The hormones created and released by the glands in your body’s endocrine system control nearly all the processes in your body. These chemicals help coordinate your body’s functions, from metabolism to growth and development, emotions, mood, sexual function and even sleep.
Your endocrine system is made up of several organs called glands. These glands, located all over your body, create and secrete (release) hormones.
Hormones are chemicals that coordinate different functions in your body by carrying messages through your blood to your organs, skin, muscles and other tissues. These signals tell your body what to do and when to do it.
Cleveland Clinic is a non-profit academic medical center. Advertising on our site helps support our mission. We do not endorse non-Cleveland Clinic products or services. Policy
Your endocrine system continuously monitors the amount of hormones in your blood. Hormones deliver their messages by locking into the cells they target so they can relay the message.
The pituitary gland senses when your hormone levels rise, and tells other glands to stop producing and releasing hormones. When hormone levels dip below a certain point, the pituitary gland can instruct other glands to produce and release more. This process, called homeostasis, works similarly to the thermostat in your house. Hormones affect nearly every process in your body, including:
Sometimes glands produce too much or not enough of a hormone. This imbalance can cause health problems, such as weight gain, high blood pressure and changes in sleep, mood and behavior. Many things can affect how your body creates and releases hormones. Illness, stress and certain medications can cause a hormone imbalance.
The endocrine system is made up of organs called glands. Glands produce and release different hormones that target specific things in the body. You have glands all over your body, including in your neck, brain and reproductive organs. Some glands are tiny, about the size of a grain of rice or a pea. The largest gland is the pancreas, which is about 6 inches long.
The main glands that produce hormones include:
Dozens of conditions can cause issues in the endocrine system. These conditions can lead to health problems all over the body. Some of the most common disorders are:
Chemicals called endocrine disrupters can also affect the endocrine system. These chemicals appear everywhere — in pesticides, plastics, cosmetics and even our food and water. Endocrine disrupters cause a wide range of problems throughout the body by changing how hormones send messages.
Your endocrine system needs the same things the rest of your body needs to stay healthy. You should exercise, eat right and see your healthcare provider regularly.
If you have a family history of diabetes, thyroid disorders or PCOS, talk to your provider. Managing these conditions can help you avoid a hormone imbalance that can lead to health problems.
Some symptoms can point to a serious health condition, such as diabetes. Call your provider if you have:
Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 05/12/2020.
Learn more about our editorial process.