Lately, much is being made of the Endocrine system, which resembles the complex network of a chemical treatment plant. Inside your body, substances are removed from your blood, processed, then secreted back into it as finished chemical products. Increasing concerns are being raised about potential impacts to the functioning of your system.
Is it possible for kidney malfunction to severely disrupt your testosterone and estrogen levels? Is calcium really essential for your bones? How does iodine affect your oxygen intake? Could excessive inflammation in your nose actually alter your memory?
To find out, let’s take a brief tour around the factory:
1) Our first stop is the pituitary gland. Behind the bridge of your nose, this “master gland” is attached to the base of your brain. Immediately above is the hypothalamus, which sends messages to control the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus influences temperature regulation, hunger, thirst, sleep and wake patterns, emotional behavior and memory.
2) Next up is the thyroid gland, an organ in the base of your neck that releases metabolism- regulating hormones as coordinated by your pituitary gland and hypothalamus. To modulate your body’s use of energy, the thyroid utilizes iodine from your food to regulate breathing, heart rate, nervous system, body weight, muscle strength, menstrual cycles, body temperature, cholesterol levels and more.
3) As we continue, the sole purpose of the parathyroid glands, located behind your thyroid, monitor and regulate calcium levels in your blood and bones. Calcium is the only element with its own regulatory system.
It’s so important because it provides electrical energy, (which I’ve explained in a previous post): e.g. the nervous system requires a means for electrical impulses to travel along nerves (see my post about neurotransmitters); the muscular system depends upon changes in cells’ calcium levels for the energy to contract; the skeletal system uses your bones like storage containers to stockpile calcium (their strength is secondary).
4) Now, moving along to the adrenal glands (a.k.a. suprarenal glands), which are on top of your kidneys: each has an adrenal cortex (outer part) and an adrenal medulla (inner part). The adrenal cortex produces hormones essential to life, such as cortisol (regulates metabolism and helps your body respond to stress) and eldosterone (helps control blood pressure).
The adrenal medulla produces non- essential hormones, such as adrenaline, epinephrine and norepinephrine (narrows blood vessels). It can increase heart rate, rush blood to your muscles and brain and spike your blood sugar by assisting with the metabolism of your liver’s glucose.
5) Now we come to the pancreas, which is an organ behind your stomach. When it empties partly digested food into your intestines, your pancreas releases digestive enzymes into the mixture. This allows your body to convert the food into fuel for its cells.
6) Last but not least are the gonads (testicles/ ovaries). These organs make sex hormones, which– along with reproductive cells produced by the adrenal cortex– are secreted into the circulatory system.
As you can clearly see, your Endocrine System is intricate. Damage to one part could disturb the entire network; the impact of any malfunction would be significant.