Adrenal Gland Function/Anatomy

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 know 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 know 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.

Contact myself or any physician who has an understanding of salivary hormone testing.  There are more than one laboratory in the US that offers testing such as this,.

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 with one another. 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 cholesterol is used as the raw material to make the stress hormone cortisol instead of YOUR other hormones- such as thyroid hormones and sex hormones.

Adrenal Failure is measured in Stages I, II and III with three being the worst and most common.

There are a million products on the market to support adrenal health. Standard Process Food Supplements first introduced their product “Drenamin” back in 1941.

There are also a number of adatopgenic herbs such as various varieties of ginseng and licorice which have been made into tinctures since “the beginning of time” so to speak.

I use a variety of products which tend to support the adrenal glands as opposed to stimulating them.

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.

  • Meditation, Meditation, Meditation—20 minutes twice daily would be perfect
  • Exercise – make it a daily habit & something you enjoy. Cardiovascular health at least 30 minutes per day, resistance training. Just do it!
  • Calming Exercise – yoga, tai chi, meditation – they will extend your life
  • 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!
  • Balance perceived stress – change your response to stress…your reaction is your choice.  Change habitual reactions, especially with family.
  • Journaling 20 minutes a day decreases stress & inflammation.
  • Sleep at least 7 hours per day & be in bed by 10 p.m..

The above information is purely preliminary. Each individual should have a consultation regarding just this one issue (adrenal/stress) so as to determine the correct approach.

Preferably I would like to have professional documentation such as the saliva test for all 4 daytime cortisol levels.  However, with or without, I treat adrenal fatigue with an array of products depending on the patients specific needs–and again wanting to use supplementation  only temporarily;  using lifestyle changes for a long term guaranteed elimination of the problem

Dr Princetta is available for consultation regarding this issue. Call 619-231-1778; e-mail [email protected] or use the website

Poor Sleep = Alzheimer’s

Poor sleep associated with buildup of toxic Alzheimer’s protein

Restful sleep is required for us to store and save our memories. If you are not getting enough sleep each night, you may be at an increased risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease. This is something that I feel equally applies to many other chronic diseases as well.

I previously wrote about the connection between Sugar and Alzheimers with Alzheimers often referred to as Type 3 Diabetes.  I am worried about this for myself and my patients. This article is a continuation of additional information and insights to help us never to get Alzheimers /Dementia to begin with.

I have also mentioned using sleeping medications does not allow the brain to go into the correct and proper REM cycle and therefore you may in fact be sleeping but your brain is not regenerating and rebuilding as intended.

In a recent study published in Nature Neuroscience, researchers at University of California, Berkeley, found evidence that poor sleep, specifically a deficit of deep sleep, is associated with a buildup of the beta-amyloid protein. Excessive deposits of beta-amyloid are the primary suspects in the pathology of Alzheimer’s disease, as this toxic protein ends up attacking the brain’s long-term memory.

This correlation between sleep, beta-amyloid, memory, and Alzheimer’s disease has been growing stronger. Sleep is when our body repairs itself. Quality sleep prevents these toxic proteins from accumulating and destroying brain cells. A buildup of beta-amyloid protein has been found in Alzheimer’s patients as well as in patients with sleep disorders. A study from University of Rochester in 2013 found that the brain cells of mice shrunk during non-rapid-eye-movement (non-REM) sleep to free up space for the cerebrospinal fluid to wash out toxic metabolites such as beta-amyloid protein.

Overall, the results of the new study demonstrated that the more beta-amyloid you have in certain parts of your brain, the worse your memory. In addition, the less deep sleep you get, the less effective you are at clearing out beta-amyloid protein. Researchers do not know yet which of these two factors – the poor sleep or the build-up of beta-amyloid protein – begins the cycle that triggers this cascade.

This is a new pathway linking Alzheimer’s disease and memory loss, which is significant since we can do something about it, since poor sleep is treatable and can be improved by modifying sleep habits. It is important that you go to sleep around the same time every night. When the timing of your sleep is shifted even if the duration of sleep is the same, it’s not going to be as restorative. In addition, avoid watching TV or using your computer before bed. Computer screens (smartphones and laptops) emit light in the blue part of the spectrum. This doesn’t cause a problem during the daytime, but at night, this blue light limits the production of melatonin. As a result, it disturbs your sleep-wake cycle. There are free apps you can install on your computer if you absolutely need to be on your computer at night that adjusts colors in a way that reduces the stimulating effects of blue light at night.

Caffeine and other stimulants can also keep you up and interfere with sleep. It is best to avoid these four to six hours before bedtime. Finally, try to workout earlier in the day. Exercise increases cortisol and can make falling asleep very difficult.

If behavior and lifestyle modifications are not enough, there are nutrients and botanical agents that can significantly promote restful sleep. Melatonin is a hormone whose primary role is in controlling the body’s circadian rhythm. While adequate levels of melatonin are essential for quality sleep, its production declines significantly as we get older, often causing sleep difficulties associated with aging. Thus, supplementing with melatonin has been shown improve sleep quality. In addition, 5-HTP can further support endogenous melatonin production during the night to help with staying asleep.  Inositol is a member of the B vitamin family that promotes relaxation and helps maintain the proper metabolism of serotonin. In addition, L-theanine provides calming neurotransmitter production clinically proven to reduce stress and improve the quality of sleep.

Valerian root, German chamomile, passion flower, and lemon balm are all calming botanicals used for centuries to help with insomnia. They have all been shown to decrease the amount of time it takes to fall asleep as well as improve sleep quality.

However, although taking herbs to aid in sleep is far better than toxic pharmaceuticals, the bottom line is to find out why we are not sleeping well to begin with.

In addition to eliminating sugar and foods that break down into sugar, I highly recommend Meditation twice daily, Qigong and the powerful Mindfulness Technique.  Doing the above is almost a sure shot of getting a good nights sleep.  So take one of these up, practice makes perfect and before a year is out, if not sooner, you will be sleeping beautifully and as such re-setting our brains circuitry.