The adrenal glands are small, triangular shaped organs that sit on top of each kidney. They are part of the endocrine system and secrete hormones that play a critical role in helping our bodies regulate stress, maintain healthy metabolic function and defend against infection (hello immunity).
Adrenal Fatigue is a term used to describe a collection of non-specific symptoms that occur in people who are under constant and long term physical, mental or emotional stress. Tiredness, disturbed sleep, loss of appetite, body aches and brain fog are often associated with the condition. While current medical science does not recognize Adrenal Fatigue as a condition, that does not mean its symptoms are not real or do not require treatment. To best understand adrenal fatigue it’s important to look at the structure and function of the glands, and now how our ‘reptilian brains’ interpret modern day stressors.
The Adrenal Glands
Each adrenal gland is divided into two main parts that perform separate functions. The larger, outer part of the gland is called the Adrenal Cortex. The center of the gland is the Adrenal Medulla.
Cortisol and aldosterone are the primary hormones produced by the adrenal cortex. They are steroid hormones that help the body:
Responsible for secreting the hormone adrenaline, the adrenal medulla plays a central role in supporting the body’s reaction to acute stress. Adrenaline activates a variety of systems that help the body respond to unexpected danger - both real and perceived. Working in conjunction with cortisol, adrenaline helps to:
Regardless of what scientists think about or find as they continue to study adrenal fatigue all agree on this: too much stress can have a negative effect on almost every body system. Mayo Clinic research confirms that over exposure to elevated adrenal hormones can cause anxiety, depression, digestive problems, headaches, heart disease, sleep problems, weight gain and memory and concentration impairment.
Supporting Your Adrenal Glands
None of us are immune to stress, but all of us can learn and develop tools to manage it. Next time you find yourself under prolonged stress, or exhibiting signs of strain, it may be time to commit to one or more of these simple stress-reducing practices:
By making any one of these a daily habit, you will undoubtedly reduce stress and help keep your adrenal glands from going into overdrive. You may even have a bit more energy to greet each day!