The Adrenal Glands are small, triangular glands located on top of both kidneys. They are made of two parts: the outer region is called the cortex and the inner region is called the medulla.
What Do the Adrenals Do?
The function of these small glands is performed by a wide variety of hormones released by these structures and is mostly directed at the physiological response to stress. The medulla is responsible for producing epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline), which control the body’s reaction to stress and affect blood pressure, heart rate and sweating. The adrenal cortex produces hormones such as cortisone and aldosterone which are necessary for fluid and electrolyte (salt) balance in the body as well as regulating the use of dietary protein, fats and carbohydrates and controlling inflammation.fatigue and exhaustion.
The adrenals also take on the role of producing estrogen after the ovaries cease to. It's important to make sure these glands is tuned up and functioning properly before menopause.
Major disruption and illness can occur if the adrenal glands do not function properly. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid hormone that plays a vital role in the body. It mobilizes nutrients, regulates the metabolism of proteins, fats and carbohydrates, stimulates the liver to raise blood sugar levels, acts as an anti-inflammatory agent and helps the body respond to stress.
When the adrenal glands are not functionining optimally, a person may develop a condition known as adrenal fatigue, or adrenal exhaustion. This often develops after periods of intense or lengthy physical or emotional stress, when over-stimulation of the glands leave them unable to meet the body's needs.
Symptoms of Adrenal Exhaustion
Easily overwhelmed by stress.
Symptoms of hypoglycemia - low blood sugar.
Shortness of breath, feels like you can't get a full breath.
Feeling rundown most the time.
Craving salty and sweet foods.
Most energetic in the evenings.
Low stamina levels.
Slow to recover from exercise.
Extreme sensitivity to cold/heat
Lowered immune function.
Increased environmental or food allergies.
Premenstrual Syndrome or PMS
Consistent low blood pressure.
Other Adrenal Problems
As with all structures of the body, the adrenal glands are subject to a range of disorders and diseases.
Major health problems can occur when the adrenal glands produce too many or too few hormones. Two disorders caused by impaired functioning of these glands are Addison's disease and Cushing's syndrome. Addison's disease is caused by damage or disease to the adrenal glands, resulting in a deficiency of the hormone cortisol. The overproduction of cortisol by the adrenal glands leads to .
What are the symptoms of adrenal disease?
Adrenal disease may often go unnoticed until far advanced. When symptoms do appear they are often vague and may include:
Loss of Energy.
Decreased immune system with recurrent illness.
Nausea and vomiting.
Loss of appetite.
Dizziness on standing up.
Anxiety and depression.
Decreased tolerance to cold.
Increased pigmentation of skin.
The Thyroid Connection
Cortisol also plays an important role in thyroid function. Namely, it helps cell receptors receive thyroid hormones from the blood to the cells. On the other side of the coin, low cortisol can result in high amounts of thyroid hormones to build in the blood, and not absorb properly. This can cause anxiety or nervousness, light-headedness, shakiness, dizziness, racing heart, sudden weakness, nausea, etc. Low cortisol can also keep you hypothyroid with hypo symptoms.
If you are on thyroid medication and your tests now show "normal", yet you continue to have hypothyroid symptoms, it is strongly advised that you get your adrenal function tested.
How is adrenal disease diagnosed?
Adrenal disease is most commonly diagnosed based on laboratory tests which measure the levels of adrenal hormones (Specifically cortisol) in the blood.
Accessing Your Adrenal Function:
1) Do you have a hard time falling asleep at night?
2) Do you wake up frequently during the night?
3) Do you have a hard time waking up in the morning early, or feeling refreshed?
4) Do bright lights bother you more than they should?
5) Do you startle easily due to noise?
6) When standing from sitting or from lying down, do you feel lightheaded or dizzy?
7) Do you take things too seriously, and are easily defensive?
8) Do you feel you don’t cope well with certain people or events in your life?
If you answered yes to some or all of the above you may want to try the flollowing.
Chart Your Temperature
You can determine adrenal condition (and thyroid function) by charting your temperature several times daily - a technique pioneered by Dr. Rind.
Take your temp 3 times a day, starting three hours after you wake up, and every three hours after that, to equal three readings. Then average them for that day.
Do this for AT LEAST 5 days.
If your averaged temp is fluctuating from day to day more than .2, you very likely need adrenal support.
If it is fluctuating and overall low, you may need more adrenal support and thyroid.
If it is fluctuating but averaging 98.6, you may just need adrenal support.
Order Adrenal Tests
By far, the most accurate way to access your adrenal function is to use the 24 hour saliva testing method which tests your cortisol levels at four different times of day and allows you to view your daily cyclic adrenal function.
You can order this test yourself from CanaryClub.org
How is adrenal disease usually treated?
If you confirm that you have low cortisol production, it may be necessary to supplement with physiological doses of cortisol. For a comprehensive description of getting started on cortisol, see here.
Can natural remedies help?
Holistic and natural remedies can be highly effective when used in combination with other treatments. These remedies manage to address the symptoms of the adrenal gland health disorder as well as the individual’s overall health and well being.
Herbal and homeopathic remedies are gentle, yet effective without the harmful side effects of conventional medicine. A combination of herbs such as Borago officinalis (Borage), Eleutherococcus senticosis (Siberian Ginseng) and Astragalus membranaceous (Huang Qi) can be used to support the functioning of the adrenal glands and help to assist the body to fight the stress of modern day living.
Consult a homeopath or naturopath for a remedy specific to your needs.
As adrenal damage and adrenal fatigue are so often caused by a stressful and unhealthy lifestyle, it is logical that this situation can be best treated and improved with a holistic and natural approach. One’s overall health, as well as the well-being and optimum functioning of the adrenal glands, should be addressed.
Certain herbal ingredients such as licorice are well-known for their tonic effect on the adrenal glands and improving ability to cope with stress. Relaxation methods and reducing stress in ones daily life, as well as eating a healthy, balanced diet and exercising regularly can all be of great benefit to adrenal disorders.
Borage is an herb with a variety of uses, including significant benefits on the health of the adrenal glands.
Eleuthro acts as an overall systemic supporter. It can combat stress and is a supportive tonic for healthy adrenal function.
Ashwaganda be a a can be a great modulator for adrenal function.
It seems that some people respond beautifully to adrenal formulas which can help stave off a downhill slide in the hormonal cascade. Others will need to investigate physiological doses of bioidentical cortisol.