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The endocrine system is made up of several different organs and structures and is responsible for producing various hormones that allow the body to function properly as a whole. Some of the major components of the endocrine system include the pancreas, pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. Additional parts of this vital system include the reproductive glands as well as the thyroid and parathyroid glands. These all work together to regulate functions such as growth, reproduction, and digestion.
The pancreas is one of the major components of the endocrine system and is found just behind the stomach. This organ produces the hormones glucagon and insulin, which are responsible for regulating blood sugar levels within the body. Another role of the pancreas is to aid in digestion by producing special chemicals known as enzymes, which break down fats, carbohydrates, and proteins in the small intestine. Inflammation of the pancreas may cause severe abdominal pain, which is usually treated with dietary changes and the use of prescription medications.
The pituitary gland and adrenal glands are also essential endocrine system parts. Located just underneath the brain, the pituitary gland controls all of the glands involved in the endocrine system. This master gland is also responsible for physical growth and the balance of fluids within the body. The adrenal glands are found just above each kidney and serve a variety of functions. Blood pressure, reproduction, and responses to stress are all partially controlled by the adrenal glands. If the adrenal glands do not function properly, extreme fatigue may occur.
The reproductive glands are considered to be components of the endocrine system. These glands are found in the ovaries of females and the testicles of males. The hormones produced by these glands promote the appearance of secondary sex characteristics during puberty, such as increased body hair and the development of the reproductive organs. Infertility is often traced back to a problem involving hormone production involving the reproductive glands.
Additional components of the endocrine system include the thyroid and parathyroid glands. The thyroid gland is found in the front area of the neck and surrounds the windpipe. This gland is responsible for regulating metabolism, and dysfunction involving this gland can cause dramatic weight fluctuations. The parathyroid glands are on the back and sides of the thyroid gland. There are four of these glands, which are primarily responsible for regulating calcium levels in the blood.
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