We explain what the endocrine system is and what its functions are in men and women. In addition, its characteristics and diseases.
What is the endocrine system?
The endocrine system is a set of organs, called glands, that are responsible for secreting hormones. Hormones are substances that regulate the activity of various organs and tissues.
Unlike other body systems , the endocrine system does not have ducts or go through a cycle that always begins and ends in the same way, as is the case with the digestive system or the respiratory system .
The functions of the endocrine system are multiple, but the main ones are related to metabolism, growth and reproduction .
Functions of stability and growth of the organism
The endocrine system constantly works by stimulating or inhibiting the movement of substances into and out of cells . This process of exchange of substances directed by the endocrine system is called homeostasis.
On the other hand, this system releases hormones responsible for growth , both in terms of height, weight and physical structure as well as the sexual maturity of the organism.
Reproductive functions in men
In men, this system is responsible for secreting the following hormones, through cells located in the testicles:
- Androgens (including testosterone). Secreted by Leydig cells, they have an anabolic function (increasing muscle strength, muscle mass and bone density). This hormone is responsible for the maturation of the sexual organs and also for the appearance of hair.
- Estradiol. Secreted by Sertoli cells, it prevents cell death (apoptosis) of germ cells.
- Inhibin. Secreted by Sertoli cells, it regulates the production of follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH). It is the hormone that initiates the production of sperm.
Reproductive functions in women
In women, the endocrine system acts from the ovaries, secreting the following hormones:
- Progesterone. Secreted by granulosa cells and theca cells, its reproductive functions are mainly activated during pregnancy by preventing the body from having an immune reaction to the embryo. However, it also performs functions when there is no pregnancy, since it is responsible for regulating coagulation and the levels of substances such as zinc and copper , as well as oxygen levels in the cells. Regulates the use of fat reserves (for energy ) and healing (regulation of collagen and myelin). This hormone also limits the activity of the gallbladder.
- Androstenedione. Secreted by theca cells, it is used to produce estrogen .
- Estrogens (mainly estradiol). Secreted by granulosa cells, these hormones are primarily known to initiate the development of female sexual characteristics and the reduction of muscle mass. However, they are also involved in metabolism, increasing the rate of growth and bone formation. In addition, they intervene in the accumulation of different levels of cholesterol and in coagulation processes. Also, by maintaining the skin , blood vessels, and alveoli, they interact with other non-reproductive systems.
- Inhibin. This hormone, which is also present in men, in women, regulates the presence of FSH: which is the hormone that regulates ovulation.
It is a gland located in the front and lower part of the neck , in men just below the Adam's apple.
The tissue that makes it up are small, thin-walled sacs (follicles) from which hormones are secreted.
Its function is to regulate metabolism mainly through the hormones Thyroxine (T4) and Triiodothyronine (T3).
They are two glands that are each located on one of the kidneys. They are responsible for regulating responses to stress through the secretion of corticosteroid hormones (mainly cortisol) and catecholamines (mainly adrenaline)
Types of Hormone Communication
Hormones activate or inhibit processes. To do this, they can use two types of communication :
- Paracrine communication. Hormones move from the secretory cell to another cell through the extracellular fluid. This type of communication is only possible between nearby cells or from the same tissue.
- Endocrine communication. Hormones are secreted into the bloodstream which can bring them into contact with any cell in the body in just a few seconds.
Classification of the functions of hormones
Each hormone fulfills one or several particular functions. However, those functions can be classified into:
- Stimulation. They are the hormones that promote the growth of a tissue, the secretion of a substance or the functioning of an organ.
- Inhibition. When a hormone stops the secretion of a substance, it slows or stops the growth of a tissue or limits the function of an organ.
- Antagonism. It is the relationship between two hormones that cause opposite effects.
- Synergy. It is the combination of the effects of two hormones, which is greater than or different from the sum of the effects of each one.
Relationship with the nervous system
The endocrine system produces hormones that affect the nervous system , for example adrenaline. However, the entire endocrine system is controlled by the nervous system .
This does not mean that the secretion of glands can be regulated just by thinking about it, since these are involuntary reactions .
The parasympathetic nervous system regulates the functioning of the endocrine glands under normal conditions. The sympathetic nervous system regulates its functioning in situations of stress or danger.
Due to this relationship between the nervous system and the endocrine system, the physical health of a person can be severely disturbed during periods of stress, since the endocrine system is responsible for regulating such basic functions as bone strength or the process digestive.
Types of glands
The glands that make up this system are distinguished from other glands by the way they release their secretions .
Exocrine glands release substances that are not hormones (for example enzymes ) into internal or external tissue.
This type of functioning is found in the glands that function in the stomach or the pancreas and that do not belong to the endocrine system. Rather, the endocrine glands release the hormones into the bloodstream .
Diseases of the endocrine system
Some of the diseases associated with the endocrine system are:
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- Diabetes. It is caused by decreased secretion of insulin, produced by the pancreas.
- hypothyroidism occurs when the thyroid does not produce enough thyroxine and the consequence is a slower metabolism throughout the body.
- hyperthyroidism, In this case, the thyroid produces an excess of thyroxine. As a consequence, the metabolism is excessively fast.