The Coast News Group
Columns Lifestyles of the Fit and Healthy

Pituitary Gland: Talk about a Napoleon complex

Right at the base of the brain, behind the bridge of the nose, sits the throne of the pituitary gland. This Napoleonian, pea-sized, gland is dictator to several hormone regulations in our bodies. Together with its servant, the hypothalamus, the production and release of hormones are controlled. These chemicals and messengers in our body have the power to turn a child into an adult, influence our food and water intake, develop our sleep patterns, as well as signal our emotional wellbeing.

The hypothalamus resides right above the pituitary gland, sending signals and messages in the form of hormones via our blood and nerves. The environment of our bodies’ needs is regulated by this process. The anterior pituitary gland produces cortisol (stress hormone), the growth hormone (regulates our growth, metabolism, and body composition), the sex hormones called luteinising and follicle (in charge or egg and sperm maturity), and most notably stimulates the thyroid gland.

The posterior pituitary gland produces vasopressin which maintains our water and blood pressure. In women, it also produces labor contractions and milk for childrearing.

The study of endocrinology (hormones) is still in its infant stage, less than 100 years old. As a result, when things go wrong with the pituitary gland, there isn’t always an answer. Your body might produce too little, too much, or experience cellular changes of hormones.

Blood tests typically reveal any malfunctions, emphasizing the importance looking at our blood panels during yearly physicals. Other tests like a CT or MRI can detect any changes in size to the gland. Sometimes the result of the malfunction is actually a noncancerous tumor that has developed.

The symptoms of an imbalance would include weight gain, weight loss not on purpose, fatigue, increased or decreased heart rate, dry skin, and sensitivity to heat or cold, depression, anxiety, infertility, thinning of the hair, and/or sweating. We know when our body is not functioning like its normal self. Consulting a doctor is important and there are both natural and prescribed options to help.

The two most common pituitary disorders I work with are hypothyroidism and Cushing syndrome. People with hypothyroidism tend to become overweight or even obese due to low levels of the thyroid hormone that distorts the function of their metabolism. Cushing syndrome causes high levels of cortisol which increases appetite.

When proper levels of exercise and nutrition are met, yet the body still doesn’t respond, it is important to investigate those pesky hormones. From there, we do what we can given the body we have been gifted with.

The Lifestyle of the Fit & Healthy person knows they are in control of their choices, smiles in the face of adversity, and ventures upward towards to feeling their best.

Megan Johnson McCullough is an NASM Master Trainer and the owner of Every BODY’s Fit studio in Oceanside. She holds an M.A. in Physical Education & Health Science. Visit her website and read her weekly blog at