Adrenal Gland Function/Anatomy
The adrenal glands also known as the suprarenal glands, are endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They are chiefly responsible for releasing hormones in conjunction with stress, mainly cortisol, epinephrine and norepinephrine. The latter two are known as catecholamines. The adrenal glands effect kidney function by secreting a hormone known as Angiotensin II which is involved in regulating plasma osmosis. There is a 50 fold increase in kidney failure and this increase may be due to the impact of stress on the adrenal glands and its subsequent effect on kidney function.
The adrenal glands are divided by two distinct anatomies. The first being the outside core known as the cortex which is responsible for producing cortisol, aldosterone and androgens. The inner center known as the medulla produces epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Corticosteroid hormones are synthesized from cholesterol and include cortisol, corticosterone and androgens such as testosterone and aldosterone. Unlike the medulla which has direct nerve innervation, the cortex is regulated by neuroendocrine hormones secreted by the pituitary gland and the hypothalamus.
The medulla or inner core of the adrenal gland is under direct supervision of the Sympathetic Nervous System through “circuitry” extending from Thoracic 5 through Thoracic 11. As mentioned above, the medulla produces both epinephrine and norepinephrine commonly known as noradrenaline. These are water soluble hormones derived from the amino acid tyrosine and are the major contributor to what is known as the fight-or-flight response.
The adrenal glands and the thyroid gland are the organs that have the greatest blood supply per gram of tissue. Up to 60 arterioles may enter each adrenal gland. This may be one of the reasons lung cancer commonly metastasizes to the adrenals.
Although all of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands are vital for our existence, in this piece, I will focus on Cortisol known in medical circles as “the death hormone”
Cortisol levels are most accurately measured using a saliva test requiring an early morning reading, a mid morning reading, and early afternoon reading and a mid-afternoon reading. The measurements should be highest in the morning and gradually decrease throughout the day.
Cortisol can also be measured by blood tests but the results do not seem to be as accurate as saliva testing.
The Cortisol Melatonin Circadian Coordination Rhythm is a phenomenon where the cortisol levels drop as the day progresses and the melatonin levels increase. Melatonin is responsible for naturally lowering cortisol levels.
Problems with the above cycle create problems within the Hippocampus portion of the brain and it is in the Hippocampus where Alzheimer’s and Dementia first appear.
Cortisol also plays a role in heart disease and blood sugar regulation.
Normal Cortisol levels are necessary to regulate the immune system, glucose and lipid (fat) metabolism and maintain cardiac output by increasing vascular tone and decreasing vascular permeability.
Abnormal cortisol levels are associated with hypertension, increased heart rate and increased levels of total and low density lipoproteins, cholesterol and fasting insulin and glucose levels.
Cortisol increases glucose levels and as such is an important factor in the development of Type II diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus). A study done in New York showed 1 in 7 New Yorkers will develop Type II diabetes. This condition which was once a minor population issue has now gone pandemic.
Through saliva testing, what is seen more often than not is low cortisol as opposed to high. This is known as “flat-lining” and it is directly associated with “burn out” caused by years of unyielding stress.
Since cortisol is produced by the cortex of the adrenal glands and since the cortex of the adrenal gland operates from transmitter signals originating in the Pituitary-Hypothalamus Axis. This axis also produces thyroid stimulating hormone known as TSH and this is why many believe the adrenal glands and the thyroid somehow work hand in hand. Cortisol is known to inhibit T4 hormone to T3 and these two hormones along with TSH are major factors in thyroid health and function.
“The Pregnenolone Steal”
This is the phenomena where the super hormone Pregnenolone which is manufactured from cholesterolis used as the raw material to make the stress hormone cortisol instead of YOUR other hormones- such as thyroid hormones and sex hormones. according to the chart below, high stress causes Pregnenolone to go entirely to the left side at the expense of the right side.
Adrenal Failure is measured in Stages I, II and III with three being the worst and most common.
There are numerous products on the market to support adrenal health. Standard Process Food Supplements first introduced their product “Drenamin” back in 1935.
In my practice and because no two people are alike, I use a variety of products all of which tend tosupport the adrenal glands as opposed to stimulating them. One of the is Support Adrenal pictured at the top of this article.
There are also a number of adatopgenic herbs such as ginseng and licorice which have been made into tinctures since “the beginning of time” so to speak.
But one should use supplementation for a limited time only to allow themselves to get from point A to point B. The real key to healing the adrenal glands takes much more than “popping a pill”. What follows are some way to manage stress.
1. Meditation, Meditation, Meditation—20 minutes twice daily would be perfect
2. Exercise – make it a daily habit & something you enjoy. Cardiovascular health at least 30 minutes per day, resistance training. Just do it!
3. Calming Exercise – yoga, tai chi, meditation – they will extend your life
4. Nutrition: Anti-inflammatory diet. Better eating habits. No coffee, sugar, soda, or junk. Don’t eat out of a bag, box, can, & THE SAME GOES FOR YOUR KIDS!
5. Balance perceived stress – change your response to stress…your reaction is your choice. Change habitual reactions, especially with family.
6. Journaling 20 minutes a day decreases stress & inflammation.
7. Sleep at least 7 hours per day & be in bed by 10 p.m.
Below is a link to two different E-Books. I believe you will learn a great deal from the read.
The first is about the Adrenal Hormones, Cortisol and Thyroid connections
The second E-Book is about Testosterone
Please take the time to read this and if you have any questions, I will be happy to answer them for you.