What is the role of the endocrine system?

Marjorie Nolan Cohn
Nutrition & Dietetics

The endocrine system influences every cellular function within your body. The foundations of the endocrine system are hormones and glands. A gland is a group of cells that produces and secretes hormones. Hormones are the body's chemical messengers. They send and relay messages between different systems. Many different hormones move through the bloodstream. Most hormones are intuitively designed to affect only certain cells. 

The endocrine system is also unique in that it uses glands and cells within organs that are all closely related to other body systems. The pancreas is one example; it is part of the endocrine and digestive system. Some of the major glands of the endocrine system are the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and pancreas.

The endocrine system is instrumental in regulating mood, growth and development, tissue function, metabolism, and reproduction. In general, the endocrine system is in charge of body processes that happen slowly, such as cell growth. Faster processes like breathing and body movement are controlled by the nervous system. The endocrine and central nervous system are separate systems, but they work closely together regulate every body function properly through the neuroendocrine pathway.

William B. Salt II., MD

The endocrine system is the second of the three mind/brain-body communication systems. It is a major organ system. There are two-way interactions between the endocrine system and the central nervous system. Responses of the endocrine system act over longer periods than do those of the autonomic nervous system and affect all the tissues and organ systems of the body. For example, cortisol is a hormone made in the two adrenal glands of the endocrine system, which sit on top of the kidneys. In response to stress and negative emotional states (e.g., fear, anxiety, and anger), the mind/brain of the central nervous system sends a chemical messenger to the adrenal glands through the bloodstream that instructs the adrenal glands to make cortisol. Cortisol is essential for life; however, when levels are elevated for prolonged periods in response to stress and/or negative emotion, cortisol is potentially harmful, causing and contributing to disease and even death.

Still Hurting? FIND HEALTH! Discover What's Behind Your SYMPTOMS (That Doctors Can't Explain)

More About this Book

Still Hurting? FIND HEALTH! Discover What's Behind Your SYMPTOMS (That Doctors Can't Explain)

Still Hurting? FIND HEALTH! presents a new model of disease, which empowers readers suffering with pain, symptoms (e.g., fatigue), and symptom syndromes (e.g., irritable bowel, fibromyalgia, chronic...

Continue Learning about Endocrine System

When Hormone Replacement Therapy May Be Good
When Hormone Replacement Therapy May Be Good
Fear-mongering about hormone replacement therapy isn’t good science. For the right woman with nasty menopausal symptoms and the right man with low tes...
Read More
How is multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) diagnosed?
Jumo HealthJumo Health
To diagnose multiple endocrine neoplasia type 1 (MEN1) doctors use a series of tests. First, the doc...
More Answers
How does information overload lead to exhaustion?
Michael B. Finkelstein, MDMichael B. Finkelstein, MD
In this age of too much information, we are subjected to a nonstop barrage of stress-inducing images...
More Answers
What Are Effective Treatments for an Underactive Thyroid?
What Are Effective Treatments for an Underactive Thyroid?

Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.