why do we need the endocrine system

You might say endocrine (say: EN-doh-krin) glands are a little bossy they tell your cells what to do! But that's actually a good thing. Without your endocrine glands and the hormones they release your cells wouldn't know when to do important things. For instance, your bones wouldn't get the message that it's time for you to grow and get bigger. And your body wouldn't know that it's time to begin puberty, the body changes that turn kids into grownups. You have a variety of endocrine glands in different sizes and shapes located in different parts of the body. You might be surprised to learn that the pituitary (say: pih-TOO-uh-ter-ee) gland, which is about the size of a pea, is the "master gland" of the endocrine system. It makes and releases a bunch of hormones that control other glands and body functions. Tiny and tucked beneath your brain, the pituitary helps you grow big by producing growth hormone. Your thyroid (say: THY-royd) gland is in your neck and it's 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. Your adrenal (say: uh-DREE-nul) glands are really important to your body in times of trouble, like when you're sick or under stress.


Adrenaline (say: uh-DREN-uh-lin), one of the adrenal gland hormones, gives you the boost you need if you're being chased by a wild animal or even your brother! Your pancreas (say: PAN-kree-us) is your largest endocrine gland and it's found in your belly. The pancreas makes several hormones, including
(say: IN-suh-lin), which helps glucose (say: GLOO-kose), the sugar that's in your blood, enter the cells of your body. Your cells need to be fueled with glucose to function, like a car's engine needs gas. And we all know what happens when you run out of fuel! 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 it might not work the way it's supposed to. (say: dye-uh-BEE-tees) is one common problem with the endocrine system. It occurs when a person's pancreas doesn't make enough insulin. It's also an endocrine problem if a kid isn't growing as quickly as expected because his or her pituitary gland isn't making enough growth hormone.


Fortunately, special doctors called endocrinologists (say: ) know a lot about the endocrine system and can help treat people with hormone problems. But most kids will never need to worry about their endocrine system because it works fine on its own. How does that make a kid feel? Gland-tastic! The endocrine system is one of the more difficult systems that you will learn about in class. Most of the activities of the system are not seen and you probably don't know that anything is happening. You definitely won't see any obvious problems, only the results of problems. Most of the early information about the endocrine system came from studying things that went wrong with the system. Even today, there are still many mysteries related to this system and it's activities. The best description we can offer is to describe the endocrine system as the chemical brother of the nervous system. While the nervous system transmits information and instructions using electricity, the endocrine system transmits information with chemicals and biological compounds.


What Does This System Do? This system controls many of the biochemical pathways that occur in your body. The core tool used by the endocrine system is a compound called a hormone. Your body uses dozens of hormones to regulate your growth, digestion, body temperature, and glucose metabolism (to name a few). A hormone released by an endocrine gland can travel throughout the body and change the activity of cells from many other systems. The endocrine system is also unique in that it uses glands and cells within organs that are all closely related to other systems. We don't know where to begin the discussion of endocrine interaction with other systems. The endocrine system is everywhere and the chemicals produced by the system act in a variety of ways on every cell of your body. The circulatory system is the transport system for endocrine information. While the nervous system uses neurons, the endocrine chemicals and hormones must circulate through the body via blood vessels. Many glands in your body secrete hormones into the blood.


You have a pituitary gland in the base of your skull that releases hormones that control blood pressure and your excretory system. You have a thyroid gland in your neck that controls your bone growth rate and metabolism. You even have a tiny little adrenal gland above your kidneys that releases adrenalin if you get excited. Endocrine glands are everywhere. Because our endocrine system is very delicate, many things can go wrong. An extreme example is if a gland stops working, but they are more likely to work more or less than they should. If you don't get enough iodine in your food, your thyroid gland can have big problems and grow to the size of a baseball called a goiter. Other common problems with your thyroid can increase your body's metabolism and make you jumpy and sweaty ( hyperthyroidism ) or decrease the levels and make you sluggish ( hypothyroidism ). Some individuals have a problem making insulin in their pancreas. Those individuals have a disease called diabetes and they are not able to metabolize carbohydrates correctly. They must often take injections of insulin to counteract the problem.

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