The Endocrine System – Hormones

The Endocrine System, HGH, Testosterone and other Hormones

The endocrine system is a complex network comprised of integrated hormone-producing glands and organs. Its function, like that of the nervous system, is communication throughout the body. The endocrine system produces and releases different types of hormones to maintain and control a number of important functions of the body, including growth and development, metabolism, sexual and reproductive function, organ and tissue function.

A hormone imbalance (either too much or too little hormone production) can have drastic effects on body function and a person’s health. The main purpose of the endocrine system is extracellular (outside the cell) communication; while the nervous system communicates using neurons and electricity, the endocrine or hormonal system uses chemicals, called hormones to communicate between cells and regulate body functions. Hormones use a negative feedback system so that when too much of one hormone is produced another hormone is secreted to counter it. In this way a person’s body maintains the delicate balance of proper hormone levels.

Components of the endocrine system include hormone-producing glands, such as the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, adrenals, testes and ovaries and organs such as the liver, pancreas, and kidneys. Each of the glands and organs in the endocrine system produces different types of hormones that perform different functions. A number of different conditions can affect the way the endocrine system functions. Some of these conditions are natural and our endocrine system functions differently when we age and go through menopause or andropause in men.

There can be a genetic, or hereditary component to the way an individual’s endocrine system works as well. However, a number of external substances can also affect endocrine function. These substances, called environmental endocrine disruptors (EEDs), consist of commercial synthetic chemicals and, although the full effect of their introduction into our environment is unknown, have been linked to birth defects, immune system disorders, neurological changes, and more.

Types of Hormones and What They Do

In order to regulate the myriad functions required for normal bodily function, the glands and organs that comprise the endocrine system create many types of hormones, each with a specific function. Included in the different types of hormones your endocrine system produces are the following:

Vasopressin – Created by the hypothalamus, vasopressin prompts the pituitary gland to release a hormone that helps maintain blood pressure and water and electrolyte balance.

Human Growth Hormone — Growth hormone, HGH or GH is one of the types of hormones produced by the pituitary gland  and one of the most important glands in the endocrine system.  Growth Hormone (GH) stimulates growth during childhood and also stimulates cell reproduction and repair which helps adults maintain energy,  muscle and bone mass.

Testosterone, Progesterone, Estrogen and Oxytocin – are the sex and reproductive hormones responsible for sexual health as well as gender characteristics, muscle, heart, brain and bone health.

Calcitonin — Calcitonin, produced by the thyroid gland, aids in bone construction.

Insulin – Insulin regulates glucose, or sugar intake, by helping it move from the blood into cells. It is one of the types of hormones produced by the pancreas.

Adrenaline – Produced within the adrenal glands (small glands located at the top of each kidney), adrenaline works with noradrenaline to produce the “fight or flight” response by increasing the supply of oxygen to the brain and muscles, dilating the pupils, and suppressing bodily functions not useful in an emergency situation (such as digestion).

Noradrenaline — Noradrenaline works with adrenaline to help the endocrine system produce the “flight or flight” response; in an emergency situation, it boosts the oxygen supply to the brain and the supply of glucose to the muscles.

The endocrine system is one of the body’s main systems for communicating, controlling and coordinating the body’s work. It works with the nervous system, reproductive system, kidneys, gut, liver, pancreas and fat to help maintain and control the following:

  • Body energy levels
  • Sexual Reproduction
  • Growth and Development
  • Internal Balance of Body Systems, called Homeostasis
  • Immuno Responses to Stress and Injury

The endocrine system accomplishes these tasks via a network of glands and organs that produce, store, and secrete certain types of hormones. Hormones are special chemicals that move into body fluid after they are made by one cell or a group of cells. Different types of hormones cause different effects on other cells or tissues of the body using receptor cells that accept the “signals” of their respective hormone “messengers”.

Endocrine glands and endocrine-related organs are like factories. They produce and store hormones and release them as needed. When the body needs these substances, the bloodstream carries the proper types of hormones to specific targets. These targets may be organs, tissues, or cells. To function normally, the body needs glands that work correctly, a blood supply that works well to move hormones through the body to their target points, receptor places on the target cells for the hormones to do their work, and a system for controlling how hormones are produced and used.

Hormone Imbalance

Each of the many types of hormones fulfills a specific function by signaling a different message to the cells, tissues, or organs involved. A hormone imbalance, a situation in which there is too much or too little of a specific hormone, can result in a number of different endocrine system disorders, some more serious than others.

Diabetes – Diabetes is one of the more serious results of hormone imbalance in that, if it is left undiagnosed and/or untreated, it can result in blindness, heart disease, kidney failure, and death. Diabetes occurs when the pancreas either produces too little insulin or does not effectively use the insulin it does produce. Insulin is the hormone that helps the body process sugar in the bloodstream.

Growth Disorders — Your pituitary gland, also referred to as the “Master Gland” of the endocrine system, produces growth hormone (GH) which, in the proper levels, stimulates and regulates growth throughout the body. A growth hormone imbalance can, in the event of too much growth hormone, cause gigantism in children and acromegaly in adults; a hormone imbalance in which the endocrine system produces too little GH can result in growth hormone deficiency (GHD), which can lead to stunted growth in children and symptoms such as decreased muscle and bone mass in adults.

Other Disorders – There are more than 6,000 known endocrine system disorders caused by hormone imbalance; for information about these rare, or “orphan,” diseases, please visit our resources page for rare conditions. A dangerous and potentially fatal hormone imbalance can also be caused by steroid abuse which has become a growing problem among body-builders, athletes and some high school-aged youth. The use of anabolic steroids–which should only be taken under the direction of a health professional–is increasing among both men and women. At that time of development the endocrine system is working to bring about a number of changes, both physical and mental, and young athletes may be tempted to use steroids to increase their athletic ability and body image.

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