According to Cleveland Clinic, eight primary neuroendocrine organs exist in our bodies. The four major glands are the hypothalamus, pituitary, thyroid, and adrenal glands. The remaining four are the parathyroid, pancreas, pineal, and ovaries for women or testes for men.
“Neuroendocrine” describes the cells that release hormones in response to nervous system stimulation. They control messaging throughout our nervous system. The release of hormones responds to interactions between our nervous and endocrine systems.
All glands are organs. Conversely, not all organs are glands. The neuroendocrine organs are glands.
Often considered the control center of the endocrine system, the hypothalamus is in the brain. It controls and coordinates the endocrine system, instructing the other glands when to produce hormones.
The hypothalamus controls moods, hunger, sleep patterns, thirst, body temperature, and sexual function. It is a regulator that controls the operation of the endocrine glands.
The pituitary gland is the second in command of the endocrine system and is located below the hypothalamus. It produces hormones controlling several glands, including the thyroid gland, adrenal glands, ovaries, and testes. The pituitary gland controls how your body grows and governs your reproduction functions.
This medium-sized gland is located in the front of the neck and controls how your body uses energy (metabolism).
You have two adrenal glands located above each kidney. They produce hormones that control circulation and regulate blood pressure, stress response, and heart rate. They assist in the control of your metabolism and sexual development.
There are four parathyroid glands, each about the size of a small grain of rice. They are also in the neck. Their primary purpose is to control the amount of calcium in your body. Calcium is essential for the operation of your kidneys, heart, nervous system, and bones. While tiny, they have a big job.
The pancreas is in the abdomen behind the stomach. It is the largest of the glands in the endocrine system and is concerned primarily with digestive operations. The pancreas secretes insulin, the hormone that regulates blood sugar levels. When the pancreas is not operating correctly, it can lead to diabetes.
The pineal gland controls your sleep patterns. It is located in the brain and releases the hormone melatonin, which triggers sleep. When your pineal gland produces too much melatonin, you may sleep too much, while underproduction can cause insomnia.
The ovaries release estrogen, testosterone (yes, even in women), and progesterone for females. There are two ovaries in the abdomen nestled in the pelvic region.
When a woman is pregnant, much of her estrogen and progesterone hormone development shifts to the placenta. The placenta also produces human chorionic gonadotropin hormone (hCG) and human placental lactogen (hPL). HCG rises most during the first trimester and may cause vomiting and nausea. HPL provides nutrition for the fetus and stimulates milk glands for breastfeeding.
In men, the testicles create sperm and testosterone. Low testosterone can affect sperm production, sex drive, and muscle strength. High testosterone levels can raise “bad” cholesterol levels and other health problems. High testosterone levels can contribute to sleep apnea, infertility, and an increased risk of stroke, heart attack, and cardiovascular disease.
A ninth gland, the thymus, is located in the upper torso but is active only before puberty and is tasked with producing T cells, according to Healthline.
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Understanding the Neuroendocrine System
The neuroendocrine system is the message delivery path for the endocrine system. Through these pathways, neuroendocrine cells control many functions within our bodies.
The endocrine system is constantly alert, monitoring the hormones in your blood. When the pituitary gland senses a rise in hormone levels, it signals the other glands to cease production. When hormone levels dip, the pituitary gland sends the message to produce more. The process is known as homeostasis. It works like your household thermostat to keep hormone levels in balance.
When Your Hormone Delivery System Breaks Down
Occasionally, the hormone delivery system in our bodies becomes disrupted. A hormone imbalance can lead to health problems, including weight gain, high blood pressure, changes in sleep patterns, and decreased sexual drive. Sometimes these changes can result from stress, certain medications, and illness.
Problems can develop as early as puberty. They can worsen due to the natural aging process, causing fertility problems, stress management issues, and weight gain.
Hormones Rule Our World
Endocrine glands produce hormones. These molecules travel through the bloodstream in response to stimuli. Depending on their purpose, hormones arrive at their destination in the body and attach to a receptor (docking molecule). This action triggers biochemical reactions in the target cell to modify its function.
This constant communication along the neuroendocrine pathways keeps our bodies functioning. When the system has a breakdown, it can result in lower hormone production, and health problems generally follow, such as:
- Growth and development problems
- Sexual disfunction
An Endocrinologist Can Help You Find Answers
If you’re concerned that something “just doesn’t feel right,” you might consider seeing an endocrinologist at Anti-Aging & Regenerative Associates. We offer hormone replacement therapy (HRT) in our Port Orange office. We offer compassionate and discreet care.