To make the proper choice regarding hormone replacement, it’s important to understand the basic function of the endocrine system, that complex and elegant chemical enterprise within the body that controls and coordinates such functions as reproduction, metabolism, behavior, growth and development. Replenishing and rebalancing of this system are the goals of hormone replacement and the focus of Endocrinology.
Within the endocrine system, 10 or more major endocrine glands and a number of minor ones secrete hormones, or chemical messengers, that mediate communication between cells. The body seeks to establish a state called homeostasis – a perfect balance. It is an elaborate bodily harmony not unlike that created by the instruments of a symphony orchestra. One player out of tune diminishes the performance of the entire orchestra. Like the symphony, the harmonic interplay of the endocrine glands and the hormones they produce creates the beauty and power of the concert.
Hormones are molecules that act as signals from one type of cell to another. Most hormones reach their target cells via the bloodstream. The word itself is from the Greek word “horman” meaning “to set in motion” or “to excite.” Resuming the analogy of the symphony orchestra, the body has a number of section leaders controlling and regulating the woodwinds, brass, percussion and strings – these are the hormones and hormone-like substances of the endocrine system. The conductor of these control centers is the pituitary, often called the “king of glands.” The pituitary is the size and shape of a pea, and it has an intimate connection with the hypothalamus, which is actually part of the brain. More specifically, the hypothalamus is the interface between the brain and the endocrine system. Each gland has a corresponding hormone in the pituitary that regulates the function of that gland. In this manner, all the glands of the endocrine system are ultimately under the control of the brain.
Excerpt from “Outliving Your Ovaries” © 2012 by Marina Johnson MD. Dr. Johnson was a medical writer and pharmacist before medical school and utilized these skills to research 450 medical journal articles to develop her book. She has no financial conflicts of interest or ties to any pharmaceutical company. Her only objective is determining the most effective, safest therapy for patients.