The Endocrine System and Your Health

The Endocrine System and Your Health

For February we are focusing on Endocrine Health. This time of year we often find ourselves battling the common cold, calling out of work with the flu, and fending off the winter blues. Most of us don’t realize that all of these “winter ailments” can be halted by regulating the bodies hormonal response. The keystone of acupuncture and Oriental medicine has always been awakening the body’s natural intelligence to heal itself and restore balance through the system of energy pathways (called “meridians”) in the body. If the meridians within your body have become imbalanced, you can suffer from fatigue, infertility, weight gain,
depression, digestive problems, hair loss, arthritis and feeling chilled no matter the temperature. These meridians control and balance the endocrine system. The endocrine system is responsible for so many important hormonal functions in the body and controls your physical growth, mood, hormone output, reproduction, mental functionality and immune system. When not working properly, you become more susceptible to disease and your ability to fight off infection is weakened. The health of your endocrine system can make or break your overall health.

What are the endocrine glands and what do they do?

The major endocrine glands include the adrenals, pancreas, pineal, pituitary, reproductive, and thyroid glands.

Adrenals – Adrenal glands regulate the body’s response to stress and are made of two parts, each of which secretes a separate set of hormones. The outer part produces corticosteroid hormones that regulate the balance of salt and water, stress response, metabolism, immune function, as well as the development and function of the reproductive system. The inner part secretes adrenaline hormones that increase blood pressure and heart rate in response to stress. Over time, chronic elevated stress levels can lead to weight gain, decreased resistance to infections, fatigue, muscle aches and low blood sugar.

Pancreas – The pancreas produces insulin and glucagon, two hormones that work together to provide the body`s cells with a constant supply of energy in the form of glucose.

Pineal – The pineal gland is also known as the epiphysis cerebri, epiphysis, or the “third eye.” It produces the serotonin derivative melatonin, a hormone that affects the modulation of wake/sleep patterns and seasonal functions.

Hypothalamus and Pituitary – These are a collection of specialized cells that provide the primary link between the endocrine and central nervous systems. Nerve cells and hormones signal the pituitary gland to secrete or suppress the release of various hormone messages to the other glands. The pituitary gland is also responsible for secreting growth hormones.

Reproductive – These glands secrete hormones that control the development of male and female characteristics. In males, these glands secrete androgen hormones, most importantly testosterone. In females, they produce estrogen, progesterone, eggs, and are involved in reproductive functions.

Thyroid – Thyroid hormones control the growth, temperature and function of every cell in the body. The gland acts as the metabolic engine of the body — if it secretes too little hormone, the body slows and dies; if it secretes too much, the body burns out and dies.

When treating an endocrine imbalance with acupuncture and Oriental medicine, we seek out the root cause of the patient’s imbalance. The endocrine system is closely tied to the internal balance of the Yin energy and the Yang energy of the Kidney organ system (the Kidney organ system in extensive and complicated–it includes all functions which are attributed to the endocrine system in Western biomedicine). Imagine that the Yang energy is like gasoline that fuels a car, and Yin energy is the engine coolant. Without the coolant, the engine overheats and burns out. Acupuncture and Chinese Herbal medicine work to make sure the Yin and Yang are balanced to restore proper function in the many systems in the body that are affected by the endocrine system.

Acupuncture can be used to restore hormonal balance, regulate energy levels, smooth emotions, and help manage sleep and menstrual problems. A healthy endocrine system that continues to secrete adequate amounts of hormones will slow the aging process and keep you vibrant and healthy as you age.

A few basic steps you can take to enhance your endocrine health are:

Eat Slowly – Don’t rush through your meals. Allowing your body to properly digest food reduces after-meal fatigue, boosts your immune system and enables your endocrine system to properly process nutritional intake.

Exercise – Regular exercise boosts the immune system, improves cardiovascular health and muscle mass, and prevents bone loss. Stress-reducing exercises such as yoga, Qigong, or Tai Chi can also be beneficial.

Manage Your Stress – An important part of maintaining a healthy endocrine system is stress management. Stress can cause the overproduction of hormones, leading to the malfunction of endocrine organs.

Rest – Take a day out of the week for rest and rejuvenation, allowing your mind and body to recover.

Sleep – Get 6-8 hours of sleep per night in order to reduce stress and keep hormones balanced. Stress and a lack of sleep may cause some of the glands to malfunction.

Schedule a consultation to see how Family Acupuncture & Wellness can assist you with your endocrine health and help you to live a long, healthy life!

 

Author
Adam Learner, L Ac. Adam Learner, LAc, provides functional medicine and acupuncture for the residents of Portsmouth, New Hampshire, at Family Acupuncture & Wellness. In his practice, he uses a holistic approach to medicine and emphasizes addressing causes, not symptoms.

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