The Endocrine System

The endocrine system is a series of glands that produce and secrete hormones that the body uses for a wide range of functions. These control many different bodily functions, including:

  • Respiration
  • Metabolism
  • Reproduction
  • Sensory perception
  • Movement
  • Sexual development
  • Growth

Hormones are produced by glands and sent into the bloodstream to the various tissues in the body. They send signals to those tissues to tell them what they are supposed to do. When the glands do not produce the right amount of hormones, diseases develop that can affect many aspects of life.

The main hormone-producing glands are:
  • Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is responsible for body temperature, hunger, moods and the release of hormones from other glands; and also controls thirst, sleep and sex drive.
     
  • Pituitary: Considered the "master control gland," the pituitary gland controls other glands and makes the hormones that trigger growth.
     
  • Parathyroid: This gland controls the amount of calcium in the body.
     
  • Pancreas: This gland produces the insulin that helps control blood sugar levels.
     
  • Thyroid: The thyroid produces hormones associated with calorie burning and heart rate.
     
  • Adrenal: Adrenal glands produce the hormones that control sex drive and cortisol, the stress hormone.
     
  • Pineal: This gland produces melatonin which affect sleep.
     
  • Ovaries: Only in women, the ovaries secrete estrogen, testosterone and progesterone, the female sex hormones.
     
  • Testes: Only in men, the testes produce the male sex hormone, testosterone, and produce sperm.
     

Some of the factors that affect endocrine organs include aging, certain diseases and conditions, stress, the environment, and genetics.

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