydrates, reduces inflammation, regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar, and can also decrease bone formation. Corticosteroids also help control salt and water balance, metabolism, the immune system, and sexual development.
The adrenal glands also produce catecholamines including adrenaline, noradrenaline and small amounts of dopamine. These hormones cause the physiological characteristics of stress response known as ‘fight or flight’ mode. The adrenal glands increase blood pressure and heart rate to prepare the body to move quickly.
The Adrenal Gland Emergency Experts send the hormone message, “Take Action!”
Ovaries: The Pregnancy Preparers
Location: On the sides of the uterus
Regulates: Female Reproductive System
In women, the two ovaries are located on both sides of the uterus. Ovaries produce oocytes (eggs) for fertilization and produce the reproductive hormones, estradiol/estrogen and progesterone. During puberty, progesterone and estrogen stimulate height growth, breast development and fat storage.
By communicating with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, the ovaries control the menstrual cycle. The ovaries produce estrogen during the first half of the menstrual cycle before ovulation. They produce progesterone during the second half and trigger the uterus lining to thicken. Both hormones help prepare the uterus for pregnancy. During menopause the ovaries no longer secrete estrogen and progesterone and menstruation ceases.
The Ovary Pregnancy Preparers send the hormone message, “Prep the Womb!”
Testes: The Growth Promoters
Location: Behind the penis
Regulates: Male Reproductive System
In men, the two testes/ testicles are located behind the penis in a pouch of skin called the scrotum. The testes produce sperm, testosterone and androgenic hormone. During puberty, testosterone stimulates hair and height growth, voice deepening and sperm production. Testosterone regulates muscular and skeletal growth and also metabolism. By communicating with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, the testes control the male reproductive system.
Both men and women have estradiol, the predominant form of estrogen. Estradiol in men is essential for regulating libido, erectile function, and sperm development. Both men and women also have testosterone. Testosterone contributes to bone health and increased libido in both men and women.
The Testes Growth Promoters send the hormone message, “Grow Stronger!”
How to Keep the Endocrine System Healthy and Balance Hormones
In order for the endocrine system villagers to work together in harmony, every gland needs to operate efficiently. Follow these basic steps to increase overall health and balance hormone levels.
- Reduce Alcohol: According to the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism, alcohol can impair the regulation of blood-sugar levels by interfering with hormones. It can reduce testosterone levels in men by damaging the testes. It can also increase the risk of osteoporosis by imbalancing the parathyroid hormone.
- Eat a pH-Balanced Diet: Maintain a balance of both acidic and alkaline foods to balance organ pH.
- Relax and Have More Fun: Enjoying nature and laughing more can boost endorphin hormone levels, relieve pain and strengthen immunity.
- Reduce Stress and Anxiety: Lower cortisol levels by expressing yourself through art, music and dance.
- Improve Sleep Habits: Getting consistent quality sleep can help speed up the healing process and increase serotonin levels.
- Get More Vitamin D: Vitamin D has significant influence on the endocrine system, especially in regulating sex hormones.
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Whether your personal struggles are with hormone imbalance, weight, sleep, energy, libido, migraines or depression, Natural Bio Health is committed to help you restore your quality of life and achieve optimal mental and physical health.
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