Your Amazing Adrenal Glands
Your adrenal glands are two thumb-sized organs that sit above your kidneys and are part of the endocrine system. Also known as the suprarenal glands, they’re involved in producing over 50 hormones that drive almost every bodily function, many of which are essential for life.
Hormones affect every function, organ and tissue in the body directly or indirectly. They react to each other as well as respond to conditions in the body in an intricate and highly sensitive balancing act. The adrenal glands work closely with the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland in a system known as the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA axis).
Adrenal glands play a huge role in stress response. Your brain registers a threat — whether it’s emotional, mental or physical. The adrenal medulla releases adrenaline hormones to help you react to the threat (the fight-or-flight response), rushing blood to your brain, heart and muscles. The adrenal cortex then releases corticosteroids to dampen processes like digestion, immune system response and other functions not necessary for immediate survival.
Your adrenal glands are responsible for balancing hormones, such as:
Glucocorticoids – hormones that balance your body’s blood sugar, help with energy and food metabolism, help your body bust stress, and manage your immune response (e.g., cortisol).
Mineralocorticoids – hormones that maintain healthy blood pressure, manage your blood hydration level, and keep your blood healthy by keeping salt and water in balance (e.g., aldosterone).
Sex hormones – estrogen and testosterone.
Adrenaline – hormones that affect your heart health, make sure that all parts of the body are getting blood and convert glycogen into glucose in your liver.
What Causes Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue is a condition where your body and adrenal glands can’t keep up with the tremendous amount of daily stress many people experience. Sometimes misunderstood as an autoimmune disorder, adrenal fatigue can mimic some precursors to other common illnesses and disease.
Wellness doctors and practitioners believe that an episode of acute stress or prolonged, chronic stress can cause adrenal glands to become overloaded and ineffective. They believe that adrenal fatigue can be caused by:
- Stressful experiences like death of loved one, divorce or surgery
- Exposure to environmental toxins and pollution
- Prolonged stress due to financial hardship, bad relationships or work environment, and other conditions that entail feelings of helplessness
- Negative thinking and emotional trauma
- Lack of sleep
- Poor diet and lack of exercise
Also, according to the Mayo Clinic, severe adrenal fatigue symptoms may actually be Addison’s disease.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue Include:
- body aches
- trouble concentrating
- racing thoughts
- moodiness and irritability
- always tired
- feeling overwhelmed
- hormone imbalance
- cravings for sweet and salty foods
These symptoms can be indicative of a few different disorders and are often overlooked by doctors, but more and more people are starting to realize that a combination of these could indicate the onset of adrenal fatigue, also known as adrenal insufficiency.
And if you have adrenal fatigue, it can also be a major cause of excess fat storage and low energy levels. Luckily, you can heal adrenal fatigue with three simple steps: dieting, taking supplements and reducing stress.