Adrenals: The Little Glands that Could

woman_sleepingWhen midlife hormone imbalance comes calling, the adrenal glands have much to say about the topic. Relatively unknown to most, these powerful little glands are located right above the kidneys. They are chiefly responsible for secreting hormones during times of stress. Back in our hunter-gatherer days, times of stress meant running from the tiger; today, this can mean rushing to get the kids to school on time, fighting traffic with honking horns, completing projects on time, stressing over diet choices, paying bills, staying up late with the moon, and the hundreds of times in between.

Adrenal fatigue is becoming more recognized as the consequence of being over-worked and chronically stressed. Chronic stress is usually initiated by, but not limited to, yo-yo dieting, emotional turmoil, job-related stress, and to top it off, peri-menopause. After the ovaries are no longer functional, it is the responsibility of the adrenals to take over some of the sex hormone functions (estrogens, progesterone, testosterone), so hormone imbalance symptoms are stronger when these mighty glands can’t keep up with their new roles. The end result? You feel tapped out, overwhelmed, and, often, depressed.

Some of the following adrenal fatigue symptoms might sound familiar:

  • Low energy throughout the day and trouble getting out of bed
  • Low thyroid function (hypothyroid)
  • Inability to lose weight
  • Low or no libido
  • Low blood pressure
  • Cravings for salt and sugar
  • Anxiety, mental exhaustion, and/or depression
  • Reduced immunity (you get every cold that goes around)

Adrenal fatigue is diagnosed by understanding symptoms and matching with the twenty-four hour cortisol rhythm, typically by saliva testing. Improving adrenal health requires lifestyle changes to minimize the stress response. Eliminate energy-robbers in your day, heal underlying chronic infections, eat foods that nourish the adrenal glands, and discover nutritional supplements that provide the right vitamins (adrenals love the B’s!) and minerals for proper functioning.

In our fast-paced, high-intensity, live-to-work culture, we have to make a conscious effort to slow down, practice better sleep habits, and incorporate daily rest with stretching or mediation. Tonight, spoil yourself with an evening bath and tuck your adrenals into bed early.

Written by: Taylor Howell NCNM Naturopathic Medicine Program