What are the adrenal glands?
The adrenal glands are found above each kidney in the body. They form part of the endocrine system which is involved in controlling various systems in the body by releasing hormones.
What is their function?
The adrenal glands have two sections that release different hormones. The one section is responsible for your sympathetic nervous system. This system produces your ‘fight or flight’ response that occurs when you experience an immediate stress or danger and causes increased blood flow, dilated pupils, sweating and an increased heart rate (think of an encounter in the wild with a lion!).
The second section releases hormones that are involved in regulating your electrolyte and water balance in the kidneys and urine. It also releases a hormone called cortisol that is responsible for combating stress.
What does cortisol do?
Cortisol is the main hormone in the body that deals with stress. Stress here could be physical (Exercise, fasting, bleeding, infection) or mental and emotional (work, family, loss, heartbreak, etc.).
In reaction to these situations, cortisol is released and causes a number of things to happen:
- It increases your blood sugar levels because your body is needing more energy to combat the stressor.
- It increases blood pressure and blood flow to get more oxygen and nutrients to the tissues.
- It reduces inflammation and immune response – you may think this is a good thing, and it can be useful for a short-term stress, but over a long period of time this suppresses your immune system so your body is unable to fight against infection and disease appropriately.
- It also shuts down ‘non-essential’ functions such as reproduction and growth – think of encountering a lion in the wild…your sex hormones are not needed at that moment! In our daily lives, the stress you encounter for long periods like this shuts down your reproductive functions which negatively affects your fertility.
- It decreases digestive function because again, this is ‘non-essential’ during stress. Over a long period of time, this causes disturbances in gut health and bowel function.
What is adrenal fatigue?
This is the state that someone goes into before an actual adrenal disease sets in. It can be difficult to diagnose because your hormone levels may appear normal, however, your body is producing signs and symptoms that show something is not right!
When you are exposed to mental, physical or emotional stress for prolonged periods of time, your adrenal glands become ‘tired’ and don’t function properly. They aren’t able to keep up with the demand of daily stress over long periods of time.
What are the symptoms?
- Constantly tired
- Needing stimulants (coffee, energy drinks) throughout the day
- Having sugar or salt cravings
- Low immunity (getting sick often)
- Low mood
- Brain fog
What can I do to avoid or treat this?
Always try and treat preventatively rather than waiting until it’s too late!
Use stress-relieving techniques like yoga, meditation, deep breathing, journaling or seeking therapy. As well as a balanced, healthy diet full of dark leafy greens and no refined foods.
Homeopathy is an amazing tool to use during this period as it offers holistic and natural healing to you. It brings about balance in the body and seeks to find the root cause of the issue. It also uses wonderful supplements and herbals that can give the adrenal glands the nutrients and support to function optimally on a daily basis.
Some great substances for stress and the adrenal glands are:
- Ashwagandha – a beautiful herb that acts as an adaptogen to balance the adrenal glands.
- Ginseng – a great mood and energy booster to keep you going through the day.
- Rhodiola – something to lift your mood and give you energy.
- B vitamins – these increase energy, combat stress and prevent certain diseases.
- CBD oil – great for calming stress and have anti-inflammatory properties as a bonus.
You can also consider certain herbs and supplements such as Valerian, Passionflower, L-Theanine, melatonin and magnesium that help improve sleep and insomnia which is often a problem associated with stress.
Blog Post by: Dr. Sarah Tandy – Homeopath (DUT MTech Hom)
Dr Tandy is available for consults at Thrive Kloof on Tuesday and Thursday afternoons as well as certain Saturdays.
To make an appointment with her:
061 528 2129 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.drsarahtandy.wixsite.com