The Endocrine System’s King of the Hill

Bette Dowdell

Problems of the endocrine system are everywhere, often unacknowledged and untreated by most doctors. People talk freely about the thyroid, and they should; it’s estimated 40% of us have thyroid problems. Adrenal fatigue is in style–and uglier than massive shoulder pads ever were–so we’re familiar, at least a little, with the adrenal glands. And we know about the ovaries and testes, as well as the pancreas–at least with its problem child, diabetes.

We don’t know about the King of the Endocrine Hill, the pituitary, though. Doctors don’t check for it. Articles in popular magazines don’t talk about it. It’s just not on our radar, but it should be.

So let’s talk about the pituitary. A little tear-shaped gland, it hangs from the base of our brains not far behind the bridge of our nose. It’s called the master gland because, as I say, it’s the King of the Endocrine Hill.

It doesn’t take much to injure the pituitary. One study found that 68% of healthy people who suffered a concussion ended up with a damaged pituitary gland. Even a mild concussion. During a concussion, our brains bang around against our skulls, and the poor little pituitary can take a real hit.

And that’s trouble. The whole endocrine system suffers when the King is halfway off the throne and not really ruling the kingdom. Problems may arise quickly, or they may show up years later, but sooner or later, things start falling apart–the thyroid, adrenals, pancreas, etc.

You look fine. People think you are fine. But you aren’t fine.

I tell you all of this because to fix a problem, you have to know what it is. And I know you’ve been wondering why you feel like death struck by a brick.

Doctors have been taught not to take minor concussions seriously. They may not even tell you they suspect you have one.

If you think you may have suffered a concussion, you can find a good description of what a concussion feels like from the inside looking out at

Watch all the parts of the video–it takes about a half hour or so–and see if you identify with how he describes the concussion experience. If so, that may give you insight into your endocrine issues. Knowledge is power.

Having suffered a concussion in an auto accident, I identified with most of the video–all but the kind of hopeless feeling it gave me: It seemed to say you have no reason to hope for better days if you don’t heal quickly. I disagree.

Furthermore, I believe passivity loses most of its battles. So don’t even suggest that I should give up and spend the rest of my days doing a beached whale impression. Not ever. And I recommend you get your “OH, YEAH!” attitude on, too.

Information is power.