Marla Ahlgrimm: Factors Impacting Endocrine Health

Marla AhlgrimmEveryone undergoes physical changes that affect their endocrine system, says hormone expert and retired pharmacist Marla Ahlgrimm. Some of the factors that play a part in endocrine health include genetics, stress, and aging.


The endocrine system can be altered before birth by genes. A “normal” human body contains 23 complete pairs of chromosomes – packets of genetic information contained in genes. However, according to Marla Ahlgrimm, sometimes chromosomes are damaged, incomplete, or missing altogether. Individuals with Turner syndrome may be missing one X chromosome, which can cause problems with ovarian function. Infants born with Prader-Willi syndrome have a deficit in chromosome 15, which can severely affect growth and metabolism and delay the onset of puberty.


Stress can also alter the way the endocrine system functions, says Marla Ahlgrimm. This is true of both physical and mental stressors. Physical stressors, however, are the most important where endocrine health is concerned. The adrenal gland must produce cortisol in order for the body to cope with physical stress. If this does not happen, it can trigger a number of life-threatening issues.


The endocrine system naturally changes over time. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that sometimes changes occur due to cellular damage related to the aging process. These changes can alter endocrine functions including hormone production and secretion, the menstrual cycle, and hormone metabolism. Age is thought to play a role in the development of type II diabetes and decreased growth hormone levels that affect heart and muscle function.

Environmental factors

The endocrine system may also be disrupted by factors directly relating to a person’s environment. Endocrine disrupting chemicals, or EDCs, are the most common environmental factors affecting the body’s hormone production. Marla Ahlgrimm explains that EDCs can disrupt sexual development, decrease fertility, reduce immune response, lead to birth defects, and induce neurological and behavioral changes.

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