To most of us, talking about hormones means estrogen, progesterone and testosterone. True enough, they’re hormones, and we all have all of them. Men, women and children have them, in different proportions of course, but none of us can make it without all three working together.

But these three aren’t even half the hormone story, just a small part of the endocrine system–the system that keeps life’s wheels turning. And every part of it creates hormones.

Our thyroid glands produce the thyroid hormone that controls our metabolism. If the thyroid gland goes south, oh my dear, do you ever know it! You don’t know when or how the truck hit you, but you’re persuaded beyond a reasonable doubt that’s what happened.

Our adrenals produce multiple hormones that control our energy levels and our fight-or-flight response. If life makes you want to cry or rage–and that’s not your preferred method of communication–suspect lollygagging adrenals. Another truck that picks you off without warning.

Our pancreas creates insulin, a hormone that metabolizes sugar. A whacked-out pancreas causes huge problems, whether hypoglycemia or diabetes. And yet another wayward truck.

The thymus works the immunity beat, cranking out T-cells of various sorts. When the thymus sings off key, you catch every bug that comes along–plus viruses and diseases.

The four parathyroid glands squirt out hormones as needed to balance our calcium levels. Doctors treat the parathyroids pretty casually, but speaking of trucks . . .

The pineal gland creates hormones to keep our circadian clock in rhythm, telling us when to sleep and when to be awake. You don’t need to be told when it’s cranky; you can’t sleep. Sometimes, you can’t stay awake, either.

The pituitary keeps all these glands chugging along in a balanced rhythm of life. Or at least it tries to. Keeping all the glands marching in the same direction takes some doing–especially since most of us have no idea that the way we live our lives wreaks havoc in the endocrine system. What we eat, the hormones we take, the anti-life chemicals all around us, the bad sort of stress, and on, and on.

And now we learn that two wild cards joined the party. It turns out our body fat creates hormones, too. Lots of them, but mainly leptin and ghrelin which tell us when to eat and when to stop eating–and which don’t seem to work when we’re overweight–a large part of the losing-weight struggle.

We have lots of research, but not so many conclusions yet. Except that our fat’s a part of the endocrine system, and part of what the pituitary has to keep in balance. Poor pituitary.

And our bones kick out hormones, too. All these years, and who knew?

So that’s the endocrine system, and those are your hormones. There may be more. Stay tuned. Research marches on.

One thing you need to know: When one part of the endocrine system falters, all the others join the battle, trying to get things back on track. Without your help, they all end up in a ditch. And so do you.

If you keep making life hard on your endocrine system, all the king’s horses and all the king’s men can’t put it back together again–at least not without a whole lot of effort. And maybe not even then.

Be kind to your hormones. They’re the only endocrine system you’ll ever have.

A final thought: If you feel that somehow, some way a truck hit you, think endocrine.

Author's Bio: 

Bette Dowdell is not a doctor, nor does she purport to be one. She's a patient with a purpose. A drunk driver damaged her pituitary gland, which controls pretty much everything that happens in the body, and doctors didn’t help so much. Unwilling to live half a life, Bette spent years studying, with great success, how to get out of the ditch. Now she’s out, doing great and sharing what she learned. Get a free, sample chapter of her new e-book, Pep for the Pooped: Vitamins and Minerals Your Body Is Starving For at If you’re dragging your patooty, but the doctor says you’re just fine, let Bette give you a leg-up on getting out of the ditch.