What Are the Main Functions of the Endocrine System?

Reviewed on 1/21/2021

The endocrine system is a network of glands called endocrine glands that are present throughout the body.
The endocrine system is a network of glands called endocrine glands that are present throughout the body.

The endocrine system is a network of glands called endocrine glands that are present throughout the body. The endocrine system secrets chemical messengers called hormones directly into the bloodstream. These hormones control and regulate almost every bodily function, such as breaking down food into sugar, amino acids, and fatty acids, regulating the body’s temperature, maintaining the body’s weight, and cell growth.

Other important body functions controlled by the endocrine system include:

The endocrine system:

The endocrine system is made up of a network of endocrine glands that synthesize, store, and secrete hormones. Each endocrine gland produces one or more hormones, which have certain functions. The endocrine system includes:

  • Hypothalamus: The hypothalamus is a part of the middle brain. It controls and coordinates the entire endocrine system by controlling the pituitary gland. The hypothalamus also helps to regulate the body’s temperature, sleep-wake cycle, sexual behavior, emotional responses, and appetite.
  • Pituitary gland: This gland controls the functions of all the other endocrine glands in the body. It produces the following:
    • Follicle-stimulating hormone (FSH): Controls the reproductive functions.
    • Luteinizing hormone (LH): Controls the reproductive functions in both genders.
    • Melatonin: Controls the sleep-wake cycle.
    • Oxytocin: It is the “love” hormone. It is responsible for the “feel good” effect in a person when they meet or hug their loved ones.
    • Prolactin: It is required for milk production in mothers with newborns.
    • Growth hormone (GH): This hormone regulates the body’s growth, sugar levels, and bone growth.
    • Thyroid-stimulating hormone: Controls functions of the thyroid gland.
    • Adrenocorticotropic hormone: Controls the adrenal gland, which is associated with the salt-water balance and “fight or flight” response in the body.
  • Pineal glandPlays a vital role in the sleep-wake cycles.
  • Thyroid gland: It produces the hormones: triiodothyronine (T3) and thyroxine (T4). Both these hormones regulate metabolism, heart rate, digestion, muscle, brain development, and bone health. It is located around Adam’s apple.
  • Parathyroid gland: Also located in the front of your neck, the parathyroid gland is located behind the thyroid. They produce parathyroid hormones required to regulate the calcium and phosphorus levels in the bone and blood.
  • Thymus: Thymus produces thymosin, which helps in the development of a type of white blood cell called a T cell. These cells are required to fight infections. Thymus activity declines after puberty.
  • Adrenal glands: Adrenal glands are located on top of each kidney. These glands produce adrenaline, aldosterone, cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA). Adrenaline regulates blood pressure, heart rate, and stress response. Aldosterone regulates salt and water balance. Cortisol plays a role in stress response.
  • Pancreas: Pancreas produces insulin and glucagon. Insulin reduces blood sugar levels and glucagon increases blood sugar levels.
  • Ovaries: These are part of the female reproductive system that produce progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone (low levels). Progesterone helps prepare the uterus for pregnancy. Estrogen regulates the menstrual cycles, maintains pregnancy, and develops secondary sexual characteristics (along with testosterone).
  • Testes: Testes are part of the male reproductive system and produce testosterone. This hormone is responsible for the development of male secondary sexual characteristics, sex drive, and body composition. The hormone testosterone also performs similar functions in women.

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References
Endocrine Society. The Endocrine System. https://www.hormone.org/what-is-endocrinology/the-endocrine-system

Teens Health. Endocrine System. https://kidshealth.org/en/teens/endocrine.html

Science Direct. Hormones. https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/agricultural-and-biological-sciences/hormones

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