Hormones : The chemical messengers
“Hellooooo! I am hungry,” growls the tummy. “No, I want to sleep instead,” fight back the droopy eyes. “Oh wait! I can hear something that is far more interesting than you both”, says the attentive ears. “Forget all that, my knee was in great pain after that terrible fall yesterday, and suddenly now the pain is making me cry,” says the brain. Well, you can notice how we end up having so many different moods in a day. Have you ever thought about the mastermind who controls all these feelings and is responsible for our day-to-day activities? This mastermind is actually a bunch of chemical messengers that move inside our body, taking in charge of various activities. They are called hormones.
With so much responsibility on these chemical messengers, each hormone-producing gland in our body has been assigned with specialised tasks. Let’s understand the endocrine system and its nine specialised glands that produce different types of hormones:
Located in the bony hollow at the base of the skull, the pituitary is considered as the body’s ‘master gland’ as it controls the activity and functioning of most of the other hormone-secreting glands. The pituitary gland secretes hormones that send ‘signals’ endocrine glands like the adrenal glands, thyroid glands, ovaries, and testes, which in turn produce other hormones. Through secretion of these hormones, the pituitary gland controls vital functions and processes in the body like metabolism, growth, reproduction, and blood pressure.
Fun Fact: Along with being the master-gland, the pituitary gland is also responsible for producing hormones like growth hormone (controls the speed of your growth), thyroid-stimulating hormone (controls your thyroid gland), prolactin (controls the production of milk in lactating mothers), and ACTH (controls the adrenal gland hormones).
Also known as the suprarenal glands, the adrenal (meaning above the kidney) glands are the endocrine glands that produce a variety of hormones including adrenaline (responsible to increase metabolic rate and dilation of blood vessels going to the heart and the brain), the steroids aldosterone (responsible to regulate salt and water in the body) and cortisol (control physical and psychological stress). The adrenal glands are triangular in shape and are located on top of both kidneys.
Fun Fact: Every time you are stressed, the adrenal glands pump your blood with adrenalin. This creates a ‘fight or flight’ response in the body. Ever tasted that metallic taste in your mouth during a particularly tense situation? That’s adrenalin telling your body to get ready for action!
The thyroid is a butterfly-shaped gland that is located in the front of the neck. The gland controls and regulates your heartbeat, weight, metabolism, blood pressure, growth and development among other things. The gland secretes hormones collectively called thyroid hormones. Out of those, the Triiodothyronine (T3) and Thyroxine (T4) are the most important hormones as they monitor the metabolism of the body.
Fun Fact: The easy way to locate your thyroid gland is to check for your Adam’s apple. It lies right below Adam’s apple.
Behind the thyroid gland are the four tiny Parathyroid glands of the endocrine system. The word ‘para’ in parathyroid is derived from a Greek word meaning beside, alongside of, or by. The main purpose of the parathyroid glands is to control and regulate the calcium level in the body. In case the level goes down, it produces a hormone called Parathyroid Hormone (PTH) that visits the bones and extracts some calcium to give to the blood.
The thymus glands are active only till the body reaches its adolescence period and carries out a big responsibility. It helps the body protect itself against autoimmunity, which occurs when the immune system turns against itself. Thus, the thymus plays an important role in the lymphatic system (your body’s defence network) and the endocrine system. This gland is located in the upper part of your chest, directly behind your sternum and between your lungs.
Apart from these nine specialised glands in the endocrine system, there is hypothalamus that plays a very crucial part in the popper function of the body.
The hypothalamus is a small region of the brain which is located at its base. Although it is small, it plays many crucial functions including the release of hormones that regulates body temperature, hunger, mood, thirst, sleep, and libido. One of the primary functions of the hypothalamus is to connect the nervous system with the endocrine system via the pituitary gland.
Fun Fact: In humans, the hypothalamus is approximately the size of a pea and accounts for less than one percent of the weight of the brain.
Hope this article helped you understand the various roles that hormones play in our body. Can you name the hormones that remind you to eat food, take a nap, and help you to learn?
Want to know more about hormones? Read here:
Books are Tanaya Goswami’s first love and cheesecakes come a close second. Talking about movies, music, calligraphy, politics, and Elon Musk will get you listed under the friends’ section of her diary. Ever since moving on from her job as an English lecturer, she spends her time at BYJU’S crafting stories filled with emotion and sprinkled with sarcasm. Outside of work, she’s either learning something new (French, most recently!) or is curled up with a book and a cup of coffee. She firmly believes that discovering what you don’t know is the key to knowledge and is constantly working towards improving herself.
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