The endocrine system consists of a group of glands and organs that regulate and control various body functions by producing and secreting hormones. Hormones are chemical substances that affect the activity of another part of the body. In essence, hormones serve as messengers, controlling and coordinating activities throughout the body.
- Too much hormone secretion (called “hyper” function)
- Too little hormone secretion (called “hypo” function)
Disorders may result from a problem in the gland itself, or because the hypothalamic-pituitary axis (interplay of hormonal signals between the hypothalamus, and the pituitary gland) provides too much or too little stimulation. Depending on the type of cell they originate in, tumors can produce excess hormones or destroy normal glandular tissue, decreasing hormone production. Sometimes the body’s immune system attacks an endocrine gland (an autoimmune disorder), decreasing hormone production. They travel through your bloodstream to tissues or organs. Hormones work slowly and affect body processes from head to toe. These include
- Growth and development
- Metabolism – digestion, elimination, breathing, blood circulation and maintaining body temperature
- Sexual function
If your hormone levels are too high or too low, you may have a hormone disorder. Hormone diseases also occur if your body does not respond to hormones the way it is supposed to. Stress, infection and changes in your blood’s fluid and electrolyte balance can also influence hormone levels.
In the United States, the most common endocrine disease is diabetes. There are many others. They are usually treated by controlling how much hormone your body makes. Hormone supplements can help if the problem is too little of a hormone.
Diseases of the endocrine system are common, including conditions such as diabetes mellitus, thyroid disease, and obesity. Endocrine disease is characterized by misregulated hormone release (a productive pituitary adenoma), inappropriate response to signaling (hypothyroidism), lack of a gland (diabetes mellitus type 1, diminished erythropoiesis in chronic kidney failure), or structural enlargement in a critical site such as the thyroid (toxic multinodular goitre). Hypofunction of endocrine glands can occur as a result of loss of reserve, hyposecretion, agenesis, atrophy, or active destruction. Hyperfunction can occur as a result of hypersecretion, loss of suppression, hyperplastic or neoplastic change, or hyperstimulation.
While many parts of the body make hormones, the major glands that make up the endocrine system are the:
- pineal body
- the ovaries
- the testes
The pancreas is part of the endocrine system and the digestive system. That’s because it secretes hormones into the bloodstream, and makes and secretes enzymes into the digestive tract.
Endocrinopathies are classified as primary, secondary, or tertiary. Primary endocrine disease inhibits the action of downstream glands. Secondary endocrine disease is indicative of a problem with the pituitary gland. Tertiary endocrine disease is associated with dysfunction of the hypothalamus and its releasing hormones.
- Get plenty of exercise.
- Eat a nutritious diet.
- Go for regular medical checkups.
- Talk to the doctor before taking any supplements or herbal treatments.
- Let the doctor know about any family history of endocrine problems, such as diabetes or thyroid problems.