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Adrenal Glands - How they Work?

Adrenal Exhaustion and Adrenal Fatigue           

Just tell me what to take for adrenal fatigue

What are the adrenal glands?

There are two glands – called the ADRENAL glands. Located on top of your kidneys,

The adrenal glands are involved in a number of functions in the body. They are involved in pulmonary function, blood sugar metabolism, carbohydrate metabolism, central nervous system processes, cardiovascular function, hormone production, gastrointestinal function, and liver function. 

The adrenal glands play an important role in helping the body respond appropriately to changes caused by stress and the different emotions involved in survival. If you were being chased by a lion, you would have high blood pressure, relaxed lungs to absorb oxygen for your flight.  Your mind would need to be super alert, your digestion and sex organs would turn off so your muscles would receive most of the blood. 

How do they work? 

The adrenal glands produce hormones in a complex symphony that is orchestrated by two structures in the brain called the hypothalamus and the pituitary gland.

The adrenal glands via these hormones control many functions from anti-inflammatory (ridding the body of pain and swelling) and immune system protection to balancing fluid and salt levels and controlling minerals (such as potassium), rapid heart rate, regulating blood pressure, and sleep and awake cycles.  They even act as the back up organs producing estrogen during and after menopause.  

When there is stress, these glands counter the stress by the production of several hormones. The adrenals don't know the difference between physical and mental stress, they treat both with the same stress hormones.  

Every type of stress influences these glands - injury, infection, divorce, finances, job-related stress, irritable people, drugs and medications, surgery, pain, illness, poison ivy, extreme cold or heat, giving birth, menstrual cycle, staring at computer monitors, eating junk foods, starvation diets, etc. etc. etc. Emotional stress of loss can actually is 1000X more than other forms of stress.   

When stress and poor nutrition lead to altered hormone levels, imbalance in endocrine function can lead to substantial fatigue.

What happens? 

When you experience stress of any kind, the adrenals start pumping adrenaline, cortisol and other adrenal hormones. These hormones get the blood flowing to the heart and muscles and at the same time pull the blood away from your digestion. They also stimulate the nervous system to speed up the heart rate. They prepare your body for stress.
This is the "fight or flight mechanism".  You're body is preparing to fight a survival opponent or take flight in the fastest way possible. 

As you push your body over the years coping with stress, living on caffeine, nicotine, sugar and alcohol with little sleep, the adrenals eventually become exhausted.  In this state, the adrenals don’t produce like they used to.

When the stress goes on too long or the body is exposed to excess shock and stress you lose the ability to adapt to the stress, or the body stays in this stress mode when no stress is present (yes, some people call that anxiety as they can't locate the reason they are stressed). 

The adrenal glands will also cause fat to accumulate in the belly as a survival protection mechanism in attempts to store future energy (fat) for the vital organs.  

Things that effect and stress your Adrenal glands:

Emotional trauma Lack of sleep Poor diet
Excess exercise Pregnancy Infections
Refined carbohydrates Alcohol Drugs
Nicotine Prescription Drugs Too much caffeine
Physical trauma Chemical Toxins
Vitamin B & C deficiencies                         Over consumption of sugar

Do you experience too much stress? Both physical stress and mental stress. If you do, this might be of interest to you. 

If you have symptoms such as tiredness, fearfulness, allergies, frequent influenza, arthritis, anxiety, depression, reduced memory and difficulties in concentrating, insomnia, worn-out, inability to lose weight after extensive efforts, you may be suffering from adrenal fatigue (technically known as hypoadrenia).

Adrenal Fatigue Symptoms: 

Understanding what the adrenal glands do, you can then understand why the following symptoms can occur:

Tendency to gain weight and unable to lose it   

This shows up with fat around the middle and is sometimes referred to as a pendulous abdomen. It is sagging and hanging. You will also have thin legs and buttocks. 

Cortisol is a hormone that is activated by stress. When the body is stressed, the adrenals pump out cortisol. When this goes on continuously, this cortisol makes you gain weight around the organs and the abdomen where the organs are located. 

The adrenal hormone will activate fat being stored. It will store fat around the midsection - where the major organs are - so that the internal organs have a supply of energy - fat.. The adrenals are working on survival of the organism. This type of fat is called visceral fat or organ fat. 

When adrenals are overactive and store the belly fat it is cummulative. . Cortisol is lowest at age 18 and is its highest at 50.  Thus, you will gain weight as you age. The body tends to fill up with stress and you build up stress and fat.  


Moodiness and irritability
Brain fog 

Anxiety (worry), frequent feelings of stress; 
Difficulty handling stress
Compulsive thinking and intolerance of incompetent people, no patience with others, etc. 
Constant thinking about your
survival (worry or just computing what might happen)

Inflammatory Conditions: 

All the itises (arthritis, tendonitis, etc) as the anti-inflammatory is gone
Inflammation or pain in the joints, back and neck

Belly Fat:  The major organs are in the mid section of the body and thus the cortisol creates belly fat in an attempt to protect them.


Low energy - weakness, fatigue
Fluid retention
Restless Leg Syndrome

Blood sugar problems
Feel better suddenly after a meal
Difficulty getting out of bed, lack of energy which returns from 3-5 PM
Need for mid-afternoon naps 
Need for caffeine or stimulants to get going
Salt cravings, fat cravings and cravings for high protein foods such as cheese and meat. 
Hot flashes
Reduced sex drive
Tendency to tremble under pressure
Out of breath when going up stairs
Heal spurs 
High or low blood pressure 
Tendency to get the flu
Pain in the upper back and neck for no reason
Lightheadedness when rising from a lying down position
Unable to remember things
Sugar cravings late afternoon and evenings
Overactive immune system - allergies, chemical sensitivity
Autoimmune condition

All possible symptoms of adrenal insufficiency:

You may also have: 

High Cholesterol - cholesterol is needed to make adrenal hormone which the body will be trying to do when the adrenals are tired. The body will make cholesterol if it doesn't have enough. 

High Blood Pressure
Poor wound healing
Sleep Disorder
Low Vitamin D levels
Facial hair on women
Full eyebrows
Receding hairline
Deeper voice
Sparse hair on forearms and lower legs
Atrophy of breasts
Tightness in chest or chest pains
Food or inhalant allergies
Dry and thinning skin
Acne or poor skin
White or discolored patches on skin
Reddish purple stretch marks on the stomach, thighs, buttocks, arms and breasts.
Red checks
Round or moon face
Puffy face and eyes
Dark cycles around eyes
Double chin
Lax ligaments - weak ankles and knees
Weak or brittle bones (due to a loss of calcium and protein)
Buffalo hump (fat pad) at the upper back, lower neck area,
Low body temperature
Unexplained hair loss
Alternating constipation and diarrhea
Edema, especially in the ankles
Legs feel heavy especially when exercising

If you have many of these signs and symptoms, it is time you consider adrenal fatigue as a possible cause once you have ruled out other possible disease. None of the signs or symptoms by itself can definitively diagnose adrenal fatigue   However, it is definitely something you'll want to consider. It is very often misdiagnosed.   

When the adrenals are exhausted, they may not show up in conventional medical tests as the the symptoms you are experiencing are early symptoms and it is not enough to be detected.  It is sub-clinical. The adrenals have to be 9/10s unresponsive for it to show up in a blood test. In other words, 80-90% of the adrenal needs to be not working well in order for a blood test to show that there is a problem.  

How to Test for Adrenal Fatigue - Yes, we have a video on how to check if it is your Adrenals

Listen to How To Test for Adrenal Fatique by Dr. Berg


What Can You Do about Adrenal Fatigue?


Immediate Things to do to Help Your Adrenal Function
and more, much more, follow the links.



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