Your Endocrine System
You might say endocrine (say: en-doh-krin) glands are a little bossy — they tell your cells what to do! But that’s actually a good thing. Without your endocrine glands — and the hormones they release — your cells wouldn’t know when to do important things.
For instance, your bones wouldn’t get the message that it’s time for you to grow and get bigger. And your body wouldn’t know that it’s time to begin puberty, the body changes that turn kids into grownups.
You have a variety of endocrine glands in different sizes and shapes located in different parts of the body. You might be surprised to learn that the pituitary (say: pih-too-uh-ter-ee) gland, which is about the size of a pea, is the “master gland” of the endocrine system. It makes and releases a bunch of hormones that control other glands and body functions. Tiny and tucked beneath your brain, the pituitary helps you grow big by producing growth hormone.
Your thyroid (say: thy-royd) gland is in your neck and it’s shaped like a bowtie or a butterfly. It makes hormones that are important for growth and it helps you stay alert and full of energy.
Your adrenal (say: uh-dree-nul) glands are really important to your body in times of trouble, like when you’re sick or under stress. Adrenaline (say: uh-dreh-nuh-lin), one of the adrenal gland hormones, gives you the boost you need if you’re being chased by a wild animal — or even your brother!
Insulin Is Essential
Your pancreas (say: pan-kree-us) is your largest endocrine gland and it’s found in your belly. The pancreas makes several hormones, including insulin (say: in-suh-lin), which helps glucose (say: gloo-kose), the sugar that’s in your blood, enter the cells of your body. Your cells need to be fueled with glucose to function, like a car’s engine needs gas. And we all know what happens when you run out of fuel!
Your body does an amazing job of making sure that hormones are released in just the right amounts at just the right time. If there’s a problem with the endocrine system, a person’s body might not grow like it should or it might not work the way it’s supposed to.
Diabetes (say: dye-uh-be-tees) is one common problem with the endocrine system. It occurs when a person’s pancreas doesn’t make enough insulin. It’s also an endocrine problem if a kid isn’t growing as quickly as expected because his or her pituitary gland isn’t making enough growth hormone.
Fortunately, special doctors called endocrinologists (say: en-doh-krin-all-oh-jistz) know a lot about the endocrine system and can help treat people with hormone problems. But most kids will never need to worry about their endocrine system because it works fine on its own. How does that make a kid feel? Gland-tastic!
Reviewed by: Steven Dowshen, MD
Date reviewed: March 2012