Stress and The Adrenal Glands
By Howard Liebowitz, M.D.
The Adrenal Glands are two walnut sized glands located on top of both kidneys. These two tiny glands make over fifty different hormones, some of which we have no knowledge. Cortisol and DHEA are two of these hormones that are known to have a tremendous impact on metabolism. Stress causes the body to stimulate the release of large amounts of cortisol from the adrenal glands and suppresses DHEA. Cortisol is considered a survival hormone. It is released to enable the metabolism of the body to keep us alive through a stressful time. It also serves to regulate blood sugar during times of fasting or sleep, reduces inflammation, slows metabolism during fasting, as well as hypes us up to deal with stress.
Normal cortisol secretion is highest in the morning to get us going, gradually tapers off during the day, and is lowest at night to allow us to go to sleep. When our bodies were evolving genetically, stress events were relatively brief episodes, such as being chased by a lion, or a long cold winter. Now in modern society, stress events can last years or indefinitely.
Modern stresses appear as job stress, relationship or family stress, financial stress, driving stress, multi-tasking stress (like driving on the freeway, trying to control the kids in the car and talking on the cell phone all at the same time). Our lifestyles also upset the normal rhythm of cortisol production. Things such as eating or exercising late in the day, or working late at night will force the adrenal glands to put out high levels of cortisol for the task at hand rather than to allow it to decline to let us sleep. Habitual disruption of the normal gland production cycles as well as chronic excess stimulation leads to adrenal exhaustion.
Cortisol is also considered a catabolic hormone, which means it serves to break down the body. It is also an anti-insulin hormone. Insulin is considered an anabolic hormone, one that builds us up. So when cortisol is persistently elevated it causes elevations in insulin, which results in what is known as “insulin resistance.” If we become insulin resistant, it causes us to gain weight, makes it difficult to lose weight, and puts us on the path to developing diabetes.
h2. Common Causes of Stress
* Bad relationships (Marriage, family work)
* Feeling out of control in your life (Marriage, Finances, Work, Family)
* Perception of Stress
* Unresolved bad past experiences (over-thinking late at night)
* Low blood sugar, skipping meals, high-carbohydrate low-protein diets, caffeine, alcohol, sugar, generally poor diet habits etc.
* Pain, trauma, surgery, inflammation, chronic illness, Hormone imbalance
* Over-exercising, lack of adequate rest and sleep
* Inflammatory bowel disease, Crohns disease, leaky gut, food intolerances
* Chronic intestinal parasite infections, gut dysbiosis and candidiasis
Consequences of Stress
* Lack of sleep (difficulty falling to sleep and staying asleep)
* Suppression of neuro transmitters (leads to depression)
* Anxiety and poor cognitive ability
* Immune suppression (increased infections and allergies)
* Increase in blood sugar, blood pressure, fluid retention, weight gain (especially around the middle)
* Breakdown of bone and muscle
* Inhibition of protein synthesis (bad hair, skin and nails)
* Lack of healing and repair (weak muscles, joint pains, cataracts, easy bruising)
* Suppression of other hormones (especially thyroid, DHEA, Progesterone)
* Damaged mucus layer of eyes, nose, throat, stomach (ulcers) and intestines
* Damaged Adrenal Glands and Adrenal Exhaustion (Adrenal “Burn-Out”)
I believe the most accurate method of testing the adrenals is the 24 hour urine analysis. This test also assesses all of the hormones and how they are being metabolized. It is an extremely accurate evaluation over a 24 hour period, that I have come to rely on as essential for fine tuning hormone balancing. If you have not had this test done ,and you are on hormone replacement, you should be sure to get it done.
Treatment of Adrenal Burnout or Stressed Adrenals is often multifactorial and individualized to each person, based on their specific causes. Sometimes, correction of Adrenal imbalances can take from 6-24 months of continual work. The foundation of all adrenal repair is adequate sleep, rest and a healthy diet. The good news is that most Adrenal stress disorders are correctible. And when it is corrected many other defective components of metabolism will fall into place.
Come in and pick up a 24 hour urine collection kit ,and find out more about your adrenals and all of your hormones.
This information is for educational purposes only, and is not intended to treat or diagnose any health condition.