The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They secrete hormones that are essential for our bodies. Cortisone and epinephrine are the two most important hormones that are produced by the adrenals. These hormones are essential to maintain blood pressure, blood sugar, the immune system and fluid balance.
Cortisol’s most important function is to help the body respond to stress. It also helps regulate your body’s use of protein, carbohydrates, and fat; helps maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function; and controls inflammation.
Your adrenal glands are the organs that respond when your body is under stress. They help to regulate the use of protein carbohydrates and fat. They maintain blood pressure, heart function and control inflammation. The other hormone the adrenals produce are epinephrine and aldosterone. Epinephrine is your flight/fight hormone that raises blood pressure and heart rate. It is the key hormone of your sympathetic nervous system. Aldosterone helps your kidneys regulate the amount of salt and water in your body and thus controls blood volume and blood pressure. When aldosterone levels drop too low, your kidneys cannot keep your salt and water levels in balance. This makes your blood pressure drop.
When you have been ill or have been under stress for extended periods of time the adrenals become weaker. Over time, the adrenal glands can overproduce cortisone when you are under stress and then begin to produce less hormone and cause adrenal fatigue.
Modern medicine uses cortisone frequently for inflammation, allergies, auto-immune disease, and cancer. Often these high doses can cause the adrenals to lower the amount of hormone they make. If you have been on steroids for any reason, you need to have your adrenal hormones checked.
Symptoms of excess cortisol include anxiety, sleep issues, sugar cravings, difficulty loosing weight, fluid retention, poor healing, mental confusion and bone loss. If the symptoms are sever a condition called Cushing’s syndrome can occur.
Adrenal fatigue can occur from prolonged stress or overuse of steroids. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are muscle weakness, inability to manage stress, depression, sleep problems, low pressure, low pulse, hair loss, low blood sugar and low immune function. Many patients with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome are suffering from adrenal fatigue.
To diagnose adrenal excess or adrenal fatigue, you can have a blood cortisol level, a salivary cortisol test, a 24 hour urine collection to measure the amount of cortisol produced in a day, a cortisyn stimulation test or a dexamethasone suppression test.
Adrenal restoration programs include diet and life style changes, meditation, supplements and injections and intravenous therapies. For some patients, using bio-identical hydrocortisone in physiologic doses can be beneficial.