Academic journal article Alcohol Research: Current Reviews

Pathophysiology of the Effects of Alcohol Abuse on the Endocrine System

Academic journal article Alcohol Research: Current Reviews

Pathophysiology of the Effects of Alcohol Abuse on the Endocrine System

Article excerpt

Alcohol can permeate virtually every organ and tissue in the body, resulting in tissue injury and organ dysfunction. Considerable evidence indicates that alcohol abuse results in clinical abnormalities of one of the body's most important systems, the endocrine system. This system ensures proper communication between various organs, also interfacing with the immune and nervous systems, and is essential for maintaining a constant internal environment. The endocrine system includes the hypothalamic--pituitary--adrenal axis, the hypothalamic--pituitary--gonadal axis, the hypothalamic--pituitary--thyroid axis, the hypothalamic--pituitary--growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 axis, and the hypothalamic--posterior pituitary axis, as well as other sources of hormones, such as the endocrine pancreas and endocrine adipose tissue. Alcohol abuse disrupts all of these systems and causes hormonal disturbances that may result in various disorders, such as stress intolerance, reproductive dysfunction, thyroid problems, immune abnormalities, and psychological and behavioral disorders. Studies in both humans and animal models have helped shed light on alcohol's effects on various components of the endocrine system and their consequences.

Key words: Alcohol consumption; alcohol use, abuse, and dependence; harmful effects of alcohol; pathophysiology; endocrine system; hypothalamus; pituitary gland; hormones; hormonal disturbances; endocrine pancreas; endocrine adipose tissue; immune system; humans; animal models

Alcohol abuse can result in clinical abnormalities of one of the body's most important systems, the endocrine system. Together with the nervous system, the endocrine system is essential for controlling the flow of information between the different organs and cells of the body. The nervous system is responsible for rapid transmission of information between different body regions, whereas the endocrine system, which is composed of a complex system of glands that produce and secrete hormones directly into the blood circulation, has longer-lasting actions. Together, the nervous system and the endocrine system ensure proper communication between various organs of the body to maintain a constant internal environment, also called homeostasis. Almost every organ and cell in the body is affected by the endocrine system. Its hormones control metabolism and energy levels, electrolyte balance, growth and development, and reproduction. The endocrine system also is essential in enabling the body to respond to, and appropriately cope with, changes in the internal or external environments (e.g., changes in the body's temperature or in the electrolyte composition of the body's fluids) as well as to respond to stress and injury. Both acute and chronic exposure to alcohol may have differential direct and indirect effects on endocrine functions. Alcohol intoxication induces hormonal disturbances that can disrupt the body's ability to maintain homeostasis and eventually can result in various disorders, such as cardiovascular diseases, reproductive deficits, immune dysfunction, certain cancers, bone disease, and psychological and behavioral disorders. Alcohol use has been shown to affect many hormone systems, including the hypothalamic--pituitary--adrenal (HPA) axis, the hypothalamic--pituitary--gonadal (HPG) axis, the hypothalamic--pituitary--thyroid (HPT) axis, the hypothalamic-pituitary--growth hormone/insulin-like growth factor-1 (GH/IGF-1) axis, and the hypothalamic--posterior pituitary (HPP) axis. After a brief overview of the hormones of the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, this article discusses the adverse effects of both acute and chronic alcohol exposure on the different components of these hormone systems based on recent findings from human and animal studies. In addition, alcohol influences the release and actions of the pituitary hormone prolactin (outlined in the sidebar "Alcohol and Prolactin") as well as of hormones produced and released in other tissues, such as the endocrine pancreas and the adipose tissue (reviewed in the sidebar "Alcohol and Other Endocrine Tissues"). …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.