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Keep Your Adrenals Fully Charged
The adrenals are two small compound glands aboud the size of a vinyl eraser. Each one sits directly on top of a kidney. As compound glands, these glands are multi-layered. The inner portion is the medulla and functions quite independently of the outer portion. It secretes specific hormones and outer portion is the cortex. It is made up of three distinct layers, each with their own hormonal purposes.
These little glands are important because they are a part of the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems.
The sympathetic nervous system is responsible primarily for body responses that happen under stress. Think of the 'fight or flight' response. When you fear someone may be about to attact you become more alert, your pupils dilate to improve your peripheral vision, your bronchioles dilate to enhance your intake of air, your heart pumps faster and harder, your blood sugars skyrocket, your digestion stop and the peripheral circulation diminishes, your blood pressure increases and circulation in your large muscles increases. This is all because an urgent message of danger, fear or excitement was sent from your brain to your adrenal glands and they responded instantaneously with the right hormones to cause these reactions and save your life.
The parasympathetic system is the great re-balancer. After a sympathetic nervous system experience, the parasympathetic system kicks in to restore normalcy.
The outer or cortex layer of the adrenal glands is divided into three layers. As a unit, the cortex secretes steroid hormones known as corticosteroids.
The outermost of the three layers the The zona glomerulosa is responsible for secreting hormones that deal with fluid and electrolyte balance, aldosterone and other mineral ocortocoids. The aldosterone produced by this region regulates blood pressure and fluid in the blood stream by controlling the amount of sodium and potassium in the blood stream. Electrolytes are electrically charged molecules of which sodium/potassium, calcium/magnesium are just two such pairs. When the glomerulosa is out of balance and over secreting aldosterone, the body will retain sodium and excrete potassium in excessive amounts increasing fluid retention and blood pressure. If sodium levels fall too low or potassium levels climb too high or blood volume or pressure falls, aldosterone secretion will be stimulated to correct and increase blood pressure.
Aldosterone stimulates the secretion of another hormone, through a long chemical chain of events, which increases blood pressure by causing constriction of peripheral capillaries.
If aldosterone cannot be made or supplied, death will result fairy quickly. Without controls on sodium and potassium balance, the brain, nervous system and heart cannot function, dehydration follows and shock rapidly ensues. The only medically known and proven therapies include administration of aldosterone, salt and fluids.
Cortisol - The next layer is zona fasciculata is active in secreting hormones that influence carbohydrate metabolism. Cortisol serves many purposes in the body. We are familiar with the use of topical cortisone speeds tissue repair and reduces inflammation. Chronic stress leads to excess cortisol production which can cause stomach ulcers, atrophying of the lymph nodes, reduction in white blood cells, high blood pressure (by increasing vasoconstriction) and other vascular disorders.
The third and innermost layer of the cortex is the zona reticularis produces small amounts of sex hormones. It produces androgen, estrogen and progesterone. Think about menopause. A woman reaches age 50. She has had a normal amount of stress in her life, average nutrition and drinks coffee to whip her tired adrenal glands into action to give her energy. How reliably are her tired adrenal glands going to produce their hormones? This is important because the androgen that should be released should then be converted into more estrogen when it passes through fat cells in her body. Because of adrenal abuse and exhaustion she is hormone deficient in androgen, estrogen, progesterone or all three and she now has many of the uncomfortable symptoms of menopause. Adrenal support may help to correct some of the problems of menopause.
The adrenal cortex may atrophy as a result of cancer, some disease processes (e.g. tuberculosis) and some autoimmune diseases. When the cortex atrophies it is called Addison's Disease. Without the steroid hormones produced by the cortex and without appropriate treatment, death will ensue.
The medulla or central part of the adrenal gland responsible for producing epinephrine and norepinephrine in response to exercise or surprise. The fear example mentioned earlier outlined the results of high epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline) output.
Many of us have lives with fear constantly chasing us. Our adrenal glands function in a hyper accelerated state for so long that they become tired and unreliable.
Rest is very important. A local newspaper that said at the turn of the twentieth century, before most people had electricity, the vast majority of the population got nine hours of sleep per night. Sleep is the time we give our bodies and adrenal glands, a chance to heal and rejuvenate. Puffy bags and dark circles under the eyes may be an indication of tired, under-functioning adrenal glands.
Herbs for the Adrenals
Mood Elevator and/or Chinese Mineral Chi Tonic may be a great choice for the adrenal glands and offer superior support. ADD, ADHD and depression may be symptoms of under functioning adrenal glands, one or both of these formulations may work well to create a new balance by increasing adrenal function. One word of caution if using both Mood Elevator and Mineral Chi Tonic simultaneously, watch the persons' blood pressure carefully. The adrenal glands may be pushed into a hyper state that may elevate the blood pressure.
Nutri calm and Pantothenic acid are other good answers. Pantothenic acid targets the adrenal glands and feeds them. It is always a sound practice to take the complete B- Complex when taking isolated B vitamins to prevent imbalances from happening.
Hawthorn extract is may be a way to support adrenal glands, especially in children. This herb is particularly high in flavonoids and proanthocyanidins.
Licorice Root exhibits many pharmacological actions. As Michael T. Murray says, its actions are "estrogenic; aldosterone-like; anti-inflammatory (cortisol-like); anti-allergenic" among others. It is well documented that consuming elevated amounts of licorice for prolonged periods of time can elevate blood pressure by promoting sodium and water retention and potassium loss. (Note: "This can be averted by supplementing with potassium and lowering salt intake when taking licorice loot for long periods of time.)
Eleuthero is an adaptogenic herb. It inhibits the 'alarm' phase of the fight-or-flight response. It may reduces the adrenal cortex response to stress. In studies it was reported to: (1) increased the ability of humans to withstand many adverse physical conditions (i.e., heat, noise, motion, work load increase, exercise and decompression, (2) increased mental alertness and work output and (3) improve the quality of work produced under stressful conditions and athletic performance.
Bee Pollen contains B vitamins, 21 amino acids including all 8 essential amino acids and many other vitamins and minerals. Because of its very broad nutrient base, it supports a general tonic and is helpful in strengthening the adrenal glands.
Eggs are a perfectly balanced protein. They supply all the nutrients needed by the adrenal glands to aid in supporting adrenal function. Egg yolks are rich in B Vitamins.
Refined sugars are detrimental to the adrenal glands and general body health. The stresses that may be created on the pancreas, liver and thyroid when refined sugars are ingested and the instability created by the influx of sugars in the body causes the adrenal glands to respond with the alarm phase in an effort to re-elevate the blood sugars to a normal functioning level.
Learn stress management, better sleep habits, better dietary habits and take appropriate supplements to support your adrenal glands and enable them to support us in return.