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-DREN-uh-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-BEE-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
Fortunately, special doctors called endocrinologists (say: en-duh-krih-NOL-eh-jists)
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!