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The adrenal glands are two busy little hormone factories.  They sit on top of each kidney.  They produce epinephrine (adrenaline), norepinephrine (noradrenaline), dopamine, glucocorticoids (cortisol, cortisone, corticosterone), mineralocorticoids (aldosterone, dehydroepiandrosterone), and sex hormones (androgens, estrogens, progestins).  This spectrum of hormones regulates “fight or flight” reactions to emergency situations, bodily responses to stress, maintenance of carbohydrate reserves, conversion of storage carbohydrate into blood sugar, blood pressure, electrolyte balance, fluid pressures, kidney function, and many other functions.

In western society, the adrenals are frequently overworked and undernourished, making them weak or underactive.  This leaves the body vulnerable to chronic fatigue, hypoglycemia, allergies, asthma, diabetes, low resistance to infection, low blood pressure, nausea, arthritis, dizziness, poor appetite, weight loss, nervousness and insomnia.

More symptoms of adrenal exhaustion include:

  • Eyes sensitive to bright lights, headlights, sunlight

  • Tightness or “lump” in throat, hurts under stress

  • Inability to cope with stressful events

  • Form goosebumps easily

  • Voice rises to high pitch or is “lost” during stress

  • Easily shaken up or startled from unexpected noise

  • Prefer being alone, uneasy with center of attention

  • Blood pressure fluctuates, sometimes too low

  • Perfectionist, set high standards

  • Avoid complaints, try to ignore inconveniences

  • Work off worries, things left undone cause concern

  • Allergies (skin rash, hay fever, asthma, etc.)

  • Mood swings, tendency to cry easily

  • Cravings for salt

  • Perspire excessively, sweating of hands or feet, cold sweats

  • More than usual neck, head, shoulder tension

  • Blood pressure decreases when going from lying to standing

Factors that can overtax the adrenals include smoking, narcotics, excess dietary sugars, caffeine, alcohol, emotional or physical stress (including surgery).  If experienced only occasionally, anxiety, fear, anger, defeatism, feelings of being overpowered, not caring for oneself, and being angry at oneself may be taken in stride.  However, if these feelings become chronic and routine, they place the body into a constant “fight or flight” mode that put excess demands on the adrenals.

During times of acute stress, depression or grief, the adrenal glands’ need for nutrients soars.  Nutrients that support adrenal function include vitamins B5 (pantothenic acid), B6 (pyridoxine), C, E, and trace minerals.  There are also various herbal and glandular formulas available to support adrenal function.   

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