Adrenal Function and your Health

Adrenal Fatigue is a collection of signs and symptoms known as a “syndrome”, that results when the Adrenal glands function below the necessary level. Most commonly associated with intense or prolonged stress, it can also arise during or after acute or chronic infections, especially respiratory infections such as influenza, bronchitis or pneumonia. As the name suggests, its paramount symptom is fatigue that is not relieved by sleep and it is not a readily identifiable entity like measles or a growth on the end of your finger.

You may look and act relatively normal with Adrenal Fatigue and may not have any obvious signs of physical illness, yet, you live with a general sense of unwellness, tiredness or “gray” feelings. People suffering from Adrenal Fatigue often have to use coffee, colas and other stimulants to get going in the morning and to prop themselves up during the day.

With each increment of reduction in Adrenal function, every organ and system in your body is more profoundly affected. Changes occur in your carbohydrate, protein and fat metabolism, fluid and electrolyte balance, heart and cardiovascular system, and even sex drive. Many other alterations take place at the biochemical and cellular levels in response to and to compensate for the decrease in Adrenal hormones that occurs with Adrenal Fatigue. Your body does its best to make up for under-functioning Adrenal glands, but it does so at a price.

The Adrenal Stress Index is a test of Adrenal function.

It can determine the functioning of the body’s stress gland. Each Adrenal gland is composed of two separate functional entities. The outer zone, or cortex, accounts for 80% to 90% of the gland, and secretes Adrenal steroids (Cortisol, DHEA(S) and Aldosterone). The inner zone, or medulla, comprises 10% to 20% of the gland and secretes the catecholamines adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. Cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline are the three main Adrenal stress hormones.

The Adrenal Rhythm & Its Importance

The human Adrenal gland does not secrete its steroid hormones at a constant level throughout the day. The hormones are actually released in a cycle with the highest value in the morning and the lowest value at night. This is easily understood by looking at Figure 1. This 24-hour cycle is called the circadian rhythm. An abnormal Adrenal rhythm can influence many functions of the body, some of which are listed below.

1. Energy production

Abnormal Adrenal function can alter the ability of cells to produce energy for activities of daily living. People who have a hard time rising in the morning or who suffer with a low energy level during the day often have abnormal Adrenal rhythms and poor blood sugar regulation.
The maintenance of a stable blood sugar level depends on food choice, lifestyle, Adrenal function and insulin activity. This panel measures stress hormones and insulin to help ferret out causes of fatigue, cravings and obesity.

2. Muscle & joint function

Abnormal Adrenal rhythms are known to compromise tissue healing. Reduced tissue repair and increased tissue breakdown can lead to muscle and joint breakdown with chronic pain.

3. Bone health

The Adrenal rhythm determines how well we build bone. If the night cortisol level is elevated and the morning level is too high, our bones do not rebuild well and we are more prone to the osteoporotic process. Stress is the enemy of the bones. In postmenopausal women, the effect of stress worsens due to the female hormone imbalances.

4. Immune health

Various immune cells (white blood cells) cycle in and out of the spleen and bone marrow for special conditioning and possible nourishment and instructions. This immune system trafficking follows the cortisol cycle. So, if the cycle is disrupted, especially at night, the immune system is adversely affected. Short and long-term stress is known to suppress the immune response on the surfaces of our body as in lungs, throat, urinary and intestinal tract. With the reduction in the surface antibody (called secretory IgA), the resistance to infection is reduced and allergic reactions are believed to increase.

5. Sleep quality

The ability to enter REM sleep cycles, i.e. regenerative sleep, is interrupted by high cortisol values at night and in the morning. Chronic lack of REM sleep can reduce the mental vitality and vigor of a person and induce depression.

6. Skin regeneration

Human skin regenerates mostly during the night. With higher night cortisol values, less skin regeneration takes place. So, a normal cortisol rhythm is essential for optimal skin health

7. Thyroid function

The level of Cortisol at the cell level controls thyroid hormone production. Quite often, hypothyroid symptoms such as fatigue and low body temperature are due to an Adrenal maladaptation.

Please call the office for more information on assessing your Adrenal function.

Laura Jones

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