Endocrine system refers to the organ system consisting of glands that manufacture and secrete hormones to regulate various activities in the body, which involve cells and organs (Kemp 1). Hormones refer to chemical messengers that play a significant role in the transmission of information between different sets of cells in the body to coordinate various functions. Some of the activities that the endocrine system regulates include metabolism, sexual development, and body’s growth. Reproductive organs, adrenals, thyroid, hypothalamus, pineal body, and pituitary are the major glands that constitute the endocrine system in mammals (Kemp 1). Endocrine system includes pancreas, which secretes hormones and enzymes that are significant in metabolism (Kemp 1). This discussion will consider the organs that constitute the endocrine system, the physiology and action of the released hormones, and homeostatic imbalance.
Organs of the Endocrine System and Physiology of Hormones
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The pancreas, gonads, adrenal glands, thyroid, hypothalamus, pineal gland, and the pituitary gland are the organs that make up the endocrine system (Kemp 1). The pancreas assumes the shape of a leaf and occupies a section in the abdomen just below the stomach. It secretes both enzymes and hormones in the body. It secretes three hormones, namely somatostatin, glucagon, and insulin whose homeostatic function is to stabilize the level of glucose or sugar in the blood. These hormones also play a role in maintaining energy stores, as well as regular energy supply to various body organs (Kemp 9). In addition, the pancreas also secretes pancreatic juice, which contains a number of digestive enzymes that are helpful in small intestines.
The gonads in females and males secrete different sex hormones, which enhance maturation, sexual intercourse, and reproduction in human beings (Kemp 8). In males, the gonads consist of testes, which secrete testosterone. The testosterone facilitates spermatogenesis, enhances the development of male sex traits, and influences associated with sexual and physical development. On the other hand, ovaries as the gonads in women secrete estrogen and progesterone. Progesterone and estrogen enhance ovulation and physical body changes, which begin at puberty (Kemp 8).
Adrenal glands secrete significant hormones, namely corticosteroids and epinephrine hormones (Boren 8). These glands occupy a section in the abdomen on top of kidneys and consist of two parts, including adrenal medulla and adrenal cortex which secrete epinephrine and corticosteroids respectively (Kemp 6). Corticosteroids control the level of water and salt in the body, the rate of metabolic processes, sexual development, immune system, and the response to stressing events. Epinephrine enhances various processes in the body, which include increased heartbeat and the dilation of air passages and blood vessels for the body to gain enough oxygen (Kemp 6). This happens when a person experiences stressing or scaring events. Thus, adrenal corticosteroids and epinephrine prepare the body for emergence events.
The thyroid assumes the shape of a butterfly and occupies the front section of the neck. It secretes thyroid hormones, which control vital chemical reactions, including respiration and stimulation of the metabolism of vitamins, fats and proteins (Kemp 4). Thyroid hormones help in the growth of bones and development of the nervous system and brain in children. On the sides of the thyroid glands, exist the parathyroid glands, which secrete parathyroid hormone. The parathyroid hormone regulates calcium levels in the blood circulatory system (Kemp 5). Therefore, the thyroid glands and parathyroid glands contribute to the normal growth and development among human beings (Kemp 4).
The pituitary gland is among the main organs that make up the endocrine system in human beings. This is a master gland because it secretes hormones that determine how other organs function. The pituitary gland occupies a section in the head below the brain, and this gland is as small as a pea (Kemp 3). This gland consists of the anterior and posterior lobes. The anterior lobe of the pituitary gland controls various hormones, especially those hormones that the adrenal, thyroid, and reproductive glands produce. Therefore, this lobe secretes corticotrophin, prolactin, thyrotrophin, and growth hormones (Kemp 3). The posterior lobe of the pituitary gland secretes the oxytocin and antidiuretic hormones (Kemp 3). Oxytocin hormone activates the muscles of the uterus to contract during childbirth while the antidiuretic hormone regulates the content of water in the body. The pituitary gland produces hormones that control menstrual cycle and facilitate proper ovulation. It also produces endorphins, which stimulate the gonads to secrete sex hormones, as well as relieving pain.
The hypothalamus is another organ that enables the endocrine system to achieve its functions (Kemp 2). It occupies a section in the head below the brain and just above the pituitary. The hypothalamus links the nervous system to the endocrine system. It also secretes chemicals that stimulate the pituitary gland to produce hormones. The hypothalamus helps transmit information such as change in temperature, feelings, and light to the pituitary to trigger the production of hormones (Kemp 2). Therefore, the hypothalamus helps pituitary gland significantly to achieve some of its functions.
Finally, the pineal gland refers to a reddish-brown, pine cone shaped organ that occupies a section inside the brain (Kemp 4). The pineal gland comprises pinealocytes and glial cells, which connect the nervous and endocrine systems by converting the nervous system’s signals into the signals of the endocrine system. It produces melatonin, which regulates the hormonal changes in adolescents.
Endocrine glands in different parts of the body produce hormones that regulate a number of processes at the organism. Some hormones may execute their functions locally in the tissues where production and release takes place (Boren 10). The rate at which endocrine glands biosynthesize and release hormones, depends on the homeostatic negative feedback mechanism. The mechanism relies on factors that affect the metabolism and elimination of hormones. Therefore, the stimulation of the negative feedback depends on the effects of hormones such as excretion and metabolism. Various factors, such as environmental changes, plasma concentration of nutrients, other hormones mental activities, and neurons stimulate or inhibit the secretion of hormones (Boren 9). This brings about a homeostatic imbalance in the body. Homeostatic imbalance refers to the inability of the body regulate homeostasis, which may lead to diseases or even death. For example, cardiac arrest may take place when the negative get overwhelmed to allow the positive feedback mechanism to take over. A homeostatic imbalance may also result in diabetes, hypoglycemia, dehydration, gout, hyperglycemia, and various diseases that may result from the presence of toxins in the blood circulatory system (Boren 9). Some of the common homeostatic imbalances include sodium imbalance, metabolic imbalance, electrolyte imbalance, and hormonal imbalance. Homeostatic imbalance may damage vital organs of the body permanently if medical intervention delays. Medical intervention restores homeostatic imbalance, which can prevent the irreversible damage to vital organs such as the heart, liver, kidneys, brain, just to mention a few (Boren 10).
Hormone replacement therapy helps treat hormonal imbalances, such as the imbalance of progesterone and estrogen during menopause (Sellman 26). Intravenous doses or supplements of the electrolyte treat the electrolyte imbalances. Therefore, a choice of a treatment for homeostatic imbalance depends on the homeostatic imbalance that a person is experiencing.
Endocrine system is one of the vital organ systems, which ensure that an organism lives comfortably with various processes running smoothly in the body. This system consists of a number of organs at different parts of the body (Boren 5). Such organs secrete hormones, which regulate biological functions in the body through homeostasis. People may experience homeostatic imbalances during their lifetime. Homeostatic imbalance may lead to various diseases such as diabetes, hypoglycemia, dehydration, gout, heart attack, and hyperglycemia, which may be fatal (Boren 10). Medical interventions against homeostatic imbalances are available in the contemporary society.
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