Although we rarely think about them, theglands of the endocrine system and thehormones they release influence almostevery cell, organ, and function of our bodies. The endocrinesystem is instrumental in regulating mood, growth anddevelopment, tissue function, and metabolism, as well as sexualfunction and reproductive processes.
In general, the endocrine system is in charge of body processesthat happen slowly, such as cell growth. Faster processes likebreathing and body movement are controlled by the nervoussystem. But even though the nervous system and endocrinesystem are separate systems, they often work together to helpthe body function properly.
About the Endocrine System
The foundations of the endocrine system are the hormones and glands. As the body’s chemical messengers, hormones transfer information and instructions from one set of cells to another. Although many different hormones circulate throughout the bloodstream, each one affects only the cells that are genetically programmed to receive and respond to its message. Hormone levels can be influenced by factors such as stress, infection, and changes in the balance of fluid and minerals in blood.
A gland is a group of cells that produces and secretes, or gives off, chemicals. A gland selects and removes materials from the blood, processes them, and secretes the finished chemical product for use somewhere in the body.
Some types of glands release their secretions in specific areas. For instance, exocrine glands, such as the sweat and salivary glands, release secretions in the skin or inside of the mouth. Endocrine glands, on the other hand, release more than 20 major hormones directly into the bloodstream where they can be transported to cells in other parts of the body.