Your Endocrine System
So, what's the endocrine system?
It's a little-known system made up of a whole collection of glands and it does very BIG things. It regulates, coordinates and controls an extraordinary number of your body's functions. How? While your nervous system uses electricity to orchestrate all sorts of things in your body, your endocrine system does even more through the wonder of chemicals.
Where do these chemicals come from?
They come from glands and a few organs (like the stomach, pancreas, kidneys, etc.) that produce them and ooze them. While the chemicals that your organs manufacture are used close to home, endocrine glands throughout your body make chemicals called hormones that travel much further. Endocrine glands spew their hormones directly into your bloodstream! You're not likely to be aware that all these chemicals are traveling to all parts of your body. But they are, and they're acting as chemical messengers.
What are hormones?
"Hormone" means to "excite" or "spur on" and that's exactly what hormones do. They cause other things to start happening. It's as if they were keys which not only unlock the doors to other activities, but also regulate those other activities that they've initiated.
You've got over 30 of these amazing hormones busily orchestrating and regulating such things as: when you feel hungry or full; how you sleep; your body temperature; how you break down and utilize the food you eat and whether you are fat or thin; when you start puberty and how long it takes; how you handle stress; how much adrenaline you have in an emergency situation...even how and when you grow. Phew!
Now you might say that you thought it was genes that determined things like how tall you're going to eventually grow. But when, and if, you grow as tall as the instructions from your genes would suggest depends on hormones - - in this case growth hormones.
What is puberty?
The time when your body begins its final journey to become adult is also run by these hormones. It's called puberty and it involves all sorts of big and small changes to your body -- and your brain!
During puberty, your body's shape begins to change -- girls develop breasts and hips; boys, taller and broader bodies and more muscles. Hair begins to develop in varying degrees on boys and girls: pubic hair, underarm hair, leg hair, and, on boys, facial and body hair. By the time you've finished puberty, you will have reached your adult size. You may also find yourself more interested in the opposite sex, and experiencing feelings and emotions that are quite new to you. And, if you are a boy, you will have acquired the ability to father a baby; if you are a girl, you will have developed the ability to have a baby.
Because these changes, most especially the last, are SO big and SO important, it would take a whole series of web sites to explore the consequences of them. Therefore, we are not going to attempt to discuss them in detail here. But suffice it to say that with these changes come big responsibilities and that the consequences of your actions can be extremely powerful!
Will I feel different?
Puberty is a time in which you may find yourself feeling confused. One minute you may find yourself giggling, then next find yourself feeling sad or cranky. Just understand that you haven't changed into a different person & your body is just adjusting to all these molecules of hormones racing around. And, don't worry! By the end of puberty, your body will have adjusted the hormone levels so that you will feel on a much more even keel.
You may find it surprisingly helpful to talk with your parents, teachers or mentors about all of this. After all, whether you believe it or not, the adults around you have actually experienced this confusing time, too!
• Imagine your body without glands. You'd be without all the ooze, sweat, mucus, chemicals and juices in your body which make your body home.
• For girls, puberty generally begins sometime between ages 9-13 and for boys, ages 10-15!