The endocrine system is a set of ductless glands that regulate the biological processes of the body by producing and releasing hormones. Hormones are extra-cellular signaling molecules that are carried through the blood or work upon neighboring tissues.
The hypothalamus is the control center of the endocrine system. Apart from other functions that the hypothalamus performs, it mediates between the nervous and endocrine systems to maintain homeostasis. Homeostasis is the regulation of the internal environment of the body that takes place through several complex biological processes. These processes operate through the autonomic nervous system to neutralize changes that upset metabolic equilibrium.
Maintaining homeostasis is one of the most important functions of the endocrine system. The importance of homeostasis is better understood in light of life system parameters. Humans are endothermic animals that maintain a constant body temperature, versus many other animals that are ectothermic and have a wide temperature variation depending on various conditions. Ectothermic animals may become lethargic in low temperatures, while humans tend to retain their ability to function normally.
A complex system of cycles and negative feedback is used by the endocrine system to maintain homeostasis. Negative feedback regulates the secretion of relevant hormones. Secretion cycles are used to maintain physiological and homeostatic control. A classic example how it goes about maintaining homeostasis is the way it controls thyroid function, which regulates energy consumption, protein production and calcium in the blood.
- The hypothalamus detects the inadequacy of thyroid hormones like thyroxine and triiodothyronine.
- It releases hypothalamin, which activates the anterior pituitary cells responsible for secretion.
- The anterior pituitary releases thyrotropin, the thyroid-stimulating hormone, which activates production of more thyroxine. Almost 80% of thyroxine is converted into triiodothyronine.
- If the hypothalamus detects excess of thyroid hormones, it takes corrective measures to restrict further production of thyroid hormones.
Hypo-function and hyper-function of the glands of the endocrine system are the main causes of diseases of the endocrine system. For example, underproduction and over production of thyroid hormones leads to thyroid problems like hypothyroidism and hyperthyroidism. Other causes are found in inability of organs targeted by hormones or ineffective responses to hormones by tissues.
Unexplained disorders are usually found to occur due to an inefficient endocrine system, which is unable to exercise control over biological processes necessary to maintain life. Endocrine inefficiency can also remains hidden unless an effort is made to check hormonal levels in the blood. Moreover, most physicians fail to associate symptoms with the endocrine system, as most of them are general in nature. For example, thyroid dysfunction is usually the last to be investigated in cases of unexplained obesity. The best you can do you is to maintain a healthy lifestyle to maintain good thyroid health.