When people think about hormones, they probably think of the most common male and female hormones testosterone and estrogen. However, children as well as adults produce many other kinds of hormones that affect every aspect of their health.
What are Hormones?
Hormones are chemicals that tell cells and body parts to do certain things. For example, hormones tell the body when to grow and when to stop growing.
These hormones travel to other cells and help control or coordinate many body processes, such as regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, as well as sexual function and reproductive processes. Therefore, if hormones didn’t exist, your bones wouldn’t get the message that it’s time for you to grow and get bigger or know when it’s time to begin puberty.
The major glands that make up the human endocrine system include the:
- Pituitary gland
- Adrenal glands
- Reproductive glands (which include the ovaries and testes)
Although the endocrine glands are the body’s main hormone producers, some non-endocrine organs such as the brain, heart, lungs, kidneys, liver, thymus, skin, and placenta also produce and release hormones. If hormones are not released properly, or are produced in excess, symptoms, such as obesity, growth failure, muscle weakness, easy bruising of the skin, acne, high blood pressure, and psychological changes, may take years to develop. Depending on the specific cause, doctors may treat your condition with medications, replacement hormones or medical procedures to regulate hormone levels.
How Hormones Work in the Endocrine System
Once a hormone is secreted in the body, it travels through the bloodstream to target cells designed to receive its message. These target cells have receptors that only attach onto specific hormones, so that each hormone communicates only with specific target cells.
When the hormone reaches its target cell, it locks onto the cell’s specific receptors and these hormone-receptor combinations transmit chemical instructions to the inner parts of the cell. Important body mechanisms exist to maintain the appropriate level of hormone in the blood. Too much or too little of any hormone can be harmful to the body.
Increased or Decreased Levels of Endocrine Hormone May Be Caused By:
- A problem with endocrine signaling
- Endocrine gland malfunction (such as diabetes and hypothyroidism)
- Failure of a gland to stimulate another gland to release hormones (for example, a problem with the hypothalamus can disrupt hormone production in the pituitary gland)
- Injury to an endocrine gland
- Tumor in an endocrine gland
There are many types of hormones that do different jobs and affect our bodies in different ways. Although we rarely think about them, the glands of the endocrine system and the hormones they release into your bloodstream, influence almost every cell, organ, and function of our bodies.
· Pituitary Gland: This is called the “master gland” of the endocrine system. It makes and releases several hormones that control other glands and body functions. This tiny gland is located at the base of the brain. It has many responsibilities including: helping you grow by producing
a growth hormone, regulating pubertal development through production of the puberty hormones LH and FSH, signaling cortisol production, regulating urine production through the production of anti-diuretic hormone and allowing for lactation through release of prolactin (among other functions)!
· Thyroid Gland: Located in your neck, this gland is shaped like a bowtie or a butterfly. It makes hormones that are important for growth and it helps you stay alert and full of energy.
· Adrenal Gland:This gland is important to your body in times of trouble such as when you’re sick or under stress. Adrenaline and cortisol are hormones released by the adrenal glands and protect you in times of stress.
· Hypothalamus: This gland helps stimulate or inhibit many of your body’s key processes including: Heart rate and blood pressure, temperature, fluid and electrolyte balance, thirst, appetite and body weight, and sleep cycle.
Your body does an amazing job of making sure that hormones are released in just the right amounts at just the right time. If there’s a problem with the endocrine system, a person’s body might not grow like it should or may not work the way it’s supposed to. A healthy hormonal balance in children is very important for regulating growth, development and even behavior.
If you have any questions regarding your child and their hormones contact Endocrine Kids at (248) 347-3344 to request an appointment with Dr. Bishop.