The Endocrine System

The endocrine system is a unique and essential part of normal body function. Where the nervous system handles functions that happen quickly, like breathing and body movement, the endocrine system handles body functions that happen much slower, such as the growth of cells, organs, and metabolism.

Endocrine system keeps the body's hormone and secretion levels in balance. Since there is a whole series of organs and glands that must work in tandem to maintain healthy hormone and secretion levels, when one of them doesn't function the way it's supposed to function, it puts a heavy strain on the rest of the body.

This is what happens when the Pancreas stops producing Insulin and a person gets Type 1 diabetes. Type 1 diabetes is an autoimmune disorder where some other part of the body's immune system attacks pancreatic cells, preventing them from producing insulin. Any one of these delicate systems can be the culprit in pushing the body's system out of balance.

Taking insulin as a treatment for Type 1 diabetes is just part of the solution to this disorder. If one of the glands or organs is still stressed due to overworking or not getting what it needs, daily insulin levels will fluctuate, making it harder to control Type 1 diabetes.

The goal for the person with Type 1 diabetes is to take control of their disorder and maintaining healthy glucose levels. But to understand the delicate balance of the endocrine system and how the diabetic can achieve this goal, it helps to explore the function of each organ and gland. Glands included in the endocrine system include the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, thyroid, parathyroid, adrenal glands, pineal body and reproductive glands which include the ovaries and the testes. Each one of these systems has a function to help the body stay in balance.

The hypothalamus is a gland in the brain which is responsible for regulating certain metabolic processes or maintaining the body's status quo. Without the hypothalamus there would be no link between the nervous system and the endocrine system as the hypothalamus "tells" other organs, such as the pituitary gland, what to secrete and when to do it.

The pituitary gland is a small gland in the brain that is about the size of a pea. For such a small gland, it is responsible for producing most of the important hormones that the body manufactures. The hormones that are secreted from the pituitary gland are a vital part of normal body function and include controlling functions such as emotions, sexual functions, controlling body temperature, hunger and thirst.

With diabetes, one of the first symptoms people will have is excessive thirst. This indicates that the pituitary gland is working over time to keep up with the demand of Blood glucose. The thyroid gland is a gland located in the lower part of the neck and it produces a hormone called thyroxine. Thyroxine regulates the metabolism and is important to healthy bone growth and aids in the development of the brain and nervous system.

Attached to the thyroid gland are four parathyroid glands which regulate the calcium level in the body. This, too, is important for healthy bone structure and growth in children.

Attached to each kidney is an adrenal gland which is responsible for regulating body salt, water balance, how the body handles stress, metabolism, the immune system and the development of sexual function. Overstimulization of the hypothalamus can cause the adrenal gland to weaken.

The pineal gland secrets melatonin, a hormone that helps to control a person's sleep. When a person doesn't get enough sleep because they aren't getting enough melatonin, they have difficulty controlling their weight, something diabetics need to watch closely.

The pancreas, while not an endocrine gland, is part of the body's hormone secreting system. It is responsible for producing insulin and glucagons, both of which help maintain sugar levels in the blood stream and help give the body energy.