Hormones Secreted by the Adrenal Glands
DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) is a precursor to oestrogens, progesterone and testosterone. DHEA is extremely important for immune system function and anabolic (building up) processes in the body. DHEA levels begin to decline after age thirty-five but cortisol can remain elevated during continuing periods of stress. Low DHEA levels are also found in diseases such as multiple sclerosis, cancer, fibromyalgia, lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and of course, thyroid disorders.
Healthy adrenal glands are vital for women who are peri- and post-menopausal. The adrenal glands are responsible for producing the majority of sex hormones in a menopausal woman once the ovaries stop functioning. If the adrenal glands are fatigued and not ready for menopause, there will be an exaggeration of menopausal symptoms such as hot flashes, weight gain, sleep problems, bone loss, mood swings, depression, anxiety, loss of sex drive and vaginal dryness. Healthy adrenals ensure an easy transition into menopause.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal cortex which increases blood sugar when it is low or if the body is under stress. Cortisol will cause glucose production in the liver or it will strip muscle tissue of protein to make glucose. Excess cortisol over long periods of time can increase the risk of diabetes due to prolonged blood sugar elevations. It suppresses inflammatory reactions in the body and also affects the immune system.
Aldosterone regulates the balance of sodium and potassium in the body, which in turn helps in controlling blood pressure, electrolytes and the distribution of fluids. It too can become depleted and contribute to adrenal fatigue. Low levels of aldosterone often accompany low levels of cortisol, but not always.
Adrenaline produced by the adrenal medulla will also raise blood sugar if there is stress on the body. If there is no physical activity, the excess sugar will be converted into fat and stored mainly around the mid-section, hips and thighs. The main action of adrenaline is to prepare the body for the ‘fight or flight’ response in times of stress
Norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline). This hormone leads to squeezing of the blood vessels (vasoconstriction), thus maintaining blood pressure and increasing it in response to acute stress.
All hormones are secreted on a circadian rhythm ( the circadian rhythm is a 24-hour cycle that tells our bodies when to sleep and regulates many other physiological processes). Cortisol production is the highest in the early morning and then slowly tapers off as the day progresses. Cortisol levels are lowest at night so that the body can repair itself to the best of its ability. Two-thirds of the body’s stored sugar is lost while sleeping and cortisol production ensures balanced blood sugar during the night. If the adrenals are fatigued, the person may have trouble staying asleep as the body will make adrenaline to raise blood sugar due to inadequate cortisol production which is enough to wake the person up. If the adrenals are in overdrive with too much cortisol production, then there will be difficulty in falling asleep. In people struggling to get started in the morning, the adrenals are probably fatigued and can’t make adequate cortisol to raise blood sugar and get the person going in the morning.The adrenals will go through phases of adaptation to stress beginning with elevated cortisol due to the initial stress. In the second stage, the adrenals will begin to use sex hormone precursors to make cortisol and DHEA will drop. The final stage is adrenal exhaustion/fatigue when the adrenals can no longer produce cortisol and DHEA.
Factors involved in Adrenal Fatigue
The Adrenal Glands
The adrenal glands consist of the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla and perform distinct separate functions.
The Adrenal Cortex.The adrenal cortex secretes hormones that have an effect on the body's metabolism, on chemicals in the blood, and on certain body characteristics. The adrenal cortex secretes corticosteroids and other hormones directly into the bloodstream.
The Adrenal Medulla. The adrenal medulla, the inner part of the adrenal gland, helps a person cope with physical and emotional stress.
The adrenals are involved in manufacturing numerous hormones, blood sugar regulation, the regulation of the body’s minerals, producing and maintaining the body’s energy levels in conjunction with the thyroid. The adrenals are the body’s shock absorbers and are the core of the endocrine stress response system. Two of their most important hormones, adrenaline and cortisol, are responsible for the fight-or-flight response. Adrenaline deals primarily with short-term stress while cortisol is produced as a result of both acute and long-term stress.
Blood glucose is intricately related to adrenal gland function and vice versa. Chronically elevated cortisol levels from adrenal stress will cause insulin receptor insensitivity. This basically means that when insulin binds to cell receptors to allow glucose (blood sugar) entry into the cell, the receptors may not respond which leaves sugar floating in the blood stream which will be converted into fat and stored mainly around the abdomen, hips and thighs. This also puts extra stress on the pancreas to make more insulin to deal with the excess blood sugar which increases the risk of diabetes. Cortisol is very important for blood sugar stability.
What is more important? Adrenal dysfunction or blood sugar dysfunction? It doesn’t matter because when one starts to become imbalanced if affects the other. This is also important to understand in treatment because both aspects should be addressed at the same time for optimal results.
The thyroid gland produces two main hormones: T4 (also called thyroxine) and T3 (also called triiodothyronine). These hormones help to control the rate at which the body burns calories. They also have a huge bearing on energy levels and maintenance of normal body temperature.
T4 is not the active thyroid hormone; it must be converted into T3 in the body in order to exert its effects.
The majority of this conversion does not occur in the thyroid gland but takes place in the liver, kidneys and muscles. This conversionis not effective in people with a fatty liver. Thyroid hormone medication must also be converted into the active form in the body. If the thyroid medication does not yield results, the liver could be the problem. It is vital that liver health is improved to ensure healthy thyroid hormone levels.
Hyperthyroidism is typically associated with worsening blood glucose control and increased insulin requirements. The excessive thyroid hormone causes increased glucose production in the liver, rapid absorption of glucose through the intestines, and increased insulin resistance.
Hypothyroidism rarely causes significant changes in blood glucose control, although it can reduce the clearance of insulin from the bloodstream, so the dose of insulin may be reduced. More important, hypothyroidism is accompanied by increased total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, and increased triglyceride levels.
The liver is the major detoxification center of the body. It acts as an in-line filter for the removal of foreign substances and wastes from the blood. Toxins that are cleared by the liver include alcohol, solvents, drugs, binders and fillers from nutrition supplements, formaldehyde, pesticides, herbicides and food additives. Impaired detoxification in the liver can lead to abnormal thyroid hormone function. Elevated insulin levels will reduce glutathione levels inhibiting the liver’s ability to detoxify. This will affect the conversion of inactive T4 into active T3, increase thyroid-disrupting chemicals and may lead to excess estrogen levels which inhibit thyroid hormone function.
The liver and the adrenal glands are intimately connected though cortisol, the main anti-stress hormone. Cortisol imbalance can lead to liver dysfunction. Similarly, severe liver disease is associated with adrenal insufficiency. When the adrenals are overstressed, the liver can become congested and ineffective over time. The weaker the adrenals become the higher the risk of liver problems.
The Gastro-intestinal Tract
Elevated cortisol levels slowly eat away at the immune system that lines the gastrointestinal (GI) tract. Cortisol also increases inflammation in the GI tract and prevents the cells that line the GI tract from regenerating which increases the risk of ulcers. This leads to increased infections from parasites, yeast (candida - see below), mold, fungi, viruses, and bacteria which further stresses the adrenal glands creating a vicious cycle. Leaky gut is another consequence of chronically elevated cortisol levels which is a condition in which gaps open in the intestinal barrier allowing undigested proteins and toxins to enter the bloodstream uninhibited. This puts a major stress on the body’s immune system and can lead to immune dysfunction, adrenal stress, chronic fatigue and thyroid hormone imbalance.
Candida The toxins that Candida emits alter and disrupt neurotransmitters and hormones in the body, thus disrupting the endocrine system, challenging the immune system, and putting the body in a constant state of stress which weakens the adrenal glands. A candida waste product produces a false estrogen, which tricks the body into thinking it has produced adequate levels, signaling a reduction of its own estrogen. Similar messages can also be sent to the thyroid, reducing thyroxin production and initiating or worsening a hypothyroid problem. Candida can affect the ability to convert T4 to T3.
Elevated estrogen levels also increase vaginal candidiasis incidence. Estrogen will literally feed candida growth, which is why birth control pills and estrogen replacement therapy put women at a greater risk of developing candida.
Candida overgrowth affects the liver more severely due to the fact that the liver receives a large blood supply directly from the intestines, where Candida overgrowth usually gets its start. There is a direct link between the liver and the spread of candida albicans. Candida albicans can change its form from a simple non-invasive cell to an invasive form with tendrils (tentacles). These tendrils grow like roots and can penetrate the wall of the bowel, and act like a leaking pipe through which waste products and toxins can enter into the bloodstream, bypassing the liver. The liver is unable to get to these toxins which can then cause symptoms such as fatigue, allergies and mysterious ill health.
Those who are suffering from chronic Candida are already under an immense amount of physical pressure. Their immune systems are severely compromised, which leads to physical stress on the body. Eventually, the adrenal glands stop producing cortisol, which in turn causes more damage to the immune system. Many are misdiagnosed at first, so they’re taking antibiotics, medications, and stimulants to fight what they think is chronic fatigue, IBS, or something else. They’re pressuring the adrenal glands without even knowing it.
On the other hand, some patients do develop adrenal fatigue before they develop Candida. Adrenal fatigue, in its own right, depresses the immune system because of the lack of cortisol. The weaker your immune system, the easier it is for Candida to grow and thrive within the body.
Diabetes and Adrenal Function
When a person with diabetes is under stress, the demand for blood glucose increases. When suffering from adrenal fatigue, the adrenals cannot produce enough hormones to generate blood glucose from reserves. Further complicating this matter is that during stress, insulin levels are increased because the demand for energy in the cells is greater. Insulin opens the cell wall membranes so the cells can take in more glucose for fuel to generate energy. Cortisol normally helps create insulin resistance in the cell membrane to slow the flow of glucose from the blood into the cell. This helps protect the cells from detrimental effects of too much glucose and the body from too rapid a decline in blood sugar. When cortisol is low, available blood glucose is reduced. Glucose is the main fuel of the brain. In times of stress it is affected by a lack of glucose. Most of the mechanisms involved in regulating blood sugar are designed to ensure that the brain always has enough glucose to enable it to function properly. Many of the symptoms of adrenal fatigue and most of the symptoms of hypoglycemia are the result of insufficient glucose available to brain tissues.
The Basic Symptoms
Symptoms of overtaxed adrenals include extreme fatigue, irritability, inability to concentrate, insomnia, addictions to either sweet or salty foods, allergies, depression, anxiety, sensitivity to cold and headaches. Chronic low blood pressure can be a key symptom of adrenal exhaustion.
Some symptoms of hypothyroidism include fatigue, weight gain, fibroids, endometriosis, ovarian cysts, heavy bleeding, fibrocystic breast disease, depression, PMS, migraines, lack of concentration, cold hands and feet, menopausal symptoms, miscarriage and infertility.
A long list of potential symptoms associated with candida overgrowth include depression, anxiety attacks, mood swings, lack of concentration, drowsiness, poor memory, headaches, insomnia, fatigue, bloating, constipation, bladder infections, menstrual cramps, vaginal itching, muscle and joint swelling, pain, hypothyroidism, and skin problems.
White refined sugar, white flour and other refined food put a continuous strain on the adrenal glands as well as the liver, pancreas and other organ systems and is the second leading contributor in the causes of adrenal fatigue.
Sugar, white flour and other refined foods, they are absorbed very quickly by the body and bring blood glucose levels up too quickly to an excessively high level. This sends an emergency signal to the pancreas to bring the blood sugar levels back down, so it releases an excessive amount of insulin to deal with the excessively high levels of blood glucose.This in turn causes the body to call on the adrenal glands to release cortisol to bring the blood sugar levels back up, because it works in conjunction with insulin to keep blood sugar in balance. Every time sugar and refined foods are consumed, the pancreas and the adrenals go through this cycle and this puts too much demand on them.
Over time as the adrenal glands are called on over and over to regulate this vicious pattern, they become depleted and no longer release the amount of cortisol that is necessary for adequate functioning and thus blood sugar stays in a consistently lower state and this leads to the problem of hypoglycemia in addition to adrenal fatigue.
The liver and the adrenal glands are intimately connected though cortisol, the main anti-stress hormone. Cortisol has a great effect on liver function. There is a direct connection between cortisol levels and fatty liver disease which is caused when the adrenal gland production of cortisol is excessive due to overstimulation. High cortisol promotes fat deposits in the liver and is associated with a higher incidence of non-alcoholic fatty liver. Because the liver plays such an important role in regulating the body's blood sugar, the buildup of fat in the vital organ makes it harder to control fasting glucose levels. It also makes the body more resistant to insulin, straining the pancreas and its beta cells and causing type 2 diabetes. Fortunately, this is reversible as in the absence of cortisol, liver fat accumulation slows.
Products in the DNA Biopharm Range that can help with these problems.
Click on any image below for more detailed information on these products.
Relieves the symptoms and assists with Adrenal Fatigue
Promotes a healthy digestive system
Restores and regenerates the liver for optimal health.
Promotes a healthy Adrenal system and relieves adrenal fatigue.
Controls Candida overgrowth and relieves the symptoms.
Maintains healthy glucose levels and restores pancreatic function.
Relieves the symptoms and helps the body cope with the stresses of menopause.