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What is the endocrine system?

We explain what the endocrine system is and its main functions. In addition, the glands that compose it and possible diseases.

  1. What is the endocrine system?

It is known as  endocrine system  or system of glands of internal secretion to the set of tissues and organs of the human body (and other higher animals) responsible for the generation and distribution through the bloodstream of substances intended for the regulation of certain functions of the organism , known as  hormones .

Similar to the nervous system , the endocrine system is operated based on remote impulses, but instead of being nervous (electrical), they are chemical. These chemical signals are 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 in the body, either locally (such as the skin glands) or internally (through the blood system). This includes organs such as the thymus or the 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 resting, generates various hormones to enhance the abilities of the body.

  1. Endocrine System Function

Endocrine system
The pituitary gland secretes hormones to regulate homeostasis.

As said before, the primary 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 . Activate or initiate biochemical cycles, or stimulate certain behaviors in body tissues. For example, the hormone  prolactin  induces the production of milk in the breast.
  • Inhibitory . They exert 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, thus stopping body growth.
  • Antagonists . They regulate a process of the body based on stimulating or inhibiting it, or producing opposite but simultaneous effects. For example, the hormones  insulin  and  glucagon  regulate the metabolism of sugar, acting at the same time increasing or decreasing their levels.
  • Synergistic . Sometimes the joint presence of two hormones increases the effect of the first one, that is, they strengthen each other to achieve more intense effects. For example: the hormones  hGH  and  T3 / T4  produced by the thyroid gland.
  • Tropic . They allow the alteration or control of other endocrine tissues, serving as a chemical messenger in the body. For example: the hormone  gonadotropin  triggers ovulation in women and spermatogenesis in men, when they are ready to start reproducing.
  1. Endocrine system glands

Endocrine system
The adrenal glands regulate responses to stress.

The endocrine system is made up of many endocrine glands and 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. It 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 nut, in the throat and over the trachea, it is responsible for regulating the metabolism and clarifying the body’s sensitivity to other hormones.
  • Gland s  adrenal is . Pyramidal, it is in pairs 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.
  • Scam . This is a lymphoid organ (of the immune system ) located in the torso, in front of the heart and behind the sternum.
  • Pancreas . A major 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).
  • Gonads . Ovaries and testicles, for women and men respectively, are the organs where the reproductive cells and hormones that prepare sexual maturation during puberty are generated.
  • External glands . Those located in the skin, are responsible for lubricating it and keeping it fresh, also spilling hormones that fulfill social and protective roles of the epidermis.

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