Weighing in at less than an ounce, the walnut-sized adrenal glands are miniature miracles for our livelihood. They will fight tooth and nail to get the body what it needs, but the moment they’re feeling overworked and underpaid, they will just as easily orchestrate a strike.
Situated atop each kidney, the pyramid-shaped glands divide duties between its inner and outer locations:
- The Cortex. This outer location produces essential hormones such as cortisol (stress) and aldosterone (blood pressure).
- The Medulla. Inside, the gland produces less-essentials like adrenaline (think “fight or flight”).
It’s common to come in and out of adrenal fatigue over the course of your lifetime. But significant periods of this state can wreak havoc on your entire system. Walking arm-in-arm with stress, adrenal fatigue occurs when the glands are worn out, low-functioning, and fail to maintain homeostasis.
The Break Down
Prolonged stress—may be caused by family dynamics, the death of a loved one, or a stressful job—kicks the adrenals into overdrive. As a result, it’s forced to thanklessly produce more and more cortisol to keep up with these added stressors.
Extreme stress can also have internal causes, such as poor diet, food intolerances, and bad sleep schedules. These are equally detrimental. No matter the stressor, the body signals the adrenals to kick-up production and manage the problem.
As the adrenals approach their limit, they counteract by making strictly necessary hormones—shifting their focus from those less essential. Hello, slow-motion mornings and mid-afternoon crashes.
Adrenal Fatigue, HPA Axis, and The Thyroid
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is an intricate connection between the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. In addition to stress management, these glands work together to regulate temperature, digestion, immune system, libido, mood, and energy.
Stressed adrenals greatly hinder hypothalamic and pituitary functions. To take this precarious game of Jenga a step further, the HPA directs thyroid hormone production, therefore stifling thyroid function as well.
Feeling Adrenal Fatigued?
If you think your adrenal glands might be downshifting, some diet do’s and don’ts are proven to boost their function.
- Soak up the Vitamin C. The largest concentration of Vitamin C is stored in our adrenal glands, and is used to produce all adrenal hormones.
- Pile on the Protein. This is a must. When the adrenals are already struggling to produce what’s being asked of them, supporting the system in the morning is the biggest “thank-you” you can give.
- Drown Yourself in Caffeine. Coffee can be an alluring temptress for unhappy adrenal glands. Although nothing sounds better, this will dig a deeper hole.
- Get Sugar High. Another major exacerbation is refined sugar. This not only weakens your adrenals, but it could be the cause of stress in the first place.
If you think you are experiencing adrenal fatigue, or have been under prolonged stress, get yourself tested and start helping your adrenals.
In good health,
Dr. Afrouz Demehri