The Amazing Endocrine System – Overview
You want amazing? Check out the endocrine system. Not only does the list of activities go on and on, the level of cooperation between endocrine glands goes to the death. If one gland starts to falter, the others try to help. If one gland dies, the others throw themselves on the funeral pyre in an attempt to make things better.
Don’t ever decide you can have a problem with only one endocrine gland. One gland may outdo the others in creating a mess, but they’re all in there, bailing like crazy.
Plus, all the endocrine glands work in all parts of the body. Receptors for thyroid hormone, for instance, are in the gut, and estrogen receptors are in the brain. Well, who knew?
Endocrine problems are systemwide, and everything affects everything. To use an expression from my old IBM days, a flow chart of what goes on would look like an explosion in a spaghetti factory.
That said, for comprehension’s sake, I’m going to discuss the system one piece at time. Just keep a thought in the back of your mind that everything affects everything and don’t skip a gland or two because you don’t think they apply.
Overview of Endocrine
I’ll provide an overview today and next week, then details of the more significantly trouble-prone endocrine glands in following editions of this e-zine.
Let’s start with something that kind of is and kind of isn’t an endocrine gland, the hypothalamus. The hypothalamus controls both the nervous system directly and the endocrine system via the pituitary gland, the top dog there. In other words, it’s the tiny king of a vast realm.
About the size of an almond and the shape of a little, lumpy pancake, the hypothalamus tucks up under the base of the brain, part of the brain, but unprotected by the blood/brain barrier
I think you should stand and salute every time you read the word ‘hypothalamus.’. That would slow things way down, but perhaps you’d end up filled with an appropriate amount of awe.
That’s because the hypothalamus is under attack, and it’s likely you’re participating in your own destruction, mostly by what you eat and drink. More about that down the road.
King of the endocrine hill, as I mentioned, is the pituitary gland. A tiny teardrop sort of arrangement, the pituitary hangs from the base of the brain, not too far behind the bridge of the nose. Studies link concussions to pituitary damage. One typical study said 68% of people suffering even a mild concussion had a damaged pituitary.
Add to that, The Pituitary Network Association’s studies say 20% of us have pituitary tumors. While these tumors are usually benign, they can significantly affect function.
Meanwhile, doctors recently decided nobody has pituitary problems and refuse to consider the possibility. Since I have a damaged pituitary, diagnosed long since by a king of diagnosticians and a slew of tests, this attitude miffs me, but there you are. On my own-again.
Our most well-known endocrine gland is the thyroid. It controls metabolism and affects everything else. Most of you know about the hair loss, brain fog, extreme fatigue, etc. that accompany a whacked out thyroid gland. Some of you have experienced the living on the edge sensation of an overactive thyroid. Hyper and hypo share a lot of the same symptoms.
Doctors usually remove overactive thyroid glands so patients can become hypothyroid and receive treatment that leaves them yearning for the edge they used to live on. (You can listen to my remarks about this in a Q&A teleseminar.)
In your neck
You can find your thyroid in your neck, near the Adam’s apple.
Close by the thyroid lies four similarly named, but totally unrelated, endocrine glands, the parathyroids. These tiny glands control our calcium balance. Fortunately, since it takes a rare, very skilled surgeon to remedy things, they rarely misbehave.
Should your parathyroids decide to go astray, whatever you do, don’t send a boy to do a man’s job. These little glands-each about the size of a grain of rice-die in the hands of an inept surgeon, and you end up with a virulent form of osteoporosis that has no treatment. Search far and wide for expertise.
If somebody says your parathyroids are in trouble because your calcium is low, try ramping up your magnesium intake before doing anything drastic. Your body doesn’t keep the calcium you give it unless you have enough magnesium to balance the two. Sometimes solutions are simple.
God is good,
Copyright by Bette Dowdell. All rights reserved
P.S. Bette Dowdell is not a doctor, nor does she purport to be She’s a patient who’s been studying and successfully handling her own endocrine problems for more than 30 years. She offers introductory teleseminars and an in-depth 12-month subscription program, “Moving to Health” about living well with endocrine issues. She explains how things work-or don’t, discusses what things to avoid as well as the things that help, and she provides a lot of well-researched nutritional information. Subscribe to her free e-zine at Information is power.