Endocrine Immune System Connection: Immune system stressors can influence your emotional state. Learn more about the connections.
Hormones and immunity (endocrine immune messaging) – it’s extremely complex.
We’ve talked about how hormones are the body’s chemical messengers. We also discussed how the body is very sensitive to the amounts of these messengers released into the blood. In addition, we addressed the fact that the endocrine system is responsible for the production and control of hormones. In this part we will look at endocrine immune messaging. To start, we’ll need a basic understanding of the endocrine system.
So what exactly is the endocrine system?
The Endocrine System in a Nutshell
Your body has a collection of glands that produce hormones. Collectively, these glands are called the endocrine system. The main hormone-producing glands are as follows:
- Hypothalamus — controls body temperature, moods, hunger, thirst, sleep, sex drive, and the release of hormones from other glands
- Thymus —serves as the center of the adaptive immune system and produces T-cells
- Pancreas — helps control blood sugar levels
- Thyroid – controls calorie burn and heart rate
- Adrenal – produces cortisol (the stress hormone), aldosterone, and androgens
- Thalamus — produces serotonin from melatonin, which affects sleep patterns
- Parathyroid – controls calcium availability
- Ovaries (in women) – produce estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone
- Testes (in men) — produce testosterone
- Pituitary – acts as the master control gland that controls all the other glands and also makes hormones that trigger growth.
The Immune Messaging Feedback Loop
The endocrine system, and its role in immune function, involves a very complex messaging feedback loop. Here’s what endocrine immune messaging looks like in a simple diagram.
Ever marvel at how amazing and complex our healthy natural hormonal balance is? Take a look at the diagram above. In each circle, you can see a list of issues that can accompany a hormone imbalance. The arrows are meant to represent the communication between the different hormonal centers of the body. But they can also be thought of as strings. Pull too hard on one, and you’ll tug another out of balance.
With few exceptions, attempting to address (strengthen or reduce) only one hormone is a losing game, as each hormone affects and is affected by other hormones. Aim for balance. Your system wants to be balanced and will try to maintain homeostasis (chemical balance) once you achieve balance.
The Endocrine System, the Immune System, and the Nervous System
It’s important to know that the endocrine system and the immune system also interact with the nervous system. A simple diagram of this interaction might look like this:
This interaction with the nervous system means that you can experience physical and emotional responses to immune or hormonal stressors. Immune stressors might be causing changes in your hormones, which in turn can cause changes to your emotional state. On the flip side, your emotional state can affect either your hormone level or your immune system.
I can’t tell you how many people struggling with a chronic illness have asked me about anxiety or rage or uncontrollable tears. Well-meaning friends will say to them, “you have to deal with your emotional issues before you can heal.” Such advice, though well-intended, demonstrates a complete misunderstanding of the nature of the connection between the immune, the endocrine, and the nervous systems. You’re probably not going crazy. While psychological and emotional problems can manifest as physical issues, it’s also true that immune issues can be a physical cause of emotional behavior. Your immune system is tied to your endocrine system, which in turn is tied to your nervous system.
Said another way, everything is interconnected. You can’t deal with just one aspect of health. An approach that considers the whole of your being is the real path to wellness.
What’s the Deeper Connection Between the Endocrine System and Immunity?
By now, you get that the endocrine system messages the body for all sorts of functions. But what specifically affects immunity? Read on to explore the topic of hormones and immunity in even greater depth.Learn About Teas for Wellness