The Adrenals and Hormones
The adrenals are involved in manufacturing numerous hormones; blood sugar regulation; the regulation of the body’s minerals; producing and maintaining the body’s energy levels in conjunction with the thyroid; and producing stress-monitoring hormones.
The adrenals, the body’s shock absorbers, are the core of the endocrine stress response system. Two of their most important hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are responsible for the fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline deals primarily with short-term stress while cortisol is produced as a result of both acute and long-term stress.
Prolonged stress, whether as a result of emotional, environmental or physical causes, is disastrous for the adrenals. Initially, it results in chronically elevated cortisol levels, resulting in weight gain (especially around the midsection), blood sugar imbalances, thinning skin, muscle wasting, memory loss, high blood pressure, dizziness, hot flashes, night sweats, excessive facial hair, and other masculizing tendencies.
Overworked adrenals eventually crash, leading to adrenal exhaustion, where the body is unable to maintain adequate adrenal hormone production. Symptoms of overtaxed adrenals include extreme fatigue (Chronic Fatigue Syndrome), irritability, inability to concentrate, frustration, insomnia, addictions to either sweet or salty foods, allergies, nervousness, depression, anxiety, PMS, sensitivity to cold, diabetes and headaches. Chronic low blood pressure can be a key symptom of adrenal exhaustion.
Since the adrenals contribute to about 35 percent of premenopausal female hormones and almost 50 percent of postmenopausal hormones, compromised adrenal function profoundly affects hormonal balance.
Progesterone is the primary raw material for producing cortisol. When the glands are in overdrive, the body will divert progesterone to the adrenals to support cortisol production. With reduced progesterone, the body may experience estrogen dominance, i.e. PMS, hot flashes, night sweats, migraines, fibroids, heavy bleeding, breast tenderness, weight gain, etc.
Excessive cortisol also blocks progesterone receptors, further contributing to low progesterone. These two imbalances are the primary reasons why adrenal exhaustion leads to estrogen dominance.
Restoring adrenal function is a pre-requisite for hormonal balance. Nutrients that have special importance to the adrenals are the B vitamins (especially B5), vitamin C, proteins, magnesium, manganese, zinc, potassium, plant enzymes, adaptagenic herbs (i.e. Ashwaganda, Rhodiola Rosea, Eleuthero, American Ginseng Schisandra, Astragalus), adrenal extracts and the amino acids tyrosine and phenylalanine.
Rest is mandatory for rebuilding the adrenals.
Individuals who suspect adrenal exhaustion can determine whether the body is producing healthy levels of adrenal hormones through proper testing. Cortisol levels can be measured with a saliva test that collects at least four samples over 24 hours. Unfortunately, medical doctors rarely check for adrenal issues nor make the connection that adrenal dysfunction is the underlying issue behind a majority of hormonal problems and other more chronic health issues.
If you are interested in getting your cortisol levels checked with a saliva test, please call or email me arrange for a test kit to be sent to you. The test is done at home and then sent to the lab.