Endocrine System

Human anatomy > Endocrine System

The Different Functions and Parts of the Endocrine System

Whereas the nervous system sends electrical signals to coordinate and control the body, the endocrine system also does the same, but utilizes different mechanisms in order to communicate. These mechanisms are body chemicals known as hormones.

Hormones are basically referred to as messenger molecules produced and secreted by a certain group of concentrated cells known as endocrine glands. These are generally ductless glands, and their secretion of hormones is directly released into a person’s blood stream.

Endocrine System

Each type of hormone has a specific shape and can be immediately recognized by its equivalent target cells. The sites that bind hormones with their target cells are also called hormone receptors. There are hormones which are usually produced in aggressive pairs and have opposite side effects on their target cells or organs. For instance, glucagon and insulin have conflicting effects towards the control of the liver on a person’s blood sugar level. Insulin decreases blood sugar level by simply instructing the liver to get rid of glucose, whereas glucagon orders the liver to give up some of its supply in order to heighten the blood sugar level.

There are 6 major endocrine glands, and they are as follows:

The Pituitary gland and hypothalamus

Also known as the master gland, the pituitary gland basically works and is dependent on the hypothalamus. When working together, they can invariably be in charge of other important endocrine functions. They secrete numerous hormones which are particularly essential for a woman’s monthly cycle, pregnancy and birth and milk production.

Thyroid gland

Hormones released by this gland regulate the body’s metabolism, weight and temperature. Iodine is one important hormone that is secreted by the thyroid gland. When a person lacks iodine in his diet, the thyroid is unable to create hormones, which then result to a deficiency known as goiter.

Pancreas

The pancreas performs two major functions. First, it is a ducted gland that secrets digestive enzymes to the small intestine. It also plays the part of a ductless gland where the secreted hormones of the islet of langerhans, insulin and glucagon passes through.

Adrenal Glands

Adrenal glands sit just above the kidneys. It is divided into two parts, the outer cortex and the inner medulla. The cortex produces corticosteroids and cortisone. These hormones are known to be anti-inflammatory and are primarily prescribed under certain health conditions. The medulla, on the other hand, secretes epinephrine or adrenaline and other resembling hormones that react to stress agents such as anger, fright, low blood sugar, and caffeine.

Sex organs or gonads

Aside from the hormone producing gametes, the male testes and female ovaries also produce hormones. These are called sex hormones. The gonads’ sex hormone secretion is basically controlled by the pituitary gland hormones such as LH and FSH. Though both sexes create each of their hormones, the male testes mainly produce androgens which include testosterone. On the other hand, female ovaries create progesterone and estrogen.

Pineal gland

The pineal gland is situated near the core of the human brain and is primarily instigated by nerves found in the eyes. This gland produces melatonin whenever it is dark and usually secretes greater amounts during winter, when nights are considerably longer than usual. It mainly fosters sleep.


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