Endocrine 101: How The Whole Thing Works

vitality wellness

Everybody has an endocrine system. At least half of them don’t work right. And most of that 50% struggle every day–if only trying to locate the bus that hit them.

Must’ve been a bus. Well, maybe a truck. It had to be something big to flatten us so completely.

We don’t know what caused the problem, why it had to pick on us or how to fix it.

Meanwhile, doctors tell us we’re ‘fine.’ We know we’re not ‘fine,’ but we don’t know what to do about it.

Well, one thing we can do is learn about how things work. Understanding the endocrine system works makes it a whole lot easier to understand how it gets done in. As the saying goes, knowledge is power.

Now I recognize that you probably never put understanding the endocrine system on your top-ten list of things to do. But sometimes you just have to dig in and do what you have to do to get where you want to be.

If you’re content to live at the bottom of the energy barrel and don’t want to be bothered with understanding how it goes, you can ignore me. Is this a great country or what?

Cause I’m talking endocrine.

Our bodies have lots of pipes and plumbing taking things hither and yon, but not the endocrine system. Our endo systems are almost entirely plumbing-free. They have to work without it.

Here’s how it goes: Our endocrine glands emit hormones. The hormones drift along through our bodies until they come upon receptors that chemically fit them, with each hormone have its own specific set of receptors. Having found a fit, the hormone locks into the receptor and gets to work. Nothing happens until the hormone/receptor fit happens.

Unfortunately, chemically similar imposters lurk about, ready to enter and take over the receptor before the hormone can get there. Chaos ensues.

While things seem to be working, our hormones lose the power and the glory to do anything.

For instance, the iodine that completes your thyroid hormone gets pushed out by fluoride, chlorine and, most of all, bromine (a fire retardant used in bread and other baked goods–for reasons unknown, but probably money. It usually doesn’t show up on the ingredients label lest people avoid it.)

With no place to go and nothing to do, iodine gets washed away in your urine. But when thyroid loses its iodine and combines with the imposter, you end up with thyroid that doesn’t work. That’s bad enough, but here’s the real gotcha: Blood tests can’t tell the difference between functional, iodine-enriched hormone and the imposter garbage, so they say you’re ‘fine.’ Bald, brain-fogged and tired to death, but ‘fine.’ The test said so.

Some hormones get even. If you take phony-baloney estrogen into your body, you put yourself in a world of hurt. Whether it’s something you eat, plastic containers, the lining in canned foods, parabens in your lotions and potions, birth control pills, whatever–fake estrogen wreaks havoc. You end up awash in estrogen, and things run seriously amok. And guys need to know that estrogen is an equal opportunity destroyer.

You can end up with estrogen dominance. Men grow moobs, lose their libido along with their testosterone and can eventually succumb to prostate cancer. Women say ‘good-bye’ to their libido, too, and ‘hello’ to PMS, endometriosis, menopause problems, etc. They also increase their odds of breast cancer. Little boys endure a lifetime of low testosterone. No more John Waynes to take care of business; just Pee Wee Hermans. Little girls experience precocious puberty–and a lifetime of estrogen problems, including fertility issues.

While doctors know the emitter/receptor process, they’re not taught the rest of what you just read. We really need to know this stuff if we’re going to conquer it.

So, learn and conquer. That’s what I’m talking about.

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Bette Dowdell

A drunk driver damaged Bette Dowdell's pituitary gland shortly before her first birthday. Although doctors insisted for years that she was fine, her health drifted to a crash-and-burn event, and she realized her health was up to her.

Now she's happy to report she has energy all day, every day. She sleeps well. Colds, flu and headaches are all in the past. Optimism moved back in. Life is good.

Now Bette's sharing what she knows with others to help them take control of their health, too. People who become their own health advocate enjoy far better health than those that don't.

Bette grew up in The Salvation Army, where her parents were officers. Like the military, this Army life involved a lot of moving, and she attended ten schools, in nine cities, in three states before graduating from high school.

After college, Bette worked as an IBM Systems engineer, a small-company consultant and software company owner. She wrote the books How to be a Christian Without Being Annoying, On We March: A memoir of growing up in The Salvation Army and the e-book Pep For The Pooped: Discovering the Vitamins and Minerals Your Body Is Starving For.

She lives in the Phoenix area.


Bette Dowdell

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  1. Victoria Jager Kenna says

    I read all I can on endocrine, thyroid and all things health/wellbeing related. This is a great little article as it explains how the endocrine operates and how what we do (our daily choices and our environment) rally together to undermine optimal functioning of our endocrine system. This is one of the best short takes on the topic I have ever encountered-so thanks! I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (hypothyroid) over 5 years ago (in my late 50’s) and through throrough research was able to negotiate with the endorcrinologist I found on what to take-rather than just take what was prescribed/common to take. As the natural choice I made was able to do the job, this young doctor allowed it. I was taking a very small dosage of Natur-Throid (no longer available) and now take Lot #112410 of THYROID 0.6 GR which I have compunded for me from a pharmacy in Arizona. Usually, people with this thyroid problem have to scale-up their intake of synthedic thyroid hormones every year, yet still have the persistant negative side effects of being hypothyroid. I don’t have to scale-up every year and don’t experience any of the negative effects of hypothroidism these days; and have actually lost weight (lots of good fresh raw salads, fruits, foods as well as cooked foods-meats, fish, eggs, good fats: real (organic)butter, olive oil, coconut oil, etc…) Now that I finally know what “ails me”, I have done so much to improve this condtion (diet, excercise, nutrients, etc.) that i feel and look better now (age 66) than I did as a young women and have lots of energy and an ideal weight to boot without dieting and enjoying all the foods I love-organic, fresh and local-mostly. So much of how my life unfolded as a parent. wife, teacher, co-worker (currently as a nurses delegate) related to a malfunctioning endrocrine/thyroid system! Relationships suffered; mostly the relationship I had with myself! Though I rallied myseof and energies together in the classrooms and at other work/jobs, it was my family who saw the debiltating effects of an endocrine system that was not functioning properly; and all those years of simply not knowing!!! Today, I can say I have a much closer relationship with my husband, adult daughters (who suffered so much to have a depressed, unpredictable mom who did know how to help herself!) and relatives and friends. Information like the above article goes a long way to getting us all on track to the vibrant health and happiness we all deserve. Thanks so much for allowing us to learn volumes in such a short space. As a modern language teacher (world languages), I appreciate the expertise that went into this crucial message.
    Victoria Jager Kenna

  2. Anonymous says

    The Endocrine system does not EMIT HORMONES, IT SECRETES THEM. Further more, they do NOT have receptors; each cell in each organ has certain receptors that accept certain hormones and other chemicals. It can be more correctly stated that receptors are like locks that only certain chemicals have the key to function properly in any given cell.

  3. merrymuze says

    Love the article! My rating:

    – Clarity: top marks
    – Humour: top marks
    – Completeness: 7/10. Here you could include, since blood tests can’t tell the difference, other means of telling if your thyroid’s functional or not: other tests, tell-tale signs and symbols, excessive iodine in the urine, etc.

    Look forward to your next piece!


  4. ReadItAgain says

    Uh Anonymous 4 what ARE you talking about? Emit and secrete are considered synonyms. They both mean to produce and discharge.

    And if you look up any common definition of the endorcine system it will indeed mention receptors. Like, for example, this description from Wikipedia “The endocrine system consists of glands that secrete hormones, and receptors that detect and react to the hormones.” Notice the word “receptors”.

    What IS your problem?

    • says

      My thyroid was removed September last year, and I am now on 125mg of Levothyroid/day medication.

      I am sure if I would have known about the workings of Iodine in time, I still would have my thyroid. It was removed because 3 of the nodules on the thyroid were 60 cm, 40 cm and 20 cm in diameter.

      Is there anything I should do in addition to taking the pills?

  5. Bette Dowdellbetted says

    Big points to you, readitagain! Thanks!

    And thanks for all the positive feedback. My goal is to communicate health, and you’re telling me I made the grade.

  6. Veganaut says

    Great intro on an important topic (really one of the best ones I’ve come across!), with still a lot more to be learnt and discovered.
    Thanks, Betty!

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