|Last month we covered the beginning of the Endocrine and Glandular Systems, focusing on the adrenals, the pineal, and the pituitary glands. This month we will look at the other glands. This includes the pancreas, thyroid, parathyroid, and hypothalmus glands.
The endocrine system consists of the various glands of the body. This list includes the adrenal glands, the pineal gland, the pituitary gland, the pancreas, the thyroid and parathyroid, the thalamus and hypothalamus, and the glands of the male and female reproductive systems. One of the functions of each of these glands is to produce hormones which act as catalysts for the various body functions. They very often work with each other. Without the proper function of these glands and hormones, our bodies would not function optimally. Almost every cell in our body is affected by at least one hormone.
THE ENDOCRINE (GLANDULAR) SYSTEM PART TWO
PANCREAS, THYROID, PARATHYROID, AND HYPOTHYMUS
The pancreas is extremely important to the digestive process and to the body’s ability to absorb nutrients. Enzymes vital to the small intestine are produced by the pancreas. These enzymes are used to break down proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Insufficient production of these hormones results in serious clogging of the small intestine. This condition is described in the section on digestion and the small intestine in this chapter. Some pancreatic enzymes are part of the activation of enzymes in other areas of the digestive system also.
The pancreas also releases two hormones, glucagon and insulin, making the pancreas vital to the maintenance of blood sugar levels. These functions make the pancreas vital to digestion, maintenance of blood sugar levels and activating enzyme activity.
DISEASES / SYMPTOMS
Blood sugar related symptoms and diseases (diabetes and hypoglycemia), headache, weakness, dizziness, blurred vision, and digestive difficulties are often related to pancreatic malfunction.
Clogging in the pancreas can result in acute pancreatitis which can become serious very quickly. A medical doctor should probably be consulted if pancreatitis is suspected. Pancreatitis begins with severe pain around the navel area that has come on quite suddenly. The pain is made worse by movement and may be accompanied by nausea and vomiting. Often, but not always, the vomiting is severe. There will be upper abdominal swelling and distension, excessive gas, fever, sweating, elevated blood pressure, muscles aches, and abnormal, fatty stools.
Drugs, mental and emotional stress, a diet high in fats and sugars, alcohol
VITAMINS / MINERALS / FOODS
B-Complex, minerals, chromium, selenium, manganese, sodium, amino acids
HERBS / SUPPLEMENTS
Burdock, licorice root, milk thistle, red clover, echinacea, gentian root, goldenseal (do not take goldenseal for more than a short time—a week or two at a time), dandelion, uva ursi, mullein, bilberries, blueberries, alfalfa, juniper berries, saw palmetto, Oregon grape root, olive leaf extract (if there is infection)
Since the pancreas is a gland that produces enzymes vital to digestion, the emotional connections will most likely have to do with difficulty in digesting/processing past feelings or new situations. There is probably something in your life that appears overwhelming and too difficult to be coped with.
Since one of the hormones produced by the pancreas is insulin, which regulates blood sugar, there is a possibility that “the sweetness may have gone out of life” for some reason. Often relationship stress is the core issue. To keep the pancreas functioning, or to get it functioning again, there must be a balance between the sweet and the bitter, between the good and the bad, between work and play, between giving and receiving. Counting our blessings, service to others, and allowing ourselves moments here and there to relax and recharge are vital to a healthy pancreas.
The thyroid regulates metabolism and is the body’s internal thermostat. It secretes two hormones that control how quickly the body burns calories and uses energy. The thyroid regulates the amount of oxygen in the blood, and controls the growth and development of bones, nerves, and muscles. The thyroid also plays a key roll in the absorption of calcium and other minerals.
DISEASES / SYMPTOMS
HYPOTHYROIDISM (too little thyroid hormone production): Symptoms of hypothyroidism include physical and mental fatigue, loss of appetite, coldness, inability to tolerate cold temperatures, a slow heart rate, weight gain, pain before menstruation, fertility problems, muscle weakness and cramping, burning and prickling sensations, dry and scaly skin, hair loss, recurrent infections, migraines, depression, (worse in winter when the thyroid must work harder to keep the person warm), fear, panic, difficulty concentrating, poor equilibrium and slow reaction time.
The first and foremost symptoms of low thyroid function are fatigue, a general feeling of coldness, and depression. Low thyroid function is directly related to heart attacks and lung disease.
HYPERTHYROIDISM (too much thyroid hormone production): When the thyroid becomes over-active, many other body processes go into over-drive. Eventually these over-worked organs burn-out and become lethargic and under-productive.
Symptoms of hyperthyroidism include nervousness, irritability, a constant feeling of being too warm with increased perspiration, insomnia and resulting fatigue, frequent bowels movements, less frequent menstruation with decreased menstrual flow, weakness, hair loss, weight loss, separation of the nails from the nail bed, hand tremors, intolerance of heat, rapid heartbeat, goiter, and—in extreme cases—protruding eyeballs (Grave’s disease).
Low thyroid function is a common problem in many chronic illnesses. Researchers in England found that people being treated for Parkinson’s disease all had hyperactive thyroids. Once the thyroid condition was rectified, the Parkinson’s disease dramatically improved.
Hyperthyroidism can be caused by lumps or tumors that have formed on the thyroid and by certain prescription drugs. A malfunctioning thyroid can also be an immune system problem. The immune system can produce antibodies that invade and attack the thyroid, disrupting its proper function, making this type of thyroid problem an auto-immune problem.
Hyperthyroidism is statistically less common than hypothyroidism. My experience, however, has been that low thyroid function is often preceded by a period of thyroid hyperactivity. As a socieity, we value dynamic, high-achieving people. As a result we are often guilty of expecting absurdly high levels of productivity from ourselves and others. The thyroid, for whatever reason, kicks into high gear and, much like the adrenal glands, eventually gets tired and shuts down.
Both of these thyroid disorders, hypo- and hyper- thyroidism, affect women more often than men. This statistic has led me to deep thinking about the differences, both physically and emotionally, between men and women, and what our bodies need for stability and balance.
A malfunctioning thyroid can be the underlying, and often undiagnosed, cause of many recurring illnesses. By the time thyroid values reach levels which show up on medical tests, the thyroid has already been in trouble for some time. Thyroid tests can indicate, falsely, that thyroid function is normal because of the presence of certain shampoos and skin antiseptic compounds.
Over-work, being a type A personality who has no stop button, drugs, lack of nutrition
VITAMINS / MINERALS / FOODS
HYPOTHYROIDISM: Vitamins A, C, E, and B-Complex, minerals—especially zinc, iodine, potassium, selenium, iron, and sodium, the amino acid tyrosine, omega 3’s, flaxseed oil
HYPERTHYROIDISM: Vitamins C, E, and B-Complex, multi-mineral supplements, omega 3’s, flaxseed oil
HERBS / SUPPLEMENTS
kelp/dulce, Irish moss, black walnut, white oak bark, gentian, stinging nettle, alfalfa
The location of the thyroid gland links its energy to the throat chakra. This chakra is about the ability to speak up appropriately about one’s own needs and finding the will to build a lifestyle consistent with those needs.
An over-active thyroid may be sending a reminder that we need to slow down a bit, perhaps by letting other people take responsibility for the directing of their own lives. Perhaps we have expectations of ourselves and others that are unrealistically high. Perhaps we may feel that we must be constantly moving and accomplishing to justify our existence on this earth and to prove our worth to someone or something. There may also be issues of speaking or acting before we have considered our own needs and core priorities.
An under-active thyroid can indicate that we are unable to speak up for ourselves or express our needs at all. Perhaps we do not have a clear idea of what we stand for and what we really want out of life. “I think” and “I prefer” and “I do not want” are words that all of us need to learn to express appropriately. We each need to let go of any thinking that we are not responsible for, or not in control, of our own lives and personal actions.
The throat and solar plexus chakras are the chakras of abundance. When we are balanced in these chakras, we know what we want, we are clear about what is important to us and what our priorities are, and we are able to express our needs and balance them with the needs of those around us. We can find happiness, health, love, gratitude, and abundance on all levels.
A hormone produced by the parathyroid glands plays a key role in regulating the calcium and potassium levels in the body. Calcium is a vital mineral, not just because it is the stuff of which bones are made, but because it is essential to muscles and nerves. Calcium is also linked to poisons and toxins to enable these harmful substances to be excreted from the body through the kidneys without doing damage to those organs.
Trouble in the parathyroids is diagnosed by blood tests showing unbalanced levels of calcium and potassium or unusually high levels of calcium alone. The reasons for low parathyroid function, if there is no abnormal growth or tumor present, are not well understood by medical science at this time.
If there is insufficient calcium rich foods in the diet, or if uptake of calcium is impaired for some reason and calcium levels in the body fall too low, the parathyroids secrete a hormone which releases calcium from the bones to raise the level in the bloodstream. Of course, too much calcium pulled from the bones results in osteoporosis and the hip fractures that are common among the elderly. This condition can exist at any time in a person’s life, not just with advancing age.
The parathyroids also play a role in pH and electrolyte balance and secrete a hormone which is necessary for the creation of synovial fluid (the fluid found in joints). The parathyroids are very much a factor in rheumatoid arthritis.
DISEASES / SYMPTOMS
Osteoporosis, muscle and nerve pain and spasms, bone pain, bones that fracture too easily, joint pain, kidney problems, electrolyte imbalances in the blood, and rheumatoid arthritis
HYPOPARATHYROIDISM occurs when the thyroid is underactive. Symptoms included calcium leaching from the bones (osteoporosis), the formation of kidney stones, and irritation of the nerves leading to restlessness, worry, sleeplessness, confusion, depression, severe cramps, twitching and spasms.
HYPERPARATHYROIDISM occurs when the thyroid becomes over active. In the early stages, a person may have either vague symptoms or no symptoms at all. The symptoms which do arise are generally due to persistently high levels of calcium. Symptoms may include joint pain, calcium leaching from the bones (osteoporosis), muscle weakness, abdominal discomfort, nausea, constipation, lack of appetite, kidney stones, excessive thirst, excessive urination, anxiety, memory loss, fatigue.
CHILDREN Symptoms include poor tooth development, headaches, mental deficiencies, and seizures.
A lifestyle lacking in exercise and sunlight, drugs—including many prescription medications, and poor dietary habits
VITAMINS / MINERALS / HERBS / FOODS
Astragalus, alfalfa, damiana, devil’s claw, kelp, slippery elm, yucca, L-arginine
Homeopathic remedies, focusing particularly on the kali and calcarea cell salts, should be considered. Foot zone therapy or reflexology would also be a good choice as part of a treatment protocol.
The hypothalamus is the control center for the sensory part of the autonomic nervous system, and coordinates the efforts of the endocrine system. Being very much in charge of both these systems, it is responsible for communication between them. The brain/nervous system complex and the glands communicate with each other by means of the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is very much a master gland of the body!
FUNCTIONS OF THE HYPOTHALAMUS
The hypothalamus regulates autonomic nervous systems functions. These functions include heartbeat, breathing, body temperature, metabolism, hunger signals, sleep patterns, and peristalsis in duodenum, small intestine, and colon.
- Thy hypothalamus also coordinates the amount of circulating blood, affecting and controlling blood pressure.
- Another function of the hypothalamus is to play a key role in hormone balance, especially in women as they approach menopause.
- The hypothalamus governs and coordinates the communication between the kidneys and the heart, helping to keep kidney function and blood composition in the ranges most beneficial to the heart.
- There are some hormones and enzymes produced by the hypothalamus.
- The hypothalamus plays a key role in the development of the spinal fluid.
DISEASES / SYMPTOMS
Trouble in the hypothalamus disrupts communication between the nervous system and the glandular system, making the hypothalamus a factor in the symptoms of trouble anywhere in both systems. Poor immune function and susceptiblility to disease, often begin in the hypothalamus.
The hypothalamus is negatively and seriously affected by a toxic or clogged liver. The hypothalamus is also very sensitive to emotions such as worry, fear, and anxiety.
VITAMINS / MINERALS / FOODS
Over-all good nutrition is the most important key to nervous system health and glandular balance. In other words, we need to eat our fruits and vegetables, avoid sugar and processed foods, eliminate the wrong kinds of fats from our diets, and cleanse and balance our bodies until they are functioning optimally on all levels.
HERBS / SUPPLEMENTS
Herbs to support the hypothalamus include scullcap, vervain, rosemary, wood betony, and wild oats.
Herbs to enhance resistance to stress included ginseng, dong quai, motherwort, cinnamon, ginger, and sage.
Herbs which affect hormone regulation and smooth the transition into menopause include motherwort, wild yam, hops, sage, ginseng, black cohosh, passion flower, St. John’s wort, and calendula.
It is important to glandular function and especially to the hypothalamus that we keep our perspectives clear and understand the difference between useless worry and real fear. There really are things to be afraid of in the world but fear—the kind that causes the endocrine system to go into hyper-drive—is our body’s response to prepare us for action. If there is no action to be taken, or any that we intend to take, allowing that fear a place in our systems is to indulge ourselves in useless, destructive, debilitating worry. Let’s prolong our lives and the health of our endocrine and nervous systems by giving up resentment, anxiety, and worry.
As the above descriptions suggest, all of the glands within our body work together. When one is stressed, it can be suggested that they will all be affected in some way, sooner or later. Most every function that the various cells within our body perform require a hormone. The bulk of these hormones are produced by these glands. An imbalance in glandular function will eventually lead to an imbalance in hormone activity, leading to a decline in overall body vitality.
You will notice that fatigue is listed as a symptom for all of these glands as they become stressed. You should also note that one of the major avenues to improve glandular function is good, old-fashioned, basic nutrition as well as rest, exercise and sunshine. Please read the last line above again. "Let's prolong our lives and the health of our endocrine and nervous systems by giving up resentment, anxiety and worry." It is vital for our overall health, and that of our endocrine system, to manage our stresses appropriately and to let go of unnecessary emotional baggage.
Oils that have an affinity for the pancreas, thyroid, parathyroid and hypothalmus glands include:
Angel, Assurance, Balance, Cherish, CinnamonBear, Dreams, EndoRelief, Eternity, Everlasting, EZ Traveler, Faith, Inner Peace, IQ, Kadence, Letting Go, LiteN, LivN, QuietEssence, Revitalize, Synopsis, Tranquility, Vision, WarmDown, WeightLess, Whispering Hope, WomanWise, bergamot, calamus, chamomile Roman, frankincense, geranium, jasmine, lavender, ledum, lime, melissa, myrtle, palmarosa, palo sant, patchouli, rose, sandalwood, spruce, tangerine, ylang ylang
Herbs that have an affinity for the pancreas, thyroid, parathyroid and hypothalmus glands include:
LIC, HGL, IBL, KNA, MIN, MH, TY, MW, YW, cascara/juniper, raspberry/myrrh, Alfalfa, astragalus, bilberries, black walnut, blueberries, burdock, damiana, dandelion, devil's claw, dong quai, echinacea, fenugreek, gentian root, ginseng, goldenseal (for a limited time), hawthorn. Irish moss, juniper berries, kelp or dulse, licorice root, milk thistle, mullein, Oregon grape root, olive leaf, red clover, rosemary, sage, saw palmetto, scullcap, slippery elm, stinging nettle, uva ursi, vervain, white oak bark, wild oats, wood betany, yucca