You may not think much – if at all – about your endocrine system, but it’s key to your overall health and wellness. The organs that comprise it produce natural chemicals called hormones. Hormones play an indispensable role in reproduction, growth, bone density, vital signs, sleep, digestion, and more.
Here’s what your endocrine system does to keep you healthy and what can go wrong with it.
The Master Gland and Other Endocrine Glands
Tiny and typically unnoticed, the pituitary gland at the base of your brain regulates the hormones produced by the rest of the endocrine glands, such as the:
- Pineal gland, which secretes sleep-inducing melatonin
- Thyroid, the H-shaped gland below the voice box that adjusts overall metabolism through T3 and T4 hormones
- Parathyroid glands, small, dot-like glands that regulate blood calcium levels and bone density
- Thymus, which plays a significant role in the immune system of children (it shrinks with age)
- Ovaries and testes, which are responsible for female and male hormone production, sex characteristics, libido, and fertility
- Pancreas, which releases insulin to regular blood glucose levels
- Adrenal glands, which release the stress chemical called cortisol to regulate blood pressure
If one or more of these endocrine glands over or under produce their respective hormones, body chemistry and function can spiral out of control. Resulting problems most people do not realize are related to the endocrine system are osteoporosis, diabetes, hypothyroidism, and the much-publicized metabolic syndrome. People who feel depressed or fatigued more often than not have issues related to endocrine function.
So, overall health and wellness truly depend on the interplay of one endocrine gland and its hormones with the others in this complex system. For instance, as one gland secretes its particular hormone, other glands react by adjusting their particular natural chemicals. As such, if one organ and its secretions are out of balance, the others can be impacted, as well.
For instance, cortisol increases vital signs during a stressful “fight or flight” scenario. Additionally, the higher levels of this hormone simultaneously decrease digestive activity and functions related to reproduction, because the body considers them nonessential to the crisis at hand.
Keeping the Endocrine System Healthy and Functional
At Intercoastal Medical Group, we recommend our patients see their primary care physicians once a year for a wellness check-up. This head-to-toe assessment also includes a blood draw. The results from a complete metabolic panel gives your healthcare provider vital information on how your endocrine system is functioning and if there are any measurable deficits in hormone levels.
Your primary care physician or endocrinologist may recommend some changes to habits and behaviors to improve your overall endocrine function and hormonal regulation. These changes may be:
- Eating less processed, sugar-laden foods and more plant-based, whole foods
- Exercise as a daily habit (moderate aerobic is best–walking, swimming, and other low-impact activities that build muscle, lower stress levels, and increase cardiovascular endurance)
- Making healthy sleep a regular routine by avoiding stimulants in the evening and limiting screen time
- Finding ways to reduce chronic stress
Endocrinology in Sarasota and Manatee Counties
At Intercoastal Medical Group, we have four internal medicine physicians on staff who subspecialize in endocrinology. If you suspect you have a hormonal imbalance, low immunity to disease, chronic fatigue, or another physiological malfunction, please contact us for a consultation with one of our experts. We will get to the heart of the problem and develop an endocrine treatment plan to restore balance to your system.
Call Beneva Professional Center at (941) 379-1777, or if our Lakewood Ranch II office is more convenient for you, call (941) 538-6077. Or, request your visit online. We know we can help you feel better achieve healthier endocrine functioning.