Four Endocrine Heros
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.
And even when life is going easy, the endocrine glands live to interact. In fact, they were created to interact. Better for them; confusing for us. But since this is where aging speeds up or slows down, inquiring minds ought to know.
Don’t ever decide you have a problem with only one endocrine gland. In a mess? One gland may outdo the others in creating a mess, but they’re all in there, bailing like crazy. And even when all is well, they’re running plays from a play book we don’t understand.
Endocrine glands work together
Plus, all the endocrine glands work in all parts of the body, and everything affects everything.
Wait! Don’t give up! You can do this! We’ll just step it out by explaining the system one piece at time. Just remember everything affects everything and don’t skip a gland or two because you don’t think they apply.
Last week introduced the cast of characters. This week introduces the roles played by four of the endocrine glands.
The hypothalamus controls pretty much everything our bodies do-or don’t do. By controlling both our nervous systems directly and the endocrine system via the pituitary gland, it’s the tiny king of a vast realm.
This king is about the size of an almond and looks like a little, lumpy pancake. It tucks up under the base of the brain; while it’s a part of the brain, the hypothalamus is unprotected by the blood/brain barrier.
So, the controller of your health-and your life-is a little, misshapen nut with no protection. Comforting, eh?
We need our king to live long and prosper, which is hard because the hypothalamus is under attack. Worse, it’s likely the enemy is us, mostly by what we eat and drink, the toxins we have to deal with, too much stress, etc.
We need to talk more about the hypothalamus, and we will.
Then there’s the king of the endocrine hill, the pituitary gland. A tiny teardrop sort of arrangement, the pituitary hangs from the base of the brain below the hypothalamus, not too far behind the bridge of the nose. That’s some vulnerable location.
Studies link concussions to pituitary damage. One typical study said 68% of people suffering even a mild concussion had a damaged pituitary. Untreated, it can lead to Parkinson’s Disease or Alzheimer’s, but you won’t find a fix in the doctor’s office. Medicine doesn’t know how to fix the problem.
Add to that, The Pituitary Networking Association’s studies say about 20% of us have pituitary tumors. While these tumors are rarely cancerous, they may affect function.
Pituitary problems usually takes twenty-plus years to diagnose. Why? Because most doctors believe nobody has pituitary problems, concussions have nothing to do with the pituitary, and pituitary tumors are a myth.
Since I have a damaged pituitary, this attitude miffs me, but there you are.
Because the pituitary controls the endocrine system and the endocrine system controls all of health, everybody needs to know about the pituitary.
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 hypothyroidism, an underperforming thyroid gland. And some of you have experienced the living on the edge sensation of an overactive thyroid, hyperthroidism.
Doctors often remove (or zap) overactive thyroid glands, making patients hypothyroid. Once hypothyroid, patients receive the typical, inadequate treatment-and yearn for the edge they used to live on. Sigh.
Your thyroid is in the front of your neck, near the Adam’s apple. I’ll have a lot more to say about the thyroid in the future.
Just behind your thyroid are four similarly named, but unrelated, endocrine glands, the parathyroids. These tiny glands control our calcium balance. If the parathyroids misbehave, the current treatment is surgery, and results can be iffy.
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. Fortunately, we’re learning better ways to get the parathyroids back on course.
So that’s the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid and parathyroids. Everybody needs to know how they work and what to do when they’re not getting the job done.
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.