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Do you often crave a second cup of coffee mid-afternoon? Do you feel like you can’t get a grip on your stress and anxiety level? Perhaps you never feel rested even after sleeping. These are just a few hints that you may be dealing with adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal glands are two small triangular-shaped glands that rest atop each kidney (also called the suprarenal glands). Though small in size, measuring just 3 inches long and 1.5 inches in height, they serve a number of vital functions and are an integral part of the endocrine system. The adrenals are made up of two parts, the cortex or outer part and the medulla or inner portion.
The cortex portion produces important corticosteroid hormones that are vital to life. One such hormone is hydrocortisone (also known as cortisol). Cortisol plays a role in metabolism, regulating the conversion of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates into usable energy. Corticosterone, another corticosteroid, works along with hydrocortisone (cortisol) to regulate an immune response when needed and to suppress any inflammatory reactions that may occur.
Another corticosteroid is aldosterone, the hormone responsible for regulating blood pressure. The hypothalamus and pituitary gland work along with the adrenals to produce and secrete these vital hormones. One kink can affect the whole endocrine system, inhibiting proper function. The medulla portions of the adrenal glands produce adrenaline, the hormone involved in the fight or flight response in stressful situations.
As you can see the adrenal glands play a very important part in hormone health, effecting energy levels, mood, blood pressure, metabolism (conversion of nutrients to fuel), and the immune system. If these glands are down or under active, it can have a chain effect, disrupting various parts of the endocrine gland system.
Some signs of weak adrenal gland function could be low blood pressure (especially systolic/ top number), chronic fatigue, brain fog, weakened immunity, inability to focus, depression, inability to deal with stress, prolonged anxiety, low libido, increased menopausal symptoms, and inability to fall and stay asleep.
How can you boost your adrenal gland function?Most people develop adrenal fatigue from poor lifestyle habits, overworking, over stressing, staying up too late, not getting enough rest, abusing caffeine and other stimulants, and poor eating habits/fad dieting. Adrenal fatigue can occur after prolonged stressful or traumatic events, for example divorce or loss of a loved one.
Developing healthier more balanced lifestyle habits is the first place to begin restoring your adrenals.
- Eat a healthy, balanced diet to nourish your entire body. This will help you avoid dieting extremes.
- Avoid the over consumption of caffeinated beverages, especially sports drinks with copious amounts of ephedra. Don’t rely on caffeine to get you through your day. Get back to thriving off of your own body’s energy supply.
- Get adequate rest each night. This may require getting into the habit of going to bed at a decent hour.
- Develop a good stress management program to help alleviate daily stress. This could include exercise or recreational sport, getting fresh air and sunlight, or making time for rest and relaxation.
- There are also many restorative herbs that can help boost adrenal gland function. Some of these are stinging nettle, licorice, ashwaganda, Korean ginseng, rhodiola, and astragalus to name a few. Always consult with an herbalist or other health/wellness professional prior to taking any herbs.
By Christina Leidenheimer, Guest Blogger for the BodyMind Institute