Your adrenal glands are two tiny pyramid-shaped pieces of tissue situated right above each kidney. Their job is to produce and release, when appropriate, certain regulatory hormones and chemical messengers.
Adrenaline is manufactured in the interior of the adrenal gland, called the adrenal medulla. Cortisol, the other chemical from the adrenal gland, is made in the exterior portion of the gland, called the adrenal cortex. The cortex also secretes androgens, estrogens, and progestins. Cortisol, commonly called hydrocortisone, is the most abundant — and one of the most important — of many adrenal cortex hormones. Cortisol helps you handle longer-term stress situations.
In addition to helping you handle stress, these two primary adrenal hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, along with others similarly produced, help control body fluid balance, blood pressure, blood sugar, and other central metabolic functions.
In the heightened nervous state of adrenal burnout, the body overproduces adrenaline, cortisol and other stress hormones. Constant stress and poor nutrition can weaken the adrenal glands. Eventually, this causes the adrenal glands, the front line in the stress reaction, to show wear and tear and become depleted. This frequently leads to impairment in the thyroid gland, which can cause a further decline in energy level and mood and is one of the reasons why many people have thyroid glands that don’t work well.
When stress continues over prolonged periods of time, the adrenal glands can deplete the body’s hormonal and energy reserves, and the glands may either shrink in size or hypertrophy (enlarge). The overproduction of adrenal hormones caused by prolonged stress can weaken the immune system and inhibit the production of white blood cells that protect the body against foreign invaders (in particular lymphocytes and lymph node function).
Adrenal dysfunction can disrupt the body’s blood sugar metabolism, causing weakness, fatigue, and a feeling of being run down. It can also interfere with normal sleep rhythms and produce a wakeful, unrelaxing sleep state, making a person feel worn out even after a full night’s sleep.
Common Causes of Adrenal Stress
• Fear / Worry /Anxiety
• Overwork/ physical or mental strain
• Excessive exercise
• Sleep deprivation
• Light-cycle disruption
• Going to sleep late
• Chronic inflammation
• Chronic infection
• Chronic pain
• Temperature extremes
• Toxic exposure
• Chronic illness
• Chronic-severe allergies
• Nutritional deficiencies
Testing for Adrenal Health
In order to determine the health of your adrenal glands you need to have a simple blood, urine, or saliva test such as the Adrenal Stress Index performed through your practitioner. Cortisol levels can be checked by blood in the morning or throughout the day by a saliva test. DHEA, and Epinephrine, are some other indicators of adrenal function.The information provided by testing can help to determine the most appropriate type of treatment.