What is the endocrine system
We explain what is the endocrine system, its functions and glands that compose it. In addition, its characteristics and diseases.
What is the endocrine system?
It is known as endocrine system or system of internal secretion glands to the set of tissues and organs of the human body (and of other higher animals) responsible for the generation and distribution to through the bloodstream of substances for the regulation of certain functions of the body, known as hormones .
Similar to the nervous system, the endocrine system is operated on the basis of pulses at a distance, but instead of being nervous (electrical), they are of a chemical type. These chemical signals are the hormones, responsible for activating, regulating or inhibiting certain actions and processes of the organism, such as growth, tissue production, metabolism or the development and functioning of the reproductive organs, among others.
This hormonal system is composed of internal organs known as glands or endocrine organs, which generate their hormones and substances and release them into the body, either locally (such as glands of the skin) or internally (through the blood system). This includes organs such as the thymus or pancreas, or smaller structures such as the pituitary gland located in the brain.
In addition, this system is related to the nervous and digestive, among others, thus constituting a complex response network of the organism, which for example, in situations of stress, erotic or rest, generates various hormones to enhance the capabilities of the human body.
Function of the endocrine system
As stated before, the primordial function of this system is the regulation of the complex biochemical processes of the body, either before a certain external stimulus, or simply as part of life. This affects, for example, growth, development and sexual behavior, digestion, sleep and other areas of vital importance.
In general, hormones released by the endocrine system can have functions of the following type:
- Stimulants . They activate or initiate biochemical cycles, or stimulate certain behaviors in the tissues of the body. For example, the hormone prolactin induces milk production in the maternal breasts.
- Inhibitors . They exercise the opposite role: they inhibit, stop, diminish the production of some substance or a certain behavior of the body tissue. For example: the hormone somatostatin inhibits the production of more growth hormones in the body, thereby stopping body growth.
- Antagonists . They regulate a body process based on stimulating or inhibiting it, or of producing opposite but simultaneous effects. For example, the hormones insulin and glucagon regulate the metabolism of sugar, acting at the same time to increase or decrease its levels.
- Synergistic . Sometimes the joint presence of two hormones increases the effect of the first, that is, they enhance each other to achieve more intense effects. For example: the hormones hGH and T3 / T4 produced by the thyroid gland.
- Tropics . They allow the alteration or control of other endocrine tissues, serving as chemical messenger in the organism. For example: the hormone gonadotropin triggers ovulation in women and spermatogenesis in men, when they are ready to start reproducing.
Glands of the endocrine system
The endocrine system is made up of many glands and endocrine organs. The main ones are the following:
- Gland pineal . Also called epiphysis or conarium, it is at the base of the brain next to the insertion of the spinal cord, and is common to all vertebrates. Produces hormones responsible for sleep and circadian rhythms.
- Pituitary gland . Also known as the pituitary gland, it is responsible for secreting hormones necessary to regulate homeostasis, including tropic hormones that regulate other endocrine tissues. It is located at the base of the skull, in a bone chair of the sphenoid bone.
- Thyroid gland . Located just below the Adam’s apple, in the throat and above the trachea, it regulates the metabolism and nuances the sensitivity of the body to other hormones.
- Gland s adrenal is . Pyramidal, is in pair on the kidneys, and is responsible for regulating responses to stress, secreting hormones such as cortisol and adrenaline, which physically prepare the body for a dangerous situation.
- Thymus . This is a lymphoid organ (of the immune system) located in the torso, in front of the heart and behind the sternum.
- Pancreas . A larger organ, located in the abdomen, secretes digestive enzymes to contribute to the absorption of nutrients, and also hormones that regulate the metabolism of sugars (insulin and glucagon).
- Sexual glands . Ovaries and testes, for women and men respectively, are the organs where reproductive cells and hormones that prepare sexual maturation during puberty are generated.
- External glands . Those located in the skin, are responsible for lubricating and keeping it cool, also spilling hormones that fulfill social roles and protection of the epidermis.
Diseases of the endocrine system
The endocrine system may suffer from different disorders, which cause it to malfunction. They usually consist of overproduction or underproduction of hormones. Some examples are:
- Diabetes mellitus . A disease that involves the underproduction of insulin (or the production of poor quality hormone) that is unable to regulate the blood sugar level.
- Hyperthyroidism . The thyroid produces too many hormones and accelerates metabolism too much.
- Hypothyroidism . The thyroid secretes very few hormones and slows down the metabolism.
- Disease of Crushing . The adrenal glands secrete a dangerous excess of hormones.