Anyone who has studied the human body will attest it is a spectacularly complex system. Likewise, most would further agree there is a great deal of science behind many of the functions that the human body performs each day that are critical to keeping us alive. But to make sense of all this, it helps to know more about the endocrine system, which comprises multiple glands and hormones.
While it might not provide much insight into the meaning of life, the endocrine system does explain how the body works, at least in terms of what keeps us alive and allows us to function as we do. So that everyone is on the same page, the endocrine system is a vast network of hormone-secreting glands. When those glands secrete hormones, those hormones enter the bloodstream and then travel to various tissues throughout the body.
Hormones secreted by glands in the endocrine system play a crucial role in numerous bodily functions, from growth and development, particularly during childhood and adolescence, to respiration and metabolism. Many hormones are also involved in sexual reproduction, sensory perception, and physical movement. Some of the endocrine glands responsible for secreting these all-important hormones that not only allow us to function as we do but also keep us alive include the following:
To appreciate the significance of these glands and their role in the human body, it helps to familiarize ourselves with the types of hormones they each secrete.Services at CA Hormones
The testes and ovaries in men and women, respectively, secrete testosterone. And in both genders, the pituitary gland is responsible for regulating how much testosterone gets secreted at any given time. For those not as familiar with it, the pituitary gland is a tiny, pea-sized endocrine gland that sits at the base of the brain just below the hypothalamus. The primary role of testosterone is to regulate mood; however, in men, it also strengthens libido and aids in building long, lean muscle. Adequate testosterone levels can also benefit men and women in the following ways:
The testes in men and ovaries in women, along with the adrenal glands, are responsible for secreting estrogen. But the amount of estrogen commonly found in a woman’s body is usually much higher than in most men. The predominant form of estrogen in men is estradiol, and it plays a crucial role in strengthening libido, preventing and resolving erectile dysfunction, and promoting spermatogenesis. The estrogen hormone types in women include estradiol, estrone, or estriol. In both genders, however, estrogen helps with the following:
Dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) is another hormone secreted by the adrenal glands and the ovaries in women and testes in men. This hormone doesn’t do too much on its own, but when paired with other hormones, such as testosterone and estradiol, it can accomplish a lot in the male and female bodies. The pituitary gland controls the adrenal gland cortex that secretes DHEA, which not only acts as a precursor to male and female sex hormones but also benefits women and men in the following ways:
Progesterone is a hormone that gets secreted by the ovaries after women begin puberty. And it plays a significant role in their overall health, especially as they get older. Along with helping to protect women against uterine and breast cancer and ovarian cysts, progesterone works with estrogen to improve female fertility. Together, the two hormones help stimulate the production of the follicle-stimulating hormone, a hormone secreted by the pituitary gland.
Along with stimulating the production of the follicle-stimulating hormone and protecting women against ovarian cyst and uterine cancer, optimal progesterone levels can help combat the following:
The thyroid gland is responsible for secreting two types of hormones, thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyronine (T3). These hormones are involved in multiple bodily functions, from regulating body temperature and energy levels to facilitating healthy hair and nail growth. Secreted by the thyroid gland, an endocrine gland located in the neck, these same thyroid hormones also make it easier for men and women to maintain a healthy weight. But it does not end there; the thyroid gland and the associated T4 and T3 hormones also contribute to the following:
Glutathione plays a tremendous role in safeguarding our overall health. Instead of being secreted by one of the glands in the endocrine system, glutathione is a hormone produced by multiple cells in the body. And it acts as an antioxidant, which means it protects the body against cancer and other diseases and illnesses associated with free radicals. As an aside, studies show that adequate levels of glutathione hormones can help reduce the production of the stress hormone cortisol. Secreted by the adrenal gland, excessive amounts of cortisol can trigger high blood pressure, weight gain, sexual dysfunction, and much more.
Pregnenolone is a steroid hormone that the adrenal glands secrete to help boost DHEA, which, in turn, ramps up the production of testosterone and estrogen levels in the body when they fall too low. Pregnenolone also plays a role in learning, memory, and myelination, signal transmission between neurons in the brain.
Human growth hormone (HGH), also sometimes referred to as just growth hormone, is a type of hormone secreted by the pituitary gland. The majority of human growth hormone that the body needs to function optimally is secreted by the pituitary gland while we are sleeping. These hormones are responsible for numerous functions in the body, including
If the adrenal glands, thyroid gland, pituitary gland, or any other gland in the endocrine system secretes too much or too little of a given hormone, the outcome will be a hormonal imbalance. Sadly, such imbalances are not uncommon in the U.S. Available data shows that most adult men and women will experience a minimum of 1 to 2 hormonal imbalances in their lifetime.
Since we are on the topic, it is worth noting that these imbalances are generally more common among women than men. Statistically speaking, approximately 80% of women in the U.S. struggle with a hormonal imbalance. One of the chief contributors to hormonal imbalances in women is polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), which is a condition that causes a woman’s ovaries to produce above-average levels of androgens. Additional contributors include the following:
As far as how prevalent hormonal imbalances are among men, studies show roughly 20 to 25% of men in their 20s and 30s have, respectively, had at least one imbalance. The prevalence rate is around 40% among men in their 40s and about 60% among men in their 50s. Factors that increase the risk of hormonal imbalances in men include the following:
Along with high blood pressure and problems in the bedroom, most men and women who struggle with hormonal imbalances due to their adrenal glands, pituitary gland, or other endocrine glands functioning incorrectly commonly report the following to their physician:
Of course, this list does not encompass all of the ill effects associated with hormonal imbalances. There are many more, and they can vary considerably depending on which endocrine gland is malfunctioning in the body.
When the pituitary gland is not functioning correctly, it can spell trouble for your physical and mental health. The same applies to romantic relationships as hormonal imbalances involving sex hormones, namely ovaries in women and testes in men, can quickly end an otherwise good relationship between two people. That said, it would be in your best interest to schedule an appointment at CA Hormones as soon as possible if you suspect you have one of the hormonal imbalances discussed in this article.