Growing up, you might have heard the expression “raging hormones” in reference to puberty. As an adult, you may have had some experience with hormones in terms of their effect on fertility, pregnancy, blood pressure, metabolism, or sleeping habits and wondered exactly what hormones are and how they relate to your overall health.
It may surprise you to learn that the endocrine system, which is made up of all the different hormones in your body, regulates all its biological processes from conception through adulthood and into old age, including the development of your brain and nervous system, the growth and function of your reproductive system, as well as your metabolism and blood sugar levels. In fact, female ovaries, male testes, and pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands are all major components of the endocrine system.
Let’s explore endocrine system function and the impact of hormones on your health in greater detail.
The Role of Hormones in Your Health
Hormones operate as chemical messengers released into your blood stream to act on an organ in another part of your body. They control or regulate many biological processes, such as blood sugar (insulin), the differentiation, growth, and function of your reproductive organs (testosterone and estradiol), and your body growth and energy production (growth or thyroid hormone).
More than 50 hormones have been identified in humans. Many of them act by binding to receptors that are produced within your cells. When that happens, the receptor follows the hormone’s instructions, either by altering the cell’s existing proteins or igniting genes that build a new protein. In other words, the hormone-receptor complex turns on or off specific biological processes in your cells, tissues, and organs. Examples of hormones include:
- Estrogens that are responsible for female sexual development and produced primarily by the ovaries and adrenal glands.
- Androgens – such as testosterone produced by the testicles – that are responsible for male sex characteristics.
- Thyroxine and triiodothyronine, which are secreted by the thyroid gland and stimulate all the cells in your body, controlling such biological processes as growth, development, reproduction, and metabolism.
The hypothalamus area of the brain links the endocrine and nervous systems together and drives the endocrine system, which is comprised of several key organs and glands. These include:
- The pituitary gland, which receives signals from the hypothalamus and has two lobes. The posterior lobe secretes hormones made by the hypothalamus. The anterior lobe produces its own hormones, some of which act on other endocrine glands.
- The thyroid gland, which is vital to your healthy development and maturation and regulates your metabolism.
- Adrenal glands, which are made up of the cortex and medulla, and produce hormones in response to stress, regulating your blood pressure, glucose metabolism, and the balance of salt and water in your body.
- The pancreas, which produces the hormones glucagon and insulin, both of which help regulate the concentration of sugar in your blood.
- Reproductive gonads, better known as the testes in males and ovaries in females. These produce steroids that affect your growth and development, as well as regulating your reproductive cycles and behaviors. Gonadal steroids such as androgens, estrogens, and progestins are found in both men and women at different levels.
Endocrinologist in Syracuse, New York
The most common disorders associated with the endocrine system include diabetes, menopause, Addison’s disease, Cushing’s disease, Graves’ disease, Hashimoto thyroiditis, hyperthyroidism, hypothyroidism, prolactinoma, and cancers of the endocrine glands, most often caused by a hormone imbalance.
If you are diagnosed with any of these disorders, your best source of treatment is the board-certified and fellowship trained endocrinologists at SUNY: Upstate Medical University.
The Division of Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism at SUNY: Upstate Medical University provides patient care, teaching, and research in diabetes, thyroid, adrenal, pituitary, lipid and calcium disorders, metabolic bones diseases, and transgender medicine.
Our clinical practice, the Joslin Diabetes Center at Upstate, is affiliated with the Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston, Massachusetts, providing comprehensive, state-of-the-art team care for children and adults with diabetes.
For more information about our patient care services, simply click here.