The two adrenal glands, which sit on top of the kidneys, play a strong role when it comes to energy levels and stress. You must admit — energy and stress considerably affect our daily lives!
What are the Adrenal Glands?
The adrenal glands are part of the endocrine system, a messaging structure in our bodies that communicate through hormones. When an event like waking up, a bear sighting, exercise, a tight deadline or a nagging neighbor take place, the pituitary gland in the brain sends a message to the adrenal glands, which squeeze out hormones like cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline (and a few more that we aren’t focusing on here!). These hormones help make us feel “high-alert” and ready to take action.
There is an outer part of the adrenal glands, called the adrenal cortex, and then a inner part, called the medulla. Each of these parts are responsible for pumping out different hormones into the bloodstream.
What Do these Hormones Do?
Cortisol – cortisol is a glucocorticoid, which are hormones that control glucose (sugar) production in the liver. It regulates energy and the amount of protein, fat and carbohydrates your body needs. When in a stressful situation, cortisol flows through your body, restricting blood streams reducing inflammation in the body.
Adrenaline and noradrenaline – you probably have heard of “adrenaline junkies” who adore leaping out of planes and spiraling down toward the earth with a bungee jump attached to their back, right? Adrenaline excretes during a “fight or flight” situation, and sends more oxygenated blood to the heart and lungs. It subdues hunger, and any other feelings, really, as it encourages your vital organs to keep working.Your body temporarily won’t feel much pain, the respiratory system is on overdrive, and the increased oxygen levels force the body into “overdrive”, so you feel like a superhuman!
Basically, all of the hormones secreted by the adrenal glands vamp up your awareness, bring more oxygen to your muscles, increase your heart rate, and help your body either gain the energy and strength to get out of bed, run from a lion, or breathe through a public presentation.
Overactive adrenal glands
Take a look around – do you see people striving to climb up the corporate ladder? Honking their way through traffic? Giving others the stink eye when they’re taking too long to check out?
Sometimes, it seems like we are ALWAYS stressed and never take time to decompress.
When we are stressed, the adrenal glands work to hype us up and get us ready for action. That’s good~ they’re working! But, when those cortisol levels never lower, a few potential problems may arise:
- Increased blood-sugar levels
- More visceral fat
- Hard time falling asleep
- The cells in our body cry for food and think we’re hungry
- Craving for food high in fat and calories
- Cortisol decreases inflammation which is good to an extent, but over time that also lowers the potential of our immune system
- Digestion is put on the backburner. Ulcers may arise as well as gastrointestinal disorders
- Arteries constrict, which over time equates to the perfect recipe for a heart attack
- Disturbance in sex hormones results in erectile dysfunction and menstrual irregulation
Under-active adrenal glands
A term coined by a naturopath doctor (not proven by medical doctors yet) is “adrenal fatigue”. This occurs when your adrenal glands are producing cortisol at a consistent rate for so long, they become tired of doing so and stop. You become tired, and unable to gain the energy that you normally do when your adrenal glands work properly.
Adrenal fatigue is not accepted by many doctors because it may still look like you have a “normal” amount of cortisol pumping through your blood. However, feeling crappy, tired, and depressed is not the way anyone wants to live their life! Here are a few more symptoms of adrenal fatigue:
- Weight gain
- Autoimmune diseases
- Body aches
- Hair loss
- Mood swings, depression, afternoon tiredness
- Trouble falling asleep and waking up early
Overall, we need our adrenal glands to work properly in order to stay alive and move through our daily lives in peace. If you want to help balance your adrenal glands, check out YouVeda’s “My Healthy Mood” formulas to regulate your endocrine system, stabilize your mood, and decrease stress. Who couldn’t use that?