Endocrine System Function

Endocrine System Function

The endocrine system functions include production of chemical secretions that help control the body's metabolic activities. The following article will help you know more about the functions of the endocrine system.
Bodytomy Staff
Last Updated: May 31, 2018
Every reaction in your body, from breaking down food into energy, the mood swings that you have, the physiological development of your body, development of your reproductive system, etc. are all carried out by certain chemicals. These certain chemicals are known as hormones in your body. These slow processes that take time to develop are a part of the endocrine system function. Breathing, body movement, sudden reaction to the surroundings are a part of the nervous system function.
The endocrine system consists of hormones and glands. Hormones are the chemical messengers of the body that travel down to the various body parts concerned transferring information. There are many hormones secreted by the endocrine organs, and each individual hormone affects only those body cells that have a genetic program that allows them to react only to those hormones that are related to them. The hormones influence the body to react according to the changes in the balance of fluids and minerals in the blood, stress, infection, etc.
How Does the Endocrine System Function?
The hormones secreted by the endocrine organs are very important for regulating metabolic processes, growth of the body and sexual development. These glands release the hormones into the blood stream and are transported to the various cells and body parts. When the hormones reach the target site, they bind to the receptor cells with a lock and key mechanism.

The hormone may be present within the nucleus or on the surface of the cells. Once bound to the receptor, the hormones transmit a signal that triggers an action by the site. Hormones control the organ's function and affect the growth and development of the organs. It is due to the hormones that the sexual characteristics of the organs develop and act accordingly.

They also determine the use and storage of energy in the body, regulate the fluid, salt and sugar levels in the blood. A minute amount of hormones triggers large reactions within the body. All hormones are proteins, but all proteins are not hormones. Steroids are not derived from proteins, but from the fatty substances from cholesterol.
The body has a well-controlled feedback system that manages the ON - OFF button of the endocrine gland. When the chemical level or the nutrient level in the body is abnormally high or low, the endocrine glands secrete hormones. Once the level of the body fluids is normal the hormone secretions are stopped. When the glands receive information to secrete hormones, it is a positive feedback mechanism. If the glands receive information to stop the secretions of the hormones, it is known as negative feedback.
Functions of Endocrine System
The endocrine system is a collection of glands that secrete different hormones for the various functions and chemical reactions occurring within the body. The main function is to maintain a stable environment within the body or homeostasis. For example, maintaining the blood sugar levels, according to changes occurring in the body is homeostasis.

The other function is promoting the structural changes of the body. For example, the permanent changes occurring in the body over time like height, development of sexual organs, etc. is a part of the structural changes.
There are eight major glands that help in the functioning of this vital system. These major endocrine glands are as follows:
  1. Hypothalamus
  2. Pituitary gland
  3. Parathyroid gland
  4. Thyroid gland
  5. Adrenal glands
  6. Pancreas
  7. Ovaries (in female body)
  8. Testes (in male body)
Let us know more about the various functions with the help of the above mentioned endocrine glands.
A collection of specialized cells that are located in the lower central part of the brain is called the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus is the main link between the endocrine and the nervous systems. The nerve cells of the hypothalamus control the pituitary gland by stimulating or suppressing the hormone secretions.
Pituitary Gland
The pituitary gland is located at the base of the brain just below the hypothalamus. The pituitary gland is the most important part of the endocrine system. The pituitary gland secretes hormones on the basis of the emotional and seasonal changes.
The hypothalamus sends information that is sensed by the brain to pituitary triggering production hormones. The pituitary gland is divided into two parts: the anterior lobe and the posterior lobe. The anterior lobe of the pituitary gland regulated the activity of the thyroid, adrenals, and the reproductive glands. The anterior lobe also produces hormones like:
  1. Growth Hormone: To stimulate the growth of the bones and tissues. It also plays a role in the body's absorption of nutrients and minerals.
  2. Prolactin: To activate the production of milk in lactating mothers
  3. Thyrotropin: To stimulate the thyroid gland to produce thyroid hormones
  4. Corticotropin: To stimulate the adrenal glands to produce certain hormones.
Endorphins are also secreted by the pituitary that acts on the nervous system and reduces the feeling of pain. The pituitary glands produce hormones that signal the reproductive organs to secrete sex hormones. The menstrual cycle and ovulation in women is also controlled by the pituitary gland.

The posterior lobe of the pituitary gland produces antidiuretic hormone that helps to control the water balance in the body. Oxytoxins that trigger the contractions of the uterus in a woman who is in labor is secreted by the posterior lobe.
Thyroid Gland
The thyroid gland is situated in the front part of the lower neck that is shaped like a bow tie or butterfly. The production and secretions of the hormones of the thyroid glands are controlled by thyrotropin secreted by the pituitary gland. The thyroid produces thyroxine and triiodothyronine, that controls the rate at which the cells use up energy from food for the production of energy.

The thyroid hormones are very important as they help in the growth of bones and the development and growth of the brain and nervous system in children. Over or under secretion of thyroid hormones leads to a number of thyroid problems in the body.
These are four tiny glands that are attached to the thyroid gland. They release the parathyroid hormone that helps in regulating the level of calcium in the blood along with another hormone produced by thyroid known as calcitinin.
Adrenal Glands
On each of the two kidneys, there are two triangular adrenal glands situated. The adrenal gland is divided into two parts. The outer part called the adrenal cortex produces corticosteroids, that influence and regulate the salt and water levels. They are also helpful in the body's response to stress, metabolism, immune system and the function and development of sexual organs.

The inner part called the adrenal medulla, secretes catecholamines like epinephrine. This hormone is also called the adrenaline, it increases the blood pressure and heart rate when the body is under stress.
Reproductive Glands or Gonads
The gonads are present in males and females and are the main organs producing sex hormones. In men, the gonads are related to the testes. The testes are located in the scrotum and secrete androgens. The most important hormone for men testosterone is secreted from the testes.

In women, the ovaries are the gonads that are located in the pelvis region. They produce estrogen and progesterone hormones. Estrogen is involved during the sexual maturation of the girl, that is, puberty. Progesterone, along with estrogen is involved in the regulation of menstruation cycle. These hormones are also involved during pregnancy.
These glands are associated with the digestive system of the human body. They secrete digestive enzymes and two important hormones insulin and glucagon. These hormones work together to maintain the level of glucose in the blood. If these hormones are not secreted in the required levels, it leads to diabetes.
The pineal gland is located in the center of the brain. Melatonin is secreted by this gland that helps regulate the sleeping cycle of a person.
How Does Endocrine System Function with Other Systems?
The system that helps the body communicate, control and coordinate various functions is the endocrine system. The other systems with which this system interacts includes the nervous system, the reproductive system, liver, gut, pancreas, fat and the kidneys. This interaction is carried out via a network of glands and organs. These glands and organs can produce, store and secrete many types of hormones. Thus, this system helps control and regulate:
  • Reproductive system: Helps in controlling the formation of gametes
  • Skeletal system: Helps in controlling the growth of bones
  • Muscular system: Helps in controlling muscle metabolism
  • Excretory system: Helps control water in the kidneys
  • Respiratory system: Helps in controlling the rate of respiration
The interaction with these systems helps in maintaining the energy levels within the body. It also affects the growth and development of the body as well as maintaining homeostasis. When one or more than one of the organs stop functioning or function abnormally, it leads to diseases and disorders.

It leads to over or under production of hormones, that causes hormonal imbalance. The imbalance sends the normal functioning of other systems and organs to a toss, leading to diseases and disorders. For example, when the pancreas as affected, it leads to diabetes.
Thus, the endocrine system regulates metabolism, growth, development, tissue functions, puberty and even moods. These are the basic functions that help keep our bodies in working condition. Any kind of problem will result in many disorders and abnormalities in the body.

Thus, maintain a healthy diet so that the endocrine system can function under optimum conditions. Just as the car needs engine oil to run smoothly, our bodies require hormones to continue working efficiently.
Human Silhouette With Endocrine Glands
Endocrine System
Disclaimer: This article is for informative purposes only, and should not be used as a replacement for expert medical advice.
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