Would you believe that a gland that is only pea-sized is responsible for the regulation of many body functions? The pituitary gland is part of the body’s endocrine system and is often referred to as the “master gland” because it produces different kinds of hormones that travel through the bloodstream. Such hormones direct certain processes or stimulate other endocrine glands to produce their hormones.
As the “master gland” of the body, it produces many hormones that travel throughout the body, directing certain processes or stimulating other glands to produce other hormones. It is, therefore, necessary to keep the pituitary gland healthy for it to function normally. Before going through the ways on how to keep the master gland in tip-top shape, let’s discuss some of its basic properties.
Where Is the Pituitary Gland Located in the Body?
This all-important pea-sized gland is situated right at the brain’s base just under the hypothalamus and right in the junction where the skull rests and the spine ends. The pituitary is connected to the hypothalamus by sensitive nerves fibers. Both glands are referred to as the neuroendocrine organs.
The endocrine system is composed of ductless glands that secrete their products, which are the hormones, directly into the blood rather than through a duct. As the master gland, the pituitary produces hormones that are essential in many body functions. It is made up of three main sections:
Anterior Lobe. This is responsible for the body’s development, sexual development and maturity, and even reproduction.
Intermediate Lobe. This produces a hormone which stimulates the production of melanocytes. This substance is responsible for the skin’s pigmentation through the production of melanin.
Posterior Lobe. This produces an anti-diuretic hormone that helps in maintaining water content in the blood. Without this hormone, dehydration will take place. The same hormone also helps rehydrate the kidneys. For women in childbirth, the posterior lobe will produce oxytocin which helps bring about contractions during the child’s delivery and later will stimulate the production of milk for nursing.
How Does the Pituitary Gland Function?
The pituitary gland really deserves the title “master gland” because it regulates several body functions at the same time is responsible for balancing the body’s hormone levels. This small pea-sized gland at the brain’s base is given protection by a small cavity in the skull. It’s at eye’s level and situated right in the center of a person’s head.
The pituitary gland and the hypothalamus are in proximity to each other and belong to the part of the brain called the diencephalon. The hypothalamus gland, the size of an almond, links the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland. It’s also is responsible for the regulation of certain metabolic processes and other activities of the autonomic nervous system. On the other hand, the pituitary gland is involved with the following processes:
- Controls the involuntary nervous system.
- Also, it controls the balance of water, energy, and heat in a person’s body.
- It’s responsible for the heartbeat, sleep, urination, thirst, and hunger.
- Produces several essential hormones that regulate the other endocrine glands which have a direct impact on certain organs.
Each of our pituitary glands is composed of parts and they have different functions:
Anterior Lobe. This comprises of around 75% of the pituitary gland and produces two types of hormones. First, the hormones which control other glands which produce hormones. Second, the hormones which directly affect the body. The hormones which control the other hormone-producing glands are:
- Thyroid-stimulating hormone or TSH which regulates the production of hormones in the thyroid gland.
- Adrenocorticotropic hormone or ACTH which stimulates the adrenal glands to in order to produce the hormones epinephrine, adrenalin or steroids, especially when needed.
- Follicle-stimulating hormone or FSH which regulates the production of hormones in the ovaries and testicles.
- Luteinizing hormone or LH which has almost similar functions as the FSH where they help in the production of hormones in the testis and the ovaries.
On the other hand, the hormones which directly affect the body are:
- Growth hormone or GH which is also referred to as somatotropin or STH. The hormone has its effect on different body parts, especially the bones, fat tissues, muscle tissues, and liver.
- Prolactin has an influence on the activities of the ovaries and the mammary glands. This hormone is released directly into a person’s bloodstream from the pituitary and then transported to the part of the body where it’s needed. In women, prolactin will stimulate the growth of the mammary glands for those going through puberty, suppresses the ovulation process when the woman is already pregnant, and it triggers the milk production right after the child’s birth.
The hormone production by an anterior lobe is carried out in either of two ways:
- First, through the hypothalamus which produces hormones that can increase hormonal production or produces hormones that will inhibit the production of hormones.
- Second, through the blood’s hormone levels. An example will best explain this. If a person’s thyroid hormone level in his blood becomes high, the pituitary gland will cease to produce the hormone which stimulates the thyroid gland. Conversely, if the thyroid hormone levels are low, the hypothalamus and pituitary glands will produce more of the thyroid-stimulating hormones. This, in turn, will allow the thyroid gland to produce more thyroid hormones.
Posterior Lobe. This part is directly joined to the hypothalamus gland through the pituitary stalk. This part of the pituitary gland is made up mostly of nerve fibers which are entangled and that come from a person’s hypothalamus. The pituitary stalk connects the posterior lobe to the hypothalamus. There are two types of hormones that are stored in this lobe and are released by the gland when they are needed:
- Oxytocin is a hormone that’s important in women especially during their pregnancy cycle. The hormone has an effect on the womb as well as the woman’s mammary glands and is responsible for the woman’s contractions during childbirth.
- Antidiuretic hormone regulates the uptake of water in the kidneys. It’s also responsible for making the blood vessels narrower.
Intermediate Part or Pars Intermedia. This part of the gland is sandwich between the posterior and anterior lobes and its tissues produce melanocyte-stimulating hormones or MSH. The hormone itself stimulates the production of substances of melanin, among other things. Melanin should sound familiar as it is responsible for skin color. Melanin is a type of pigment which protects us from the harmful effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays. Also, MSH helps in the regulation of our appetites and can influence our sex drives.
Here Are 12 Ways You Can Keep Your Pituitary Gland Healthy
After all the discussion on how important the pituitary gland is, we should maximize the ways in which we could keep this master gland healthy. All the processes in our body won’t function so well without the help of this tiny general. Here are a few suggestions on how to keep the pituitary gland healthy:
Eat the Right Foods. Remember the adage “you are what you eat.” Eat healthily and one will become healthy. Conversely, eat unhealthily, and the person will become unhealthy. And this applies, as well, to the pituitary gland. With proper nutrition, the pituitary gland can function optimally. Stick to a healthy and balance diet always.
Healthy fatty foods like avocados and hazelnuts can provide one with many nutrients like vitamin A, vitamin E, and more. Don’t rely too much on fad diets as these don’t really promote healthy diets and a balance of nutrients a person will require daily. Make healthier food choices. In doing this, the pituitary will respond delightfully. To be sure a person is getting the right vitamins and nutrients that will maintain the health of the pituitary, find out which are the best foods that can pamper the master gland.
Get a Lot of Vitamin D. One will need to pay more attention to what types of nutrients he’s taking if he intends to have a healthy pituitary gland. This is especially true with vitamins. Some of these nutrients can really affect the body in different ways and vitamin D is one that needs to be watched.
It has been proven that the “sunshine vitamin” can promote sexual performance through this master gland. In some studies, the deficiency of vitamin D has negatively affected the functioning of the pituitary gland and has consequently caused low ovary and testes functions.
One can easily increase his vitamin D levels through supplements or diets. Supplements can be bought over-the-counter at low prices. One can also increase the level through diet but natural foods usually contain very little vitamin D for what people need daily. Do diets and supplements at the same time to be sure. The best natural sources of vitamin D are fatty fishes and other food such as eggs, beef, cheese, and liver.
Get a Lot of Antioxidants Too. Vitamin E is the most popular antioxidant agent. Adding this to one’s daily regimen will keep the pituitary gland protected from any oxidative damage. The source could either be from natural foods or from supplements. Vitamin E is present in many green leafy vegetables so one should consume a lot of them. If the person isn’t a fan of veggies, then he can also acquire the vitamin in raw seeds, almonds, and several plant oils. The effects of oxidation are well-documented and this should make people more careful in preventing any oxidation happening that can damage the pituitary gland. Know how much vitamin E should be consumed daily in order to keep those levels in check.
Include Vitamin A Too. Although this vitamin has had its share of being underrated, it’s essential in the proper functioning of the pituitary gland. A deficiency of vitamin A, for instance, can cause the thyroid to work inefficiently. Vitamin A enhances the production of TSH, the thyroid stimulating hormone from the pituitary gland and without this hormone, thyroid activity will slow down and this will make it difficult for those who want to lose some weight.
The RDA for the vitamin isn’t really that much. One can get his vitamin A from natural sources or through supplements. One unique property of vitamin A compared with other supplements is that it’s fat-soluble, meaning one should consume it with fat before it can be absorbed into the body.
Keep the Pituitary Gland Healthy with Protein. So far we have been talking about vitamins to make for a healthy pituitary gland. But our master gland needs more than that to survive. Protein is one essential nutrient needed by the pituitary for proper functioning because protein will tremendously help the pituitary to release a lot of hormones, including the HGH or the Human Growth Hormone which can reverse the body’s internal clock mechanism. This vital hormone helps in building muscle mass, increasing libido, heightening energy levels, and reducing fat. It’s very important that the pituitary gland should release HGH in sufficient amounts every day.
When one includes protein in his diet, the HGH levels in the body will also increase. We should know by now that our natural protein sources are all derived from beef, pork, poultry, and fish. We can also obtain them from soy, nuts, and eggs.
For those who want much more sources to keep the pituitary gland healthy and increase their HGH levels, they can try human growth hormone releasers. These HGH releasers are considered to be the safest way to increase growth hormone levels because such releasers activate the pituitary gland. Go to any health store and ask for these releasers. There are now many products available. Be always on the side of caution though because this is a new product. It’s recommended to consult with one’s doctor first before trying any kind of HGH treatment.
Manganese Is Essential Too. The brain needs manganese, a mineral, to function effectively. Although found in small traces in the human body, it nevertheless, is important for brain function. On the average, the body contains small amounts of manganese and most of these are stored in our bones. But there’s a very small percentage that is within the pituitary gland too. The mineral also comes in pill form and is found in foods like whole grains, legumes, and nuts. Aside from these foods, one can also find the mineral in herbs, all of which can boost the potentials of the pituitary gland.
Milk Thistle Is Beneficial for the Health of the Pituitary Gland. Unknown to many, this herb has been used in traditional medicine for hundreds of years. It was especially used to stimulate breast milk production in new mothers. More recent studies showed that this herb can increase the hormone levels produced by the pituitary gland with no observable detriments. It’s best recommended to take milk thistle through supplements and such are available in most drugstores.
Sagebrush Is Another Healthy Herb to Try. Another herb which contains different substances, all of which, have medicinal effects is sagebrush. A study indicated that the sagebrush can affect the endocrine system in many different ways. The herb can increase the oxytocin levels in one’s body and this will, consequently, benefit the endocrine system which, of course, includes the pituitary gland. So try to include this herb in the diet too.
Don’t Consume Too Much Sugar. Cutting off the sugar in our foods will definitely balance out the pituitary gland. It’s best to get sugars from natural sources like fresh produce rather than from processed foods. When buying food items, always read the labels and make sure there are no hidden sugars or unusual names such as corn fructose. The pituitary gland is charged with the regulation and production of HGH. Too many refined carbs and sugar in the blood will increase the levels of insulin which isn’t conducive to the production of HGH. Consequently, this may cause an inflammation of the nervous system. Some foods which can sound appealing and healthy, usually have hidden sugars in them. Watch out for them and these may include yogurts, granola bars, flavored drinks, and cereals. Look for healthier substitutes. Drink water with a slice of lemon and some mint instead of drinking too many flavored sodas.
But… It’s Not All About the Diet. A healthy pituitary gland won’t depend only upon one’s diet. Although it’s true that a healthy diet is essential, the body needs more than that to stay healthy. In addition to eating healthy, add to one’s lifestyle, regular exercises, and getting some sun. We know that most of the vitamin D in our bodies is produced by exposing ourselves to sunlight. And we have discussed earlier that we need enough vitamin D to make our pituitary function at maximum. Simple activities like taking a short walk after a meal or taking to dog for its regular toilet sessions are some exercises that can help improve the functioning of one’s pituitary gland.
Maintain a Healthy Body Weight. Too much extra luggage in the body isn’t healthy and can lead to many diseases. This can also throw-off the production of hormones by the pituitary gland, making it produce more hormones than is necessary like HGH or producing less for others. A person will need to lose weight through dieting to return the pituitary gland back into balance. This time, to make sure one will have the perfect diet, consult with a trained dietician.
Get the Recommended Sleeping Hours Each Night. As we’ve discussed earlier, the pituitary gland peaks in its hormone production at nighttime. It’s definitely important to get 8-hours of night sleep to give the pituitary the required time to do its job. A person also needs to avoid certain habits like drinking caffeine late in the day, staring at blue screens like phones before bedtime, and more. Adults on the average need at least 7-hours per night. Younger people require more. Enough sleep can also lower cortisol levels which can allow the pituitary gland to function more effectively.
Other Nutrients That the Pituitary Gland Needs to Stay Healthy
Sometimes, people refer to their pituitary glands as their body’s thermostat since it has control over all the other glands which secrete hormones. This master gland is able to monitor and even send the appropriate signals in order to regulate the hormone levels in the body. The pituitary gland also has control over functions like growth, thyroid activity, the production of urine, and even the functions of the other body’s organs. This means that the pituitary gland is especially important and people need to keep it healthy. Here are other foods and nutrients one can take to maintain the master gland’s health:
Beet Juice. The component which gives beets their dark crimson color also happens to contain boron. This is an element which can counteract the effects of excess calcium in the body. It’s also effective in flushing out metal compounds and fluoride. Aside from this, beet can also improve cellular health because it contains a lot of B vitamins.
Chlorella. With its cousins spirulina and wheatgrass, chlorella can help eliminate metal toxins in the body. It can also increase the levels of oxygen which, in turn, helps repair any damaged tissues. The oxygen boost provided by chlorella may also reduce the calcification of the pineal gland.
Cod Liver Oil. This type of oil contains essential vitamins and minerals which can help decalcify calcium deposits. Cod liver oil also contains retinoic acid in high concentrations which, according to studies, can increase the levels of androgen.
Oregano Oil. This type of oil has potent antioxidant properties which can help eliminate any harmful microbes and organisms before they even have a chance to attack vital parts of the body such as one’s pituitary gland. Also, the oil can serve as a defense against free radicals which are also harmful to the body. It’s especially important in men since free radicals tend to bind to free testosterone. When this happens, the free radicals make them ineffective.
Phosphatidylserine. Also known as PS, this is one of the most amazing natural hormonal regulator supplements available. PS helps with the function of the pituitary gland in terms of regulating the signals which produce cortisol. This, in turn, keeps the body’s cortisol levels in balance which naturally maintains the appropriate testosterone levels in men.
Other Vitamins. It’s essential to consume a lot of foods rich in vitamin D and vitamin E because these are very effective in terms of stimulating the pituitary gland. Vitamin D plays an important role in the different functions of the pituitary gland including cellular growth, gene expression, and even the gland’s ability to secrete hormones. On the other hand, vitamin E is a powerful antioxidant. This vitamin plays an important role in hormone production as well. Aside from this, it also helps protect the pituitary gland from free radical damage which may weaken the glands functions. One can acquire these vitamins either through the foods they eat or by taking the right supplements. However, it’s important to consult with a doctor first before starting to take any kind of supplements.
Iodine and Vitamin A. Finally, these two nutrients are also essential for the health of the pituitary gland. Remember that one of the most important functions of the pituitary gland is to control the thyroid gland, the hormone-secreting gland situated in a person’s throat. The master gland releases TSH to activate the activity of the thyroid gland which then boosts a person’s metabolism.
Iodine helps the thyroid gland respond appropriately to the signals which are sent by the pituitary gland. On the other hand, vitamin A has an impact on the pituitary gland’s ability to control the activity of the thyroid gland. Therefore, when a person has low levels of iodine and vitamin A, this will have a negative effect on the communication between the thyroid and pituitary glands. This will then result in a disruption of the normal functions of the master gland.
Stimulating the Pituitary Gland
Small as it may be, the pituitary gland is one of the most vital parts of the body because of its role of producing many hormones. A person will always feel more energized and better when this pea-sized friend is in tip-top condition. A person can visit the doctor to determine the condition of his pituitary. In case it needs a kick-start to function optimally, the doctor can always recommend a hormone therapy or a change in diet. Here are other ways to stimulate the gland:
Get Medical Attention. If a person feels that there’s something wrong with his pituitary gland, schedule an appointment with the doctor. The services of an endocrinologist may be needed. This is a doctor specializing in the endocrine system and such doctor will most probably recommend a blood test to determine how much hormones the gland is producing.
After the first tests, the doctor may also recommend some further and more detailed tests for the diagnosis like a magnetic resonance imaging scan or MRI. The pituitary gland may not be functioning properly because of another larger illness. This is always taken into account by the doctor during their initial examinations.
In some cases, Hormone Therapy Treatment may be needed. The hormones produced by the pituitary gland regulate the production of hormones in all the endocrine glands. Because of this function of the pituitary, the doctor may require some tests to determine which of these hormones have leveled off. From there, the doctor can make the required medication that could treat that specific hormonal imbalance. There are different medications available and they come in different forms.
A tumor may develop on or adjacent to a person’s pituitary gland. Several tests, like blood tests and scans, will be performed to determine and verify the diagnosis. At times, surgery may be required. The doctor may need the services of an endocrinologist and probably even an ophthalmologist to chart their surgery plan. A tiny incision is usually done in the nose to take out the tumor. Full recovery of the pituitary is expected after a successful surgery. Pituitary gland tumors are mostly not seen as life-threatening when given the proper treatment. However, the system can be disputed if the person applies pressure on his pituitary gland or if the gland starts emitting hormones by itself.
Radiotherapy may also be a treatment option if there is a tumor on a person’s pituitary gland. The idea for this treatment is to use radiation beams to destroy the tumor throughout the course of the treatment. After this treatment option, you may still undergo hormone replacement therapy. This option may be required to clean up any remains of a tumor after surgery or if surgery, for some reason, isn’t an option.
After the treatment, the person may require regular appointments for the purpose of monitoring. This is an insurance option to make sure that the tumor doesn’t recur or get worse. No matter what issue a person has with his pituitary gland or what treatment he has undergone, the doctor will recommend regular visits for the next couple of months as a part of post-diagnosis monitoring. Several tests may be conducted, like blood tests, x-rays, eye exams, and more. Consider this still a part of the treatment as it will significantly improve one’s chances of a successful treatment.
As much as possible, stay away from unproven medical treatments or suggestions. Don’t even consider it as an option to try some pseudo-science information when one is searching for different ways to change how his pituitary gland functions. In case one really is thinking seriously about such an option (hopefully not), the least he can do for himself is verify the information and make sure these are sourced from recognized and reliable medical studies and not on someone’s personal opinions. Let’s take, for instance, some reports that claim they’ve discovered methods on how to “decalcify” the pituitary gland, yet this has never been proven medically.
In most cases, it’s best to take no action whatsoever. Never fix something that is not broken. This is a common saying yet have a lot of truth in it. If the pituitary gland is healthy and produces just the precise amounts of hormones, is there really a valid reason to alter that? Before a person does anything drastic, talk to the doctor about it, no matter how small, before making any adjustments with the pituitary hormones.
Making Some Changes in the Diet. Try not to have big meals before bedtime. It’s during nighttime that the pituitary gland goes into high gear, releasing high amounts of hormones needed by the other glands to function properly. Heavy meals, especially the ones heavy on sugars and carbs will increase insulin levels in the blood and this isn’t conducive to the functioning of the pituitary gland. Light meals two hours before going to bed will keep insulin levels stable and will allow the pituitary to concentrate on performing its functions.
Try to get more of the vitamins A, D and E. Supplements can take care of these requirements while multivitamins can contain all. Just be sure to get the high-quality ones. Of course, one will still have to get these nutrients through foods rich in these vitamins incorporated into the daily regimen. Fatty fish, nuts, and veggies are food sources of these important vitamins. These vitamins can aid in stimulating the production of hormones by eliminating harmful chemicals and free radicals from the glands.
Try some healthy herbs. After all, they are a healthy fad these days. Remember Milk thistle and sagebrush? We have earlier discussed their benefits to the pituitary gland. Try mixing these herbs in tea and get healthy. Alfalfa and ginseng are new additions to the herb list that can improve the functioning of the pituitary gland. One can avail of such supplements in the form of pills too. Again, check with the doctor if one intends to use these, especially when taking other prescription medicines.
Making Some Changes in Lifestyle. Take it easy and try to relax. When a person is constantly stressed, the body reacts by producing more cortisol and this can disrupt the whole hormonal balance. This can damage the adrenal and pituitary glands which are both parts of the endocrine system. A person can de-stress himself by relaxing. Soak in a warm bath, read a good book, spend some time with family and friends, and more. Anything to keep the stress levels in check.
Exercise a minimum of three times each week. Exercise makes for a healthy heart and a healthy body. Physical activities will raise the heart rate and this will keep the body work more efficiently which will balance hormonal production. One doesn’t have to do heavy impact work for hours. Half an hour of low-impact exercises done three times each week can suffice.
Learn Yoga. Some yoga exercises can provide positive effects in improving the flow of blood to the pituitary gland. Google the poses and exercises for a more precise description and find more to add to the yoga list. But remember when one does these disciplines, some of them may be difficult to perform and can even be harmful to those who have experienced a cardiac event such as a stroke. It’s best to check with a doctor if one wants to pursue this course.
Does the Pituitary Gland Play a Role in Weight Loss?
All this information will make anyone aware of the basics of what they need to know about that pea-sized part of the endocrine system which is responsible for many functions in the body. For one, the pituitary gland regulates the activities of the thyroid gland and bodily growth of many kinds. The hormones produced by the thyroid gland are important for weight loss and any disruption in its function can also slow down weight loss.
An improper functioning of the pituitary can lead to a condition called hyperthyroidism. Those who suffer from this disorder will experience an over-stimulation of the pituitary gland where it secretes too many hormones. Hyperthyroidism can cause rapid weight loss, an irregular heartbeat, and nervousness. This is just one example of the improper functioning of the pituitary that can cause negative effects on the thyroid gland, another endocrine gland. Now imagine the kind of havoc to the other endocrine system glands if the pituitary gland starts to back-down.