The endocrine system
By Penelope A. Domogo, MD
Last week, we discussed goiter and the thyroid gland. The thyroid gland is part of the endocrine system.
Except for the thyroid gland, hindi natin masyadong alam ang other parts of the endocrine system. And yet, these glands are vital to our health. Let us take a look at what they do.
In a nutshell, the endocrine system is a network of glands that releases hormones to the blood so that these hormones can travel to every cell and do their functions. It’s amazing what these hormones do – they help control our mood, growth and development, the way our organs work, metabolism and reproduction. They control almost all functions in our body!
The following glands make up the endocrine system:
1. Hypothalamus – located in the brain, it connects the endocrine system with the nervous system. It is like a stopcock – its main function is to tell the pituitary gland to start or stop producing hormones.
2. Pituitary gland- also located in the brain, it is the master gland. It uses information from your brain to tell the other glands what to do. It makes many important hormones like growth hormone, prolactin, oxytocin. As we discussed last week, it also produces the thyroid-stimulating hormone that tells the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones.
3. Pineal gland- also located in the brain is famous for producing the hormone melatonin which helps us sleep well. It needs complete darkness to produce enough melatonin so turn off the lights at night.
4. Thyroid gland – as we discussed in detail last week, this is located at the base of the neck, this produces the thyroid hormones which regulate growth and metabolism.
5. Parathyroid glands – these are 4 small glands behind the thyroid gland thus they can be accidentally be removed during thyroid surgery. These are important especially in bone health as they control levels of calcium and phosphorus in the blood to maintain a balance. Too much calcium can weaken your bones, create kidney stones and interfere with heart and brain functions. Too much phosphorus can calcify the kidneys, it will make your body pull calcium from your bones to keep the balance. This also will weaken your bones because of osteoporosis.
6. Thymus gland- is in between the lungs, and are important part of the child’s immune system as it produces white blood cells called T-lymphocytes that fight infection like covid. This gland starts to shrink after puberty.
7. Adrenals – sit on top of each kidney so you have two adrenal glands. These are famous as producers of the “fight or flight” hormone called adrenalin or epinephrine. They also make corticosteroids which influence mood, metabolism, heart rate, blood flow, etc, and have anti-allergy and anti-inflammatory effects. Synthetic steroids are patterned after these natural hormones.
8. Pancreas – located in the abdomen, is part of your digestive and endocrine system. It produces enzymes to help digest food and produces the hormones insulin and glucagon to control blood sugar. Diabetes results when the pancreas does not make insulin or what it makes is not enough.
9. Ovaries in women- located in the pelvic region, these produce the female hormones estrogen and progesterone which help develop secondary female characteristics, regulate menstrual cycle, fertility and reproductive function.
10. Testes in men – located also in the pelvic region, it makes the male hormone testosterone, which help develop secondary male characteristics and sperm production.
Amazing what these tiny glands can do, eh? These endocrine glands are nourished by our blood and thoughts so whatever we put in our body-mind will affect them for better or worse. Unhealthy lifestyle, stress, some infections, and synthetic chemicals that we use in the garden or at home can adversely affect the endocrine system.***
“…so there should be no division in the body, but that its parts should have equal concern for each other. If one part suffers, every part suffers with it; if one part is honored, every part rejoices with it.” 1 Corinthians 25-26