The adrenal glands can be compared to energizing batteries in our body. The soft center of the adrenal glands is called the adrenal medulla and it manufactures adrenalin from the amino acid tyrosine. The medulla secretes adrenalin into the blood stream where it is carried to all parts of the body. The adrenals produce and secrete adrenalin continually to regulate heart rate and blood pressure and to stimulate our nervous system in many ways.
If your adrenals are unable to produce adequate adrenalin levels, you will feel fatigued and probably depressed – really just like a flat battery. Conversely, if your adrenals manufacture excess adrenalin you will feel like an over-charged battery – your blood pressure and heart rate increases, you feel ready for fight or flight and may become restless. This is fantastic if you are just about to enter a competitive sport game or need to fight to survive but not if you are trying to relax on the weekend.
Some people crave stimulants such as nicotine, cocaine or caffeine because these substances cause the adrenal glands to pump out more adrenalin.
Cocaine hydrochloride is extracted from the leaves of the coca plant, which is indigenous to the Andean highlands of South America. In its purified form, it is one of the most potent stimulants of natural origin. For thousands of years, the Native Americans in the Andean region have chewed coca leaves to relieve fatigue. North American Indians used cocaine to prepare them for fierce battles. Thus you can understand how adrenalin can be addictive and why adequate blood levels are essential for good health, success and survival in a dog eat dog world. We really need healthy adrenal glands!
The adrenal cortex is quite different tissue to the adrenal medulla and manufactures steroid hormones from cholesterol. The cortex turns cholesterol into the hormone pregnenolone, which is then turned into cortisol, DHEA and aldosterone, amongst other hormones. Cortisol reduces inflammation that is produced by free radicals in the body and DHEA makes us robust.
The adrenal glands are very high in fat and fat is easily oxidized by free radicals; thus our adrenal glands are vulnerable to damage from many causes.
I call our adrenal glands our “survival glands” and we need to support them if we want an energetic, healthy and happy life.
What are the symptoms of underactive adrenal glands?
- Extreme fatigue, often worse in the mornings
- Low blood pressure
- Dizziness and light headedness
- Excess inflammation anywhere in the body which may manifest as fibromyalgia, or other painful conditions
- Abdominal pains, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea – this is more common in severe adrenal gland disorders
- Severe reactions to infections
- More severe allergies
Testing your adrenal function
It is easy to check the function of your adrenal glands – a blood test to measure cortisol levels in the morning and evening is done, as well as levels of DHEA. If the cortisol levels are below the normal range a specialised test is done to diagnose adrenal failure. if the cortisol levels are within the normal range but are at the lower limit of the normal range, we can diagnose adrenal malfunction. Adrenal malfunction needs to be monitored as it can progress to adrenal failure. Endocrinologists treat adrenal failure with synthetic steroids namely hydrocortisone, fludrocortisone and this is life saving.
Adrenal failure can be caused by –
- Autoimmune disease where your immune system destroys your adrenal glands (this is known as Addison’s disease). Addison’s disease can totally destroy the adrenal glands.
- Cancer or benign tumors of the adrenal glands
- Hemorrhage into the adrenal glands
- Toxic shock caused by septicemia
Adrenal malfunction can be caused by –
- Chronic stress especially post traumatic stress disorder
- Chronic insomnia
- Heavy smoking
- Hardening of the arteries that supply blood to the adrenal glands
- Adrenal gland dysfunction of mild to moderate degree is much more common than adrenal gland failure, but still it can produce crippling fatigue if left untreated.
Supplements to boost adrenal gland function include –
- Beef adrenal capsules in daily doses ranging from 100mg to 300mg taken once or twice daily. The most important dose is the morning dose, so do not forget it!
- Vitamin C in a dose of 2,000mg daily – this is very protective of the adrenal glands. The highest concentrations of vitamin C are found in the adrenal and pituitary glands and that is because these fatty glands are prone to damage. The body stores vitamin C in these glands because it knows they need to be protected. Yes, the body knows these are our survival glands.
- Magnesium in a dose of 200 to 400mg daily
- Tyrosine tablets or powder 500mg tablets, 2 twice daily
Adrenal gland supplements are available in capsule form and are popular in the USA but are largely unknown in Australia. This is a pity, as these adrenal gland supplements can work very well. This is because they contain ALL the adrenal cortex hormones, and not only cortisone, as well as the adrenal medulla. Furthermore they are natural hormones, identical to human hormones. Adrenal glandular extract can overcome the symptoms of adrenal exhaustion and this is especially good for people with constant fatigue. They are generally very safe to take and will support adrenal function. They are not habit forming and will not suppress the function of your own adrenal glands, bearing in mind, that they are obviously not functioning properly, and may never recover depending upon the cause.
The Liver Doctor brand of adrenal gland capsules are derived from range grass fed Australian and New Zealand cattle.
DHEA Supplements (Dehydro-epiandrosterone) can help people with adrenal gland exhaustion. In the USA, capsules of DHEA are available over the counter or via the Internet, but in Australia and NZ, DHEA is only available on prescription.
The above statements have not been evaluated by the FDA and are not intended to diagnose, treat or cure any disease.