The Endocrine System - Taking care: keeping the endocrine system healthy
The endocrine glands and the hormones they secrete are involved in almost all aspects of normal body functioning. Because it is so complex, the system operates on a delicate balance. If it malfunctions, a variety of problems, both great and small, will result.
It is therefore important to monitor the system's workings and seek appropriate treatment if a disorder begins to develop. Preventive measures to protect the endocrine system can be taken. The systems of the body respond well to a healthy diet and regular exercise, and the endocrine system is no exception.
Some endocrine disorders are related to diet. Obesity can lead to Type II diabetes, the most common endocrine disorder in the United States. A lack of iodine in the diet can lead to goiter, or enlargement of the thyroid (with the introduction of iodized table salt, however, goiter is uncommon in the United States). Eating a nutritious, healthy, balanced diet and keeping the body at a healthy weight will diminish the risk of possibly developing certain endocrine disorders.
Stress taxes all body systems. Any condition that threatens the body's homeostasis or steady state is a form of stress. Conditions that cause stress may be physical, emotional, or environmental. One of the main functions of certain endocrine glands is to secrete hormones that help the body respond to stressful situations. However, that function is only meant to be short-term. When stress lasts longer than a few hours, higher energy demands are placed on the body. More hormones are then secreted to meet those demands, but at a price. They tend to weaken the body's defenses, leaving the body open to infection.
Stress over an extended period of time can result in high blood pressure and a lack of cortisol and other steroid hormones released by the adrenal cortex. All this can lead to organ damage and failure. Combining exercise with proper amounts of sleep, relaxation techniques, and positive thinking will help reduce stress and keep hormone levels balanced.