The adrenal glands are two small organs located on top of each kidney that play a vital role in the body’s response to stress. They secrete hormones that help the body respond to internal and external stressors.
Unfortunately, too much stress can take a toll on your adrenal health, leading to fatigue, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, headaches, and more. The adrenal glands are responsible for secreting hormones that help the body adapt to stress. These hormones play an important role in maintaining our overall health and well-being.
Luckily, there are some simple steps you can take to improve your adrenal health and reduce symptoms related to stress. In this blog post, we will explore the roles of the adrenal glands, what happens when they become overworked or underactive, and how we can support them in order to maintain optimal health.
The Role of Adrenal Glands
The adrenal glands are small organs located on top of each kidney. They produce a variety of hormones that help regulate the body’s response to stress. When faced with a stressful situation, these hormones signal the body to respond by increasing blood sugar levels, heart rate, and respiration, as well as increasing blood flow to the muscles, lungs, and brain - commonly known as the “fight or flight” response.
The adrenals are also responsible for producing cortisol hormones, aldosterone, estrogen, testosterone, and many other hormones. These hormones help regulate metabolic, excretory, reproductive, mineral balancing, and immune defense functions.
The secretion of these stress-response hormones is one of the most important functions of the adrenals. These hormones help us adapt over the longer term to the stresses of life; they stimulate the conversion of protein energy so energy levels remain high even after glucose is used up in the fight or-fight reaction.
Other hormones help maintain elevated blood pressure and help deal with emotional shocks, infection, and high workloads. Weather changes, environmental chemicals. When your adrenal glands are under stress and on the verge of exhaustion they provide you with some very clear symptoms.
Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue
When our adrenal glands become overworked from ongoing chronic stressors such as work deadlines or family responsibilities, they can become tired and unable to keep up with demand.
This is referred to as “adrenal fatigue” and is characterized by feelings of exhaustion, difficulty getting out of bed in the morning, afternoon energy slumps, and difficulty concentrating. It can also lead to other health issues such as hormone imbalances and weakened immunity.
· You crave salty foods
· I you have insomnia in which you fall asleep, but wake up several hours later and can't go back to sleep
· You feel exhausted when you wake up in the morning
· Your fatigue is not improved with sleep
· You lack energy
· You feel like you are pushing yourself through the day
· You have no libido
· Little stressors make you feel anxious and angry
· You suffer from recurring infections
· You have chronic respiratory problems such as asthma and allergies
· You take longer than you should recover from sickness
· You have low blood pressure
· You feel faint when you stand up quickly from a sitting position
· You have low moods
· You lack interest in things that used to make you feel happy
· You need coffee or other stimulants to give you a boost of energy
· You have extreme hot flashes, night sweats, or PMS
· Your memory seems to be failing
· You feel like you have cotton in your head
· You are exhausted by walking up the stairs or doing simple tasks
· You feel like you are dragging yourself through the day, but wake up after dinner
· Your face and neck look suntanned, but you haven't been in the sun
The Stress Hormone Cortisol Consequences on Your Well Being
Cortisol, the Hallmark of Stress. The hormone cortisol is secreted by the adrenal glands in response to physical, psychological, or environmental stress, and is gaining attention. Excess or deficiency of this crucial hormone can cause a variety, of physical symptoms, which, if not treated, can lead to chronic disease or death.
Cortisol regulates hormones, glucose metabolism, and the immune system; it also regulates your body's use of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats. Your ability to adapt to stress depends upon the optimal functioning of your adrenal glands and the regulation of cortisol secretion. If you experience chronic stress, your cortisol levels will remain elevated.
Research now correlates chronically elevated cortisol levels with blood sugar problems, fat accumulation, the ability of fat cells to become resistant to fat loss, compromised immune function, infertility, exhaustion, chronic fatigue, bone loss, high triglyceride levels, and heart disease. Memory loss has also been associated with high cortisol levels.
As you can see, continual stress can indeed have a negative effect on many areas of your health. The extreme end of excessive secretion of cortisol results in Cushing's syndrome. Long-term elevations of cortisol can cause your adrenal glands to wear out, so they can no longer produce normal levels of cortisol. After this comes adrenal exhaustion, which contributes to conditions such as chronic fatigue syndrome or, in extreme cases, Addison's disease (in which the adrenals do not produce enough cortisol).
The adrenals secrete both male and female sex hormones--androgens and estrogens- and are the prime producers of estrogen and progesterone during the transitional years when the ovaries take a well-deserved rest. The adrenals are also the sole source of estrogen for men. In today's world, most women(and people in general) have some degree of adrenal compromise.
Women generally work full-time, raise children, and juggle other demands of daily life. Poor adrenal health directly affects a woman's ability to smoothly make the transition into menopause. Cortisol production has a natural rhythm. Your body produces more cortisol in the morning than in the evening, giving you the energy you need to begin your day.
The cortisol levels should drop by 90 percent in the evening as you leave the stresses of the day behind and start to unwind and relax. A recent study found that women who work outside the home and have family responsibilities tend to have elevated evening cortisol levels. Men, on the other hand, have lower cortisol levels in the evenings.
The difference may reflect the additional responsibilities women have after they get home from their day jobs (cooking dinner, laundry, and child caring). The study may explain why more women have difficulty sleeping and losing weight, particularly during the perimenopausal and menopausal years when the ovaries shut down and the adrenals become a major source of estrogen.
Elevated cortisol levels at night prevent sleep or cause very light sleep with frequent waking. Those with adrenal exhaustion tend to overeat in an attempt to bolster their energy levels, which results in weight gain. They often consume plenty of caffeinated beverages and sugar-laden foods in an attempt to get some quick energy.
Couple this with the fact that high cortisol levels make fat cells resistant to fat loss and promote the deposition of abdominal fat, and those with adrenal fatigue may feel like they are losing an impossible battle when it comes to weight loss.
Supporting Adrenal Health
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to support your adrenal health. Healthy lifestyle habits such as eating a balanced diet, avoiding processed foods and sugar, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep will go a long way in supporting your adrenals.
Additionally, incorporating supplements such as ashwagandha or apoptogenic herbs can also help reduce stress levels and improve adrenal function. Lastly, reducing stress through relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation will also be beneficial for your overall well-being.
Eat Healthy Foods
Eating healthy foods is an important part of maintaining optimal adrenal health. Eating a balanced diet filled with fresh fruits and vegetables will provide your body with the essential vitamins and minerals it needs to function properly.
Avoid processed foods as they tend to be loaded with unhealthy fats and sugars that can put additional strain on your adrenal glands. Additionally, make sure you’re eating regularly throughout the day; this will help keep your blood sugar levels stable which in turn helps keep your hormones balanced.
Get Enough Sleep
Getting enough sleep is another key component of maintaining good adrenal health. Aim for at least 7-8 hours per night; anything less than this can put a strain on your adrenals as they work harder than normal trying to keep up with the demands of the day without proper rest.
Also, try to create a consistent sleep schedule so that you’re going to bed around the same time every night; this will help regulate your body’s internal clock which makes it easier for you to get into a deep sleep faster when you hit the hay.
Practice Relaxation Techniques
Finally, practicing relaxation techniques such as meditation or yoga is also beneficial for improving adrenal health by counteracting all of the negative effects caused by too much stress or anxiety. Taking even just 10 minutes out of each day to focus on relaxing activities can have profound effects on both your physical and mental well-being over time. It may seem like an insignificant amount of time but trust us—it goes a long way!
Maintaining good adrenal health is essential for keeping your body functioning properly throughout life’s various ups and downs. Thankfully, there are some simple steps that anyone can take towards improving their overall well-being by reducing stress-related symptoms such as fatigue, mood swings, difficulty concentrating, headaches, etc.
Try incorporating more healthy foods into your diet; getting enough sleep each night; and practicing relaxation techniques like meditation or yoga in your daily routine—you won’t regret it!
With just these few simple steps, you can improve your overall adrenal health in no time!