Hormone imbalances can lead to several different symptoms and generally affect more than one system in the body. Changes in equilibrium can cause increased vulnerability to infection and illness, changes in normal functioning of cells and organs and delayed recovery for patients. It is important to understand the systems involved as well as the consequences of abnormal levels.
The Endocrine System
The endocrine system is a sophisticated network made of different interconnected glands and organs that produce hormones. The system mainly functions similarly to the nervous system in directing proper organ and cell function via a communication process. Different hormones are regularly and naturally produced which are supposed to bind to specific receptor sites located in cells in various organs in order to direct processes such as metabolism, growth and development and other functions. Once hormones exist in scanty or very high amounts, functions can change.
Primarily, the endocrine system works for extracellular communication with the use of chemicals or hormones for cells to communicate. The nervous system uses electricity and neurons. Glands that produce specific hormones basically constitute the endocrine system such as the liver, pancreas, kidneys, thyroid gland, pituitary gland and hypothalamus. Several factors however, can disrupt the normal communication network such as genetic links, the aging process, environmental endocrine disruptors or EEDs, chemicals and medications.
The Different Hormones
Every kind of hormone has a specific function and will only bind to specific receptor sites in cells. Adrenaline is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands found on top of each kidney. Adrenaline works together with noradrenaline to trigger the fight or flight response. Some effects include boosting oxygen supply to the brain leading to increased alertness and focus, dilating the pupils and suppressing other non-essential body functions during emergency events.
Calcitonin is produced by the thyroid gland which helps in bone construction. Growth hormone or GH is produced by the pituitary gland to stimulate cell reproduction and build muscle and bone mass. Insulin is produced by the pancreas and regulates proper glucose or sugar absorption. Noradrenaline also boosts glucose supply to muscles during emergencies. Vasopressin is produced by the hypothalamus and is responsible in directing the pituitary gland to release hormones that stabilize blood pressure, water and electrolytes.
Hormone Imbalances Complications and Abuse
Symptoms will vary in number, severity and extent depending on the excess or lack or hormones. Diabetes is a serious complication that can arise from hormone imbalances. It occurs when the pancreas is not able to produce enough insulin or does not effectively use present insulin.
Associated symptoms include heart disease, kidney failure, blindness and death. Growth disorders are highly related to the pituitary gland also known as the “Master Gland” due to improper production of growth hormone or GH. Results can range from gigantism to acromegaly to stunted growth in children. 600 other disorders are associated with endocrine hormone imbalances.
Hormone abuse is a spreading problem in the United States affecting mostly adolescents. Young people are abusing intake of medications and drugs such as anabolic steroids to help with athletic performance and enhance body image. Physical and mental changes will result due to alterations in the endocrine system and function of hormones and organs. Symptoms include mood swings, aggressive behavior, enlargement of internal organs, dehydration, developmental disorders and death. All drugs should be taken only under the supervision of a licensed health professional.