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How well do you know your pituitary gland? Despite being incredibly important for good health, you might not be aware how hard your pituitary works for you.
This year’s theme of Pituitary Awareness Month is Living Well so in celebration this article will talk about all things pituitary. Read on to learn about this fascinating gland and how to keep yours happy.
Your body’s cells need to talk to each other to keep everything in balance. The messengers helping cells to communicate are called hormones.
Your pituitary gland is a hormone-producing gland sitting just below the base of your brain, behind the bridge of your nose. Despite only being around the size of a pea, and weighing about half a gram, its effect is mighty, earning it the name of the master gland.
A little stalk connects your pituitary gland to the hypothalamus in your brain. The job of your hypothalamus is to detect changes inside and outside your body, and then provide instructions to your pituitary gland. Your pituitary is a little like a control panel, making sure your body functions correctly. It translates the signals from your hypothalamus into messages to your other glands, telling them to make more or less of their hormones.
As well as producing hormones controlling the activity of other hormone-producing glands, your pituitary also produces hormones directly affecting your cells.
These various hormones tell your thyroid to manage your energy levels and metabolism, and your adrenal glands how to react to the stress in your life. Your pituitary also releases growth hormone, hormones involved in balancing water and salt levels in your blood, and those regulating the reproductive cycle, stimulating the ovaries to produce oestrogen and affecting milk and sperm production. Finally, it releases endorphins and enkephalins, substances with natural pain-relieving properties, and a hormone to boost melanin production when you’re exposed to the sun.
In summary, your pituitary gland controls bodily functions including growth, metabolism, reproduction, response to stress, water and salt balance, labour, childbirth and lactation.
According to the Pituitary Foundation, around 70,000 people suffer from pituitary problems in the UK. Issues can be caused by your pituitary releasing too much, or too little, of a particular hormone.
Your pituitary gland affects all the hormonal systems in your body either directly or indirectly, meaning it has a widespread effect on your cells and tissues. So, because of the range of body functions controlled by your pituitary and the number of organs it affects, symptoms of a pituitary problem can be diverse,.
Hormone imbalances caused by pituitary issues will vary depending on the hormone affected. You might notice headaches, fatigue, vision problems, weight gain, sleeping issues, high blood pressure, memory problems, low mood, reproductive issues and so on.
One example of a condition caused by a pituitary imbalance is acromegaly, where excessive amounts of growth hormone are released, leading to enlarged hands and feet, and facial features which grow in adulthood.
Another example occurs when too much of a hormone called vasopressin is released. This hormone regulates the amount of water in your body. Excess vasopressin causes you to pass large amounts of very dilute urine, and you’ll feel very thirsty. This condition is called diabetes insipidus.
Cushing’s disease is a disorder occurring when the pituitary stimulates excessive stress hormone production. This causes weight gain, easily bruised skin, a puffy, rounded face, and fatigue.
Often, problems are down to a tumour in or near the pituitary gland, affecting the release of hormones. Many of these tumours are benign. Head injuries can damage your pituitary gland.
Your pituitary gland needs sufficient manganese to function well. It’s found in leafy greens, nuts and legumes.
Researchers have discovered receptors for vitamin D in the pituitary gland 1. These seem to regulate hormone release. The major source of vitamin D is sunshine, so at this time of the year a supplement is often needed.
This nutrient acts as an antioxidant, preventing cells from damage. Insufficient vitamin E has been connected with hormone imbalances. It’s found in nuts, seeds, olive oil, avocadoes and green leafy vegetables.
This vitamin appears to be important for the thyroid gland in several ways. It’s found in organ meats, eggs and oily fish, but can be made from beta carotene, rich in yellow and red vegetables.
Natural Support for Your Pituitary Gland
Because your hormonal system is so complicated it can be hard to identify what is going wrong. A functional medicine practitioner acts a little like a detective, teasing out the imbalances causing your symptoms by looking in depth at your health history, diet and lifestyle, and by using functional tests to discover the root of the problem.
Are you concerned about the health of your pituitary gland? Why not book a free 15 minute discovery call to see if Functional Medicine is for you.
Please enter your details below and we will get back to you as soon as we can.
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