When it comes to ownership of an endocrine system, humans have plenty of company. Also referred to as the hormone system, the endocrine system is found in all mammals as well as birds, fish and a variety of other types of living organisms, per epa.gov. It is a system that, in general terms, is made up of glands found throughout the body, gland-produced hormones sent into the bloodstream or into the fluid that around cells, and receptors distributed among organs and tissues, and “programmed” to respond to hormones.
Essentially, the endocrine system performs many roles that our bodies are dependent on, such as producing hormones that regulate metabolism, growth and development, tissue function, sexual function, reproduction, sleep, and mood – and along with other functions, per livescience.com. As for what the endocrine system physically consists of, take inventory:
- Pituitary gland
- Thyroid gland
- Parathyroid glands
- Adrenal glands
- Ovaries (females)
- Testicles (males)
Managing Endocrine System Health
An endocrine system that is unhealthy can result in an assortment of unwanted conditions, per webmd.com, such as hindered growth and development during puberty, difficulties getting pregnant, problems managing stress, putting on weight easily, having weakened bones or being low on energy because an excess amount of sugar remains in your bloodstream instead of where it should be – moving into cells to be used for energy.
Signs of an endocrine system not hitting on all cylinders, per organiclifestylemagazine.com:
- Insomnia and other sleep issues
- Dull or puffy skin
- Low energy
- Low sex drive
- Alopecia (hair loss)
- Weight gain
- Heightened fear
The Pituitary Gland
Of the many glands that comprise the endocrine system, the most important one is the pituitary gland – at least, it is central to the world of glands in that it uses information emanating from the brain to “instruct” other glands what to do. The pituitary gland produces a variety of key hormones, per webmd.com, such as growth hormone; prolactin, which contributes to the milk made by breastfeeding mothers; and what is known as luteinizing hormone, which helps regulate estrogen in women and testosterone in men.
All told, more than 50 different hormones have been identified in the human body, per epa.gov, and all play a part in the multifunctionality of the endocrine system, regulating all the body’s biological processes, beginning with conception and continuing into adulthood and through into old age. This includes the brain and nervous system and the reproductive system, as well as metabolism and blood-sugar levels, per epa.gov. Indeed, per livescience.com, diabetes is the most common disease of the endocrine system, and it can be linked to obesity, diet, and family history.
Vitamins and Supplements for the Endocrine System
Each of the different types of glands in the endocrine system can benefit from our consumption of vitamins and supplements targeted at them. Following is a list of many of the consumables that can bolster our endocrine system, although a consultation with your physician or a licensed nutritionist should come first if you are looking at starting a new regimen:
- Vitamin A. Needed for our immune system, hormone synthesis, and the production of the thyroid hormone triiodothyronine (T3).
- Astragalus. Has been used for diarrhea, fatigue, anorexia, upper respiratory infections, heart disease, hepatitis, fibromyalgia, per the National Institutes for Health.
- Vitamin B12. Found in every cell in the body, it is needed for cellular metabolism and energy production.
- Vitamin D. Levels of vitamin D often significantly lower in patients with hypothyroidism, although a direct connection still not determined.
- Ginseng. Several varieties benefit the endocrine system, to include the thyroid.
- Glutamine. Our body’s most plentiful amino acid, modest amounts can increase human growth hormone a lot.
- Glycine. Important for initiating normal patterns of REM sleep, per organiclifestylemagazine.com.
- Holy basil. Normally consumed in tea form, its many benefits include helping with anxiety, adrenal fatigue, and blood sugar.
- Iodine. An iodine deficiency can thwart the body’s natural detoxification and lead to hypothyroidism.
- Kava kava. A root found on South Pacific Islands, it has a calming effect and has been used in treating convulsions.
- L-arginine. An essential amino acid that can boost the release of Human Growth Hormone.
- Licorice root. Can help the thyroid and adrenal glands for those who have adrenal fatigue (low cortisol).
- Reishi mushroom. Helps boost the immune system.
- Selenium. Helps in the normalization of the thyroid hormone balance.
- Zinc. Contributes to immune modulation.