Are Your Adrenal Glands in Good Shape?
First, a little background. Our two adrenal glands, part of the ultra-connected endocrine system, sit atop our two kidneys, looking a bit like floppy berets. While they don’t look significant, they play a huge role in health. As in HUGE.
Very few doctors understand the adrenals and how they work. And, unless you’re at death’s door, adrenal blood tests are pointless. The medicos lack of knowledge means their adrenal treatments don’t help–and may do harm.
My adrenals haven’t done their duty since a drunk driver crashed into my parents’ car when I was a baby. So I’ve had a lifetime of opportunity to learn how the adrenals work and what to do when they don’t work.
The last time I went to an endocrinologist, I had to explain to her how adrenals function and why the blood test doesn’t work. After she checked to see if I was correct, she got all excited and hoped I’d become a regular patient so she could learn more.
What do adrenals do?
In general, adrenals think everything that happens in the body is their business, so the list of their activities is long and varied, but let’s look at some basics.
• The smaller part of the adrenal gland creates the fight-or-flight hormones, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine which prepare us for battle when a Bengal tiger (or an everyday stress equivalent) appears on the scene.
• The larger part of the gland creates fifty (at last count) different hormones, most of which are still a mystery. Some, though, are known, if not completely understood.
• Aldosterone balances our minerals, which helps keep our blood pressure in check. Our diet and supplements have to supply the minerals, otherwise the whole business doesn’t work.
• Androgens produce sex hormones. And when age slows the production of estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone, the adrenals jump in to keep everything going along, singing a song. Which can’t happen if the adrenals are in trouble.
• And then there’s cortisol, which is a three-ring circus all by itself. It helps normalize blood sugar, fights inflammation, helps control blood flow, pumps up your immune system to prevent things like allergies and autoimmune diseases, and prevents damage to your small intestine, which allows you to digest your food.
• While it’s generally believed that cortisol always revs thing up, our bodies actually use it to tame fight-or-flight stress. As in, the tiger’s gone, so you can relax now.
Signs your adrenals aren’t keeping up
• You drag through the day, but have a burst of energy right about bedtime. Fatigue comes along with many endocrine problems, but that late burst of energy points to the adrenals.
• Frequent sighing, of which you are unaware, but are frequently reminded.
• Heavy menstrual periods that flow for about three days, then stop for a day, then flow again for another three days or so. It’s the stop that shouts “adrenal problems.”
• Sudden noises have you leaping for the ceiling. Doctors call this an exaggerated startle response.
• Your sweet tooth and salt cravings are really hard to resist.
• Rising from a chair, or any seated position, makes you momentarily dizzy.
• Your stomach acid is low, which means poor digestion. This starts a tsunami of problems, some large and some small, including, frequently, fingernails with vertical ridges.
• Allergies. After a while, you wonder if you somehow joined an “Allergy of the week” club.
• Moments of confusion that make you worry about your brain dying.
• Your back itches a lot.
• A poochy belly that won’t go away.
• Mood swings, vitiligo, heart palpitations, depression, and on, and on, and on.
Signs your adrenals are in really big trouble
Eventually, the adrenals can get “stuck” in stress mode. You still have the symptoms listed above (and a whole lot more), but these additional symptoms say you’re in heap, big trouble. For one thing, your nervous system is involved and so are other body parts. These symptoms include:
• Intense muscle cramps on the outside of your lower legs during the night.
• Getting to sleep is a problem; so is staying asleep. Getting up in the morning can be kind of a trick, too.
• Urinating every two or three hours, day and night, becomes routine. At night, it’s sometimes hard to get back to sleep after trips to the bathroom. This always gets blamed on prostate problems, but being female or having symptoms of whacked adrenals point in another direction.
Adrenal problems don’t resolve easily. And we’re pretty much on our own to get the job done. It’s more than a little daunting.
To get the help you need, my Moving to Health program steps you through the multitude of things that need fixing if you want your adrenals to prosper. Since we’re all unique beings, the “multitude of things” that have to be fixed varies from person to person.
We all want health problems to get fixed overnight, but adrenals will continue to struggle until all the contributing problems have been handled, so we have to take a step-by-step approach, moving closer to health as we go.
Let me end with some really good news: You can do this.