We are all aware of adrenaline, the fight or flight hormone that kicks in whenever we find ourselves facing a threat. But did you know adrenaline is only one of the many hormones produced by the adrenal glands?
About the Adrenal Glands
The adrenal glands (also known as the suprarenal glands) sit atop the kidneys. These pyramid shaped glands have two parts: the outer adrenal cortex and the inner medulla.
The adrenal cortex creates 3 types of hormones:
- Mineralocorticoids: hormones triggered by the kidneys. These hormones regulate the balance of salt to water within the body and help to maintain blood pressure.
- Glucocorticoids: hormones triggered by the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland. These hormones increase blood glucose levels, regulate the conversion of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates into energy, help to regulate blood pressure, and regulate immune response and inflammatory reactions.
- Gonadocorticoids: sex hormones. Small amounts of sex hormones are released by the adrenal cortex. After middle age, the adrenals become the primary source of sex hormones.
We would die quickly without the hormones produced by the adrenal cortex.
The adrenal medulla creates two hormones:
- Epinephrine (also known as adrenaline): Epinephrine is the fight or flight hormone. It increases your heart rate, raises your blood sugar, and rushes blood to the muscles and the brain.
- Norepinephrine (also known as noradrenaline): Norepinephrine works with epinephrine.
All in all, the adrenals produce nearly 50 hormones.
Major Illnesses Associated with Adrenal Glands
- Congenital adrenal hyperplasia: a genetic disorder that disrupts hormone levels from the adrenals.
- Addison’s disease:a rare disorder that disrupts production of the hormones cortisol and aldosterone.
- Cushing’s syndrome: an uncommon disorder where the adrenals overproduce cortisol.
- Adrenal cancer: an aggressive rare cancer that causes excess production of hormones.
Adrenal fatigue is caused by lack of or poor quality sleep; relentless stress; EMF exposure; heavy metal toxicity; thyroid problems; caffeine, nicotine, or other stimulant use; or a chronic or acute infection, especially respiratory infections (influenza, bronchitis, or pneumonia). With most adrenal problems there are many of the aforementioned causes at play.
Adrenal fatigue is experienced two ways: either the sufferer struggles with fatigue throughout the day, using stimulants such as caffeine to make it to an early bedtime, or the sufferer’s day is exactly the same except he gets a second wind around 9-10 at night and buzzes until the wee hours when he can finally go to sleep. Adrenal fatigue can be so severe, it can become difficult to be out of bed for more than a few hours at a time. In addition to loss of energy, adrenal fatigue is also associated with the following:
- Lowered libido
- Immunity reduction
- Low blood pressure
The following herbs are used to treat adrenal fatigue:
- Licorice: Sometimes used alone, sometimes in conjunction with Panax ginseng and Bupleurum falcatum–especially used for people who have damaged adrenal output by long term steroid use. Warning: licorice can raise blood pressure.
- Rhodiola: Adaptogen–helps the body adapt to stress.
- Shisandra: Also an adaptogen–helps the body adapt to stress.
- Holy Basil: Also an adaptogenic–helps the body adapt to stress.
- Ashwagandha root: Increases in T3 and T4, supports thyroid and adrenals, balances hormones.
- Astragalus: Improves immune system, adrenal function, and reduces stress.
- Ginseng Root: Revitalizes the adrenals and balances hormones.
*Check out the “Recommended Supplements” below for some formulas with these ingredients.
The following vitamins and supplements are helpful in treating adrenal fatigue:
- B-complex – especially B5: While those suffering from adrenal fatigue need B5 more than the other B vitamins, it is best to take B complex because B vitamins work together.
- Vitamin C: Vitamin C is an important part of a healthy immune system, but its critical role in adrenal function is no less valuable and far less well known. We recommend getting your vitamin C naturally, and it’s even better when it’s with other nutrients.
- Adrenal extracts: Not for vegans obviously, but bovine desiccated adrenal is a popular and effective way to get adrenal nutrition into the body.
Natural protocol for adrenal fatigue
Candida is the number one cause of poor health in our country, and an overabundance of Candida will eventually cause adrenal fatigue (along with many other problems). If you’re experiencing adrenal fatigue, cut out stimulants completely. No more coffee. And clean the intestines. It is also time to un-stress. Get outside and get grounded (see the third source). Learn how to breathe! (See the fourth source.) Take up yoga or meditation.