Stress And The Adrenals

The Endocrine SystemBy Susan Brown

The endocrine system is a complex network of glands and organs that comprise one of the body’s main communication systems.  This network produces, stores and secretes different types of hormones directly into the bloodstream.  These hormones, or chemical mediators,  travel to specific target areas like organs, tissues or cells and produce a response.  Hormones regulate many bodily functions such as metabolism, growth and development, sleep, appetite, energy levels, reproduction and immunity. 

The adrenals are a pair of glands located on top of the kidneys.  These powerful little glands function as a two part system that perform very different tasks.  The outer layer, or cortex, manufactures and secretes the corticosteroid hormones cortisone and cortisol, aldosterone, and androgen hormones.  Together, these hormones help regulate metabolism, suppress inflammatory reactions, maintain blood volume and blood pressure by regulating sodium levels,  and support reproductive hormones.  The inner layer of the adrenal gland,  the medulla, secretes epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine which aid in coping with physical and mental stress.  These hormones aid the body’s stress response by increasing the heart rate, regulating the heart muscle contraction, facilitating blood flow to the heart and the brain, and increasing blood pressure.  

In short, the adrenals support life and optimal health.  Cortisol, with anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant properties, assists in minimizing swelling and inflammation in conditions ranging from allergies to autoimmune disorders.  Your likelihood of developing certain diseases and your response to chronic illness is influenced by how well your adrenals function. 

The adrenals work to enable your body to deal with stress from any possible source and determine your body’s response to every change in your environment, both internally and externally.   It’s their job to keep stress reactions in an appropriate and nondestructive balance.  Just as it is vital for the adrenals to secrete cortisol in response to stress, it is equally important that bodily functions and cortisol levels return to normal after a stressful event.  Unfortunately, in today’s highly stressful society, the stress response is triggered so often that the body is not always able to return to normal levels.  Chronic stress will inevitably cause the adrenal glands to struggle. The consequence of too much or too little circulating cortisol can cause the adrenals to become chronically fatigued and lead to adrenal gland disorders.

Cushing’s syndrome is a rare hormonal disorder caused by higher and prolonged levels of circulating cortisol or extensive use of cortisone therapy for nonendocrine diseases such as asthma, lupus or arthritis.  Depending upon an individual’s specific cause of cortisol excess, treatments may include surgery, the use of cortisol inhibiting drugs or reduction of glucocorticoid hormone medication.  Some of the symptoms of Cushing’s syndrome include:

  • Upper body obesity
  • Thin arms and legs
  • Severe fatigue and muscle weakness
  • High blood pressure
  • Elevated blood glucose levels
  • Fragile, easily bruised skin
  • Increased susceptibility to illness

Addison’s disease occurs with the gradual destruction of the adrenal cortex and the insufficient production of cortisol.  Treatment for Addison’s disease involves lifetime synthetic cortisol replacement therapy which will normally control the symptoms of the disease.  Characteristics of Addison’s disease are:

  • Chronic, worsening fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Weight and appetite loss
  • Intestinal upset
  • Low blood pressure
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Low blood sugar

Adrenal fatigue syndrome results when the adrenals function below necessary levels.  It is most often a result of intense prolonged stress but can also follow acute or chronic respiratory infections such as pneumonia or influenza.  People who experience adrenal fatigue have a general sense of exhaustion that is not relieved by sleep.  The body does its best to compensate for under-functioning adrenals.  However, when your adrenals function poorly, body functions and organs are greatly affected.  Changes can occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular systems when homeostasis is not maintained.

Even the healthiest person can experience adrenal fatigue at some point during their lifetime.  A chronic illness, a life crisis, continuing stressful situations, too much pressure, poor nutrition, or too little sleep can all create susceptibility to adrenal fatigue.  You may be experiencing adrenal fatigue if you regularly notice one or more of the following symptoms:

  1. You feel tired for no apparent reason.
  2. You have trouble getting up in the morning even when you go to bed at a reasonable time. 
  3. You feel rundown or overwhelmed.
  4. You have difficulty bouncing back after an illness or stressful event.
  5. You crave salty and sweet snacks.
  6. You have more energy in the evening than you do during the daytime.

People who are experiencing adrenal fatigue can expect to feel better again.  Stress reduction, improved sleep patterns and a healthy lifestyle will help to keep your adrenals functioning optimally.  If your adrenals are exhausted due to an extended stress situation, it’s likely you need to take better care of yourself in order to maintain your health.  As a general rule, the better your overall health, the easier it is to handle stress.

Dr. James Wilson, a well respected expert in nutrition and alternative healthcare, coined the term  “adrenal fatigue” to identify stress related  below optimal adrenal function, and to distinguish the condition from Addison’s disease.  Author of the book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, Dr. Wilson began formulating unique dietary supplements based on decades of careful research and the belief in the healing powers of the human body.  These specifically formulated supplements are designed to effectively target imbalances brought about by stress, inadequate nutrition, poor digestion, and diminished immune and endocrine function.  His philosophy behind every formula is to deliver effective and reliable support to the precise areas the body needs to create optimum health and vitality.

Adrenal C Formula by Dr. Wilson’s Original Formulations contains a vitamin C complex designed to aid in stress recovery and to support adrenal function during stress and/or adrenal fatigue.

Super Adrenal Stress Formula by Dr. Wilson’s Original Formulations with vitamins, minerals and nutrients designed to support adrenal function, neutralize stress and normalize adrenal hormones. 

Adrenal Rebuilder by Dr. Wilson’s Original Formulations is a hormone free multi-glandular formula designed to support and rebuild adrenal glands and restore adrenal function.  On Sale!

Adaptocrine (K-2) by Apex Energetics has a normalizing impact on the hypothalamus-adrenal-pituitary axis when under stress. There are indications that this compound is useful for both hyper and hypo function of the adrenals.

Adren-All by Ortho Molecular provides the vitamins and adaptagenic herbs necessary to support the health of the adrenals. 

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