Adrenal Glands so small in size, so BIG in effects
We are talking about two small glands 1 inch x2 inches in size which manufacture products that we humans can’t live without. They sit on top of the kidneys and are involved with things as diverse and wide ranging as effects on metabolism, blood pressure control, our immune system, our sex hormones and our response to stress.
The Adrenal Gland is an intricate part of the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, and Adrenal) Axis. This intimate physiological relationship is fundamental and critical to our well-being.
The Hypothalamus acts as our body’s thermostat. It senses most of our important physiological elements involved in our homeostasis (keeping things the same or in range) and sends out signals to correct perceived unhealthy variations. It connects directly to the pituitary gland which essentially picks up the orders from the hypothalamus and sends out signals to various organs and structures eg ACTH to carry out these orders. One of these organs is the adrenal gland.
I will discuss two important topics which have received a great deal of public attention.
Damaging effects of prolonged cortisol elevation
Is there such a thing as “Adrenal Fatigue?”
Cortisol is manufactured in the adrenal gland. Cortisol plays a major role in the body’s response to stress. One of the primary activities of cortisol is to increase available glucose to the nervous system by breaking down protein and fat to glucose in the liver. It helps block glucose uptake into tissues other than the central nervous system. This causes elevated blood glucose,
A very important action of cortisol is that it has powerful anti-inflammatory and anti-allergy actions. It decreases the activities of the immune system. This can be good to reduce inflammation conditions, but by diminishing the immune system, can lead to susceptibility to infectious disease and it’s spread.
“Does Adrenal Fatigue Exist?”
After a number of years in my Functional Medical practice, my answer is yes. The caveat is that after much reading and research, I believe the signs and symptoms are not related to the ability of the adrenals to work, but rather decreased stimulation from an over-taxed central nervous system. Our entire physiological system is based around the concept of maintaining homeostasis. I have heard from lecturers and read many theories and controversies about “Adrenal Fatigue.” The ones that make the most scientific sense to me relate to the down regulation of central nervous system receptors to stress signals. This ultimately decreases downstream stimulatory signaling to the adrenal glands as a brain self-protective mechanism from the damaging effects of long term stress. There are a number of studies showing radio graphic changes of the stressed and or depressed brain. The 24 hour saliva adrenal test has proven to be a reliable diagnostic tool for me in helping to make the diagnosis of “Adrenal Fatigue.” I believe making that diagnosis without a thorough medical history and comprehensive lab testing is not sound medical practice, and potentially dangerous.
Last point to be made on this subject is this. I am allopathically trained originally, I am old enough to remember that “Irritable Bowl Syndrome”, “Chronic Fatigue” and Fibromyalgia were diagnoses made by “Quacks.” Please be careful of accepting opinions from the so called “experts “They have frequently been and are continuing to be proven wrong.
The overall take away message of the article is prolonged stress is bad for your health. Healthy adrenal gland activities are absolutely essential to our optimal health and well-being.