Endocrine Health and Disorders
What is Endocrinology, and what is metabolism?
ENDOCRINOLOGY is the field of medicine that relates to the human endocrine system, a network of cells, tissues and organs that produces and releases hormones into the bloodstream. The endocrine system plays an important role in the body’s ability to maintain fundamental processes for life including heartbeat regulation, bone/tissue structure and growth, energy intake and expenditure, as well as the ability to conceive a baby, to name just a few. The combined processes involved in maintaining the living state of cells of the organism is called METABOLISM.
Hormones are critical to health and wellbeing throughout life.
From the day we are conceived to the day we die, hormones play a critical role in regulating our growth and development, the maturation from a child over adolescence into adult life, fertility, our mental, physical and general well-being.
What can go wrong?
Our body can produce too little or too much of certain hormones, and this can have a detrimental impact. As an example, a growth hormone deficiency in children can lead to stunted growth and short stature; a deficiency in the production of cortisol by the adrenals can lead to life threatening situations when cortisol is needed to orchestrate the body’s reaction against stress situations, a deficiency in sex hormones can lead to infertility disorders, the absence of insulin leads to the development of diabetes.
But also excess of cortisol because of an adenoma (a tumour of a hormone producing gland) is detrimental as it breaks down muscle, causes obesity and bone loss, and results in hospitalisation, surgery and long-term consequences. Also, fat tissue is an ‘endocrine organ’, producing more than 600 hormones involved with the maintenance of body weight. If the normal hormonal balance is lost, this shows itself in many ways.
External factors can impact on the hormones system: chemicals and compounds that have so called ‘endocrine disrupting properties’ can impact on our hormonal regulation through their hormone like structures; irradiation can lead to damage of the endocrine glands, leading to e.g., thyroid cancer or pituitary hormone deficiencies; unhealthy or unbalanced nutrition can have an impact on our metabolism by exhausting the hormone levels we have to cope with normal food intake.
Endocrine disorders are amongst the biggest diseases to impact society.
Disorders of the endocrine system can cause conditions such as diabetes, obesity, thyroid disease, growth disorders, hypertension, osteoporosis, infertility and sexual dysfunction, cancer and other illnesses that affect large groups of the population. Moreover, more than 400 rare diseases with endocrine cause or components and characterised by late diagnosis, little awareness and limited therapeutic and disease management options add to the societal burden. Research shows that endocrine related conditions impact the outcomes of patients with COVID-19. There is recent evidence that people suffering from hormone conditions, such as diabetes and obesity, have more severe symptoms and health outcomes including death.