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Adrenal glands are small, triangular-shaped glands located on top of both kidneys. They produce hormones which regulate metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and stress response. There are two parts, the cortex, and the medulla, which each produce different hormones. The adrenal cortex is responsible for creating the stress hormones.
What hormones are produced in the adrenal gland?
The adrenal cortex secretes several hormones, the key hormones being:
Cortisol is a hormone that helps control the body’s use of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates, suppresses inflammation, regulates blood pressure, increases blood sugar, and decreases bone formation. Cortisol is involved in the sleep/wake cycle and is released in times of stress to help the body get additional energy to handle the stressful situation.
Aldosterone’s role is in regulating blood pressure and electrolytes like sodium and potassium. Signals are sent to the kidneys, resulting in the kidneys absorbing more sodium into the bloodstream and releasing potassium into the urine. Aldosterone helps to regulate the blood’s pH by controlling the levels of electrolytes in the blood.
Primarily male sex hormones, DHEA and testosterone, play a role in the early development of male sex organs and during puberty for females to develop body hair.
The adrenal medulla secretes hormones called catecholamines, the key hormones being:
Epinephrine (Adrenaline) and Norepinephrine (Noradrenaline)
The adrenal medulla controls the hormones that initiate the fight or flight response. Epinephrine and norepinephrine can increase the heart rate and force heart contractions, increasing blood flow to muscles and brain, relax the airways, and assist in glucose metabolism. Vasoconstriction of the blood vessels helps to maintain blood pressure and increasing response to stress.
How does cortisol impact weight loss?
Cortisol increases appetite and signals the body to shift metabolism and store fat. In times of stress, cortisol stimulates fat and carbohydrate metabolism for a quick energy boost and stimulates insulin release and blood sugar maintenance. This increases appetite and causes cravings for sugar, high-fat and salty foods. Cortisol secretion promotes weight gain, and it may cause fat deposits around the abdominal area. An increase in fat distribution around this area referred to as visceral fat, has been associated with the development of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes.
Adrenal Gland Disorders
Adrenal insufficiency, known as Addison’s disease, occurs when underactive adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol and often aldosterone. Primary adrenal insufficiency is caused by the destruction of the adrenal cortex, usually the result of an autoimmune condition where the immune system attacks and destroys the adrenal glands. Secondary adrenal insufficiency, the more common form, is due to the lack of adrenocorticotropin (ACTH). ACTH is a hormone secreted from the pituitary gland, stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortisol rather than aldosterone. Lack of ACTH leads to a drop in the production of adrenal cortisol. Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include weakness, fatigue, weight loss, lack of appetite, nausea, constipation, muscle and joint pain and cravings of salty foods.
Cushing’s syndrome is a condition characterized by excessive cortisol production and associated with conditions like diabetes, dyslipidemia, metabolic syndrome, hypertension, and cardiovascular disease. Symptoms of Cushings’s is weight gain, easy bruising, round face, weak bones, tiredness, high blood pressure, high blood sugar, increased acne and thirst, irritability, anxiety and mood disorders. While Cushing’s is a rare condition, it can occur in males and females of varying ages.
Healthy adrenal glands increase their output of cortisol and enables the body to preserve health in times of stress. They also secrete adrenaline, boosting energy to deal with emergencies. However, when stress becomes chronic, the adrenal glands can no longer deal with the demand, and DHEA levels decrease signifying adrenal fatigue. Over secretion of adrenaline causes feelings of anxiety and nervousness while also causing insomnia, depression, irritability, and digestive issues. When adrenaline surges with stress, digestive enzymes are simultaneously lowered and cause a rise in blood sugar levels. Chronic stress wreaks havoc on the body, resulting in high cortisol and adrenaline levels.
Some areas negatively affected in the body:
Energy production – High cortisol causes low energy throughout the day, issues with rising in the morning, and poor blood sugar regulation.
Bone health – Bone rebuilding is affected by adrenal rhythms and stress. When am and evening levels of cortisol levels are high, the bones are not able to rebuild correctly. This could lead to conditions like osteoporosis.
Immune health – The immune system follows the cortisol cycle and when disrupted the immune system is negatively affected. Stress suppresses secretion of secretory IgA antibodies, which help fight infection, causing an infection resistance to be reduced and allergic reactions to increase.
Sleep quality – Sleep deprivation results in high cortisol levels, increasing depressive symptoms, mental vitality, and energy levels.
Thyroid function – Levels of cortisol control thyroid hormone production. Feelings of fatigue, low body temp, which are associated with hypothyroidism are associated with stress or adrenal fatigue. Chronic stress converts thyroid hormone to its inactive form, shutting down TSH production.
Nutrient to Support Adrenal Health
Stress management, proper diet, and getting enough sleep are all-natural ways to help balance cortisol levels. Some nutrients which will help to support the adrenal glands, and balance cortisol are:
Vitamin B complex
Vitamins B1 and B6 promote healthy cortisol levels by supporting adrenal gland function. Vitamin B5 can be depleted by stress. Also, B6, B12, and B9 influence patterns of diurnal cortisol secretion. B12 is vital to proper energy levels, and B12 deficiencies cause hormonal imbalance. Studies show that supplementation with a B complex may effectively help decrease the symptoms of stress.
Vitamin C is an essential nutrient to support a healthy immune system, and it also supports the adrenal glands and cortisol levels. Vitamin C prevents an increase in cortisol levels and aids in diminishing the physical and emotional aspects of stress. Vitamin C can be taken as a supplement and is also found naturally in papayas, strawberries, broccoli, Brussel sprouts, tomatoes, asparagus, and parsley.
Fish oil is an excellent source of omega-3 fatty acids, which are thought to help reduce cortisol levels. Omega-3 fatty acids help to reduce stress symptoms and reduce cortisol secretion. Getting plenty of omega-3 fatty acids in the diet from sources like salmon, mackerel, oysters, sardines, seaweed, hemp and chia seeds, and supplementation is effective in lowering cortisol levels.
Cortisol and vitamin D, are both made from cholesterol. In times of emergency, stress cortisol production becomes a higher priority in the body over making vitamin D. Stress and cortisol impact the body’s ability to absorb and synthesize vitamin D. In times of elevated cortisol levels, the vitamin D receptors in the body turn off. The body cannot absorb vitamin D, and the body excretes it.
An herbal supplement used in traditional medicines to treat anxiety and adapt to stress, ashwagandha supplementation helps reduce levels of cortisol in the body. Ashwagandha promotes healthy levels of cortisol and healthy inflammatory processes which become stimulated in response to stress. It also supports the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis that controls cortisol release from the adrenal glands.
Magnesium plays a crucial role in many molecular functions throughout the body. Besides being responsible for formation of the cellular energy source, regulating blood pressure, heart rate and blood sugar, the brain is also dependent on magnesium for nerve impulse transmission and metabolism of neurotransmitters. Deficiencies of magnesium cause an upregulation of the HPA axis which influences the production of cortisol. Sufficient levels of magnesium help to decrease cortisol levels, making it a valuable nutrient for mediating stress.
Relora, a supplement made from magnolia officinalis bark and Phellodendron extract and is often recommended to aid in reducing stress and anxiety feelings. Magnolia bark and Phellodendron are traditional herbs used for many years in Chinese medicine. Using Relora showed a marked reduction in cortisol levels and improved mood. The two active ingredients from each component, honokiol and berberine, contribute to its effectiveness as an anti-stress, anti-anxiety and cortisol lowering product.
L-theanine is an amino acid found in tea leaves, mainly green tea. L-theanine promotes relaxation, facilitates sleep and lowers levels of excitatory chemicals in the brain. L-theanine helps to balance hormones, including cortisol and corticosterone, reducing stress and enhancing focus, memory, and learning.
Recommended Supplements by INEVO Body
Relax – Supports high cortisol levels, stress and anxiety
CortiMax – Supports low cortisol levels, fatigue and overall adrenal health
Thyro-B – Supports thyroid health and metabolism
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