Endocrine glands are the glands in our body that secrete hormones directly into the blood. Their significance to our body then lies on the significance of the hormones they release. Hormones are compounds released by the body to control various processes such as cell metabolism, and to monitor such processes, or alter them if necessary (for example, when a person has an illness).
Let us look at the significance of the endocrine glands, by looking at the hormones they release and their roles in the body:
- Pituitary Gland - this gland releases a lot of hormones including growth hormones, thyroid-stimulating hormones, and hypothalamic hormones among others. Its main functions include controlling growth and homeostasis or internal balance of the body.
- Thyroid gland - this gland works closely with the pituitary gland. It releases thyroid hormones which control the rate of metabolism, the process by which food is broken down into energy to be used by cells.
- Pancreas - this gland controls sugar level in blood, particularly of glucose. It produces insulin and glucagon depending on the blood level. If blood level is high, insulin is released to stimulate glucose metabolism, while if it's low, glucagon is released to initiate release of sugar from the liver to the blood.
- Gonads - this gland releases estrogen and progesterone (female) and testosterone (male). Estrogen and testosterone helps in the development of the reproductive systems of females and males, respectively. The also aid in the production of sex cells, or in the control of the menstrual cycle for females.
- Pineal Gland - the primary hormone from the pineal gland is melatonin. It is related to the control of various processes that rely on the circadian rhythm. Hence, it is important to bodily processes and our biological clock.
The functions of these hormones clearly demonstrate the importance of the endocrine glands, which release them. The significance of the glands then not only is restricted to the control of various cell cycles but also to growth and monitoring of the processes in the cells.
To make it simple, endocrine glands are those ductless glands which produce various secretions that are important to the normal physiological functioning of body. That means, those chemicals that are produced and secreted by the endocrine glands, called hormones, are essential to the body.
Each hormone has a specific set of functions in the body. In the absence of any one hormone, the body would begin to malfunction.
For e.g., in the absence of the hormone insulin, formed in the endocrine part of pancreas (beta cells of islets of Langerhans in pancreas, to be precise), the body's glucose absorption and utilisation mechanism malfunctions. This causes abnormal glucose levels in the body leading to diabetes.
Similarly each hormone has its specific set of functions which is essential to the normal functioning of the body.