Improve Your Wellbeing: How Massage Affects The Endocrine SystemJohn Stamoulos
Your body is a brilliant, finely tuned mechanism that comes highly equipped to respond to whatever your life activities and experiences can throw at it. For example, if there is a signal of danger from the brain, the adrenals will secrete cortisol into the body to activate the fight or flight response so you can stay safe. Or if you need fuel, the body knows how to call up certain hormones to convert the calories you ingest into energy so that your organs and cells can keep you going.
One of the most significant systems in the body responsible for these functions is the endocrine system. It consists of glands that secrete specific hormones into the bloodstream to regulate almost every cell, organ, and function in our bodies. It maintains the body’s internal balance mechanism to regulate such processes as mood, tissue function, metabolism, and reproduction. A healthy endocrine system is pivotal in preventing such diseases as diabetes, thyroid malfunctions, growth disorders and sexual dysfunction.
This complex system is made up of the following glands:
- Hypothalamus – regulates the autonomic nervous system and governs the pituitary gland and controls such functions as satiation, thirst, body temperature, emotions, sleep, blood pressure, heart rate and sexual behaviour. Dopamine is also produced in this gland.
- Pituitary is the master endocrine gland – produces hormones to stimulate and control the other glands as they produce their own unique hormones. It stores both dopamine and stimulates the production of serotonin and regulates stress by signaling for the production of cortisol in the adrenals. It is also responsible for regulating bone growth, women’s menstrual cycles and the release of breast milk.
- Pineal – secretes melatonin which helps regulate sleep patterns and influences mood.
- Thyroid – stimulates hormones linked to conversion of food into energy the body can use. It is also associated with weight loss/gain, energy levels, PMS, anxiety and memory
- Other members of the endocrine family includes the adrenals that produce cortisol when danger is sensed; the pancreas which regulates blood sugar utilization; and the reproductive system which produces both sperm and egg.
Maintaining hormonal balance in the endocrine system requires continual monitoring through the body’s feedback system to correct any hormone imbalances by adding or lessening the hormone levels as needed.
For example, if the body is under stress, the endocrine system pumps up its production of stress hormones. Specifically, our blood sugar raises and our sympathetic nervous system response is activated to keep us on high alert. This means we cannot relax and cannot recover from the stress responses, as they are ongoing. The health of the body requires that it is able to step down from the stress reactions, which means activation of the parasympathetic nervous system to promote healing from stress effects. This too is the domain of the endocrine system.
Endocrine System and Massage
One of the most significant contributions that massage is its ability to help deliver a sense of wellbeing that helps the ability to cope in the world and function optimally.
When certain areas are massaged, the endocrine system brings the body down from “flight, fright or freeze” and into a restful, relaxed and receptive mode.
Gentle as well as moderate pressure on the body that may include gentle neck massage and kneading, massaging of the temples and fingertip rotations across the forehead are a few techniques that stimulate the relaxation responses of the endocrine system.
Effects of massage on the endocrine system:
- increases general circulation in endocrine system and thus improves the ability to move hormones throughout the bloodstream
- indirectly aids immune system, as some hormones produce lymphocytes to aid in immunization
- helps the body rebalance and heal
- develops of restful sleep patterns
- promotes appropriate levels of hormones bringing the body systems back into balance
Massage has the powerful capability to transform one of the most significant balancing functions in the body – the endocrine system – and promote health and focus and relaxation when it is most needed.