The endocrine system isn't talked about often and many people have never heard of it, but we rely on it for several vital functions that affect our mood, growth, metabolism, development and sexual health. The endocrine system includes eight major glands and when hormone levels are too high or low, your overall well-being can be greatly affected. Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with Kanchana Viswanathan, M.D, FACE with Dignity Health St. Mary who shares what to know about the endocrine system and symptoms to pay attention to that indicate you could have a disorder. As always, please consult your physician for medical advice. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
Why Your Endocrine System is Important
Dr. Viswanathan tells us, "Endocrine System comprises multiple hormone producing glands secreting a variety of hormones -like Insulin (yes -insulin is a hormone ) secreted from pancreas, thyroid hormone from thyroid gland , steroid hormones like cortisol from adrenal gland sex hormones -estrogen, testosterone from ovaries and testicles. There are also major hormone producing glands like the pituitary and parathyroid glands. These hormones have effects on multiple cells throughout the body. Hence any dysfunction of the endocrine system causes symptoms affecting the entire body."
Common Signs of Endocrine Imbalance
Dr. Viswanathan says, "Common signs of endocrine imbalance include: "Fatigue, unintentional weight loss or weight gain,blood pressure changes , changes in heart rhythm, irregular periods in women, infertility, erectile dysfunction and infertility in men."
According to Dr. Viswanathan, "Endocrine hormones like insulin and thyroid hormone affect multiple levels of metabolism. Insulin is an essential hormone to metabolize carbohydrates and provide the energy for cellular activities and storage of food for later use. Insulin secretion abnormalities lead to diabetes and signs of diabetes can be fatigue, weight loss, excessive thirst and urination."
Thyroid Hormone Deficiency
Dr. Viswanathan explains, "Thyroid hormone deficiency (Hypothyroidism) can slow down metabolism and cause weight gain. Thyroid hormone also affects heart rhythm and heart muscle function."
Excess Thyroid Hormone (Hyperthyroidism)
Dr. Viswanathan shares, "Excess thyroid hormone (Hyperthyroidism) can increase heart rate. A hyperthyroid state can cause arrythmias (abnormal heart rhythm) including atrial fibrillation."
Dr. Viswanathan says, "Adrenal gland makes steroids like cortisol which is a stress hormone and a deficiency of cortisol (Adrenal Insufficiency) will lead to excessive fatigue , weight loss and low blood pressure. Excess cortisol (Cushing's) causes fatigue along with weight gain, high blood pressure and high blood sugar (diabetes).
Dr. Viswanathan states, "Sex steroids (Estrogen) disorder in women can lead to irregular cycles, infertility. A common ovarian hormonal disorder is PCOS (Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome).
"Low testosterone in men (Hypogonadism ) causes fatigue, erectile dysfunction and decrease in muscle mass," Dr. Viswanathan says.
Don't Ignore the Signs
Dr. Viswanathan advises, "If one experiences any of the symptoms -best option is to see your primary care physician for the appropriate lab work. Many of the hormone disorders like diabetes and thyroid can be confirmed with simple lab tests. Based on the physical exam and labs the physician can initiate treatment and if needed refer to an endocrinologist."