In our last blog, we talked about stress and the cortisol/blood sugar connection. To piggyback off this topic, we can’t talk about stress without talking about the adrenal glands. The adrenals play a vital role in managing and processing stressful situations, controlling our metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, and many other functions. Below, we will answer some commonly asked questions about the adrenals, their role, and how to support them. 

What are the adrenal glands, and where are they located?

The adrenal glands sit on top of our kidneys. They are about 1/2 an inch high and 3″ long. These glands secrete various hormones that regulate many of our body’s systems, like those mentioned above. The adrenals are highlighted in the picture below. (image from: https://maxliving.com/healthy-articles/how-to-treat-your-adrenals-well/

What do the adrenals do?

The adrenals are responsible for releasing the following hormones directly into the bloodstream:

  • Cortisol
  • Cortisone 
  • Aldosterone 
  • DHEA and Androgenic Steroids
  • Epinephrine and Norepinephrine

The hormones we will focus on today are epinephrine and norepinephrine. Epinephrine is more of the physical side of stress and norepinephrine is the emotional side. Both can cause elevated amounts of anxiety like mind racing, overwhelm and heart racing. These two also contribute to what is called “tired wired” which is when you are exhausted but can’t sleep because we are still wired from the day. In one of her blog posts, Dr. Horowitz talks about this phenomena and steps that you can take to get tested and seek treatment if this sounds like you. 

Why do we have a fight-or-flight response?

Evolutionarily speaking, the fight-or-flight response was hard-wired in us from thousands of years ago to respond instinctively to immediate danger, like a bear chasing after us. However, the stressors we have today, like emails from our boss, deadlines, and bills being due, aren’t necessarily the same type of immediate dangers our bodies are wired to respond to. The only issue is, our bodies haven’t evolved past this response, so we react to everyday life stressors as if they were life-threatening events. 

What happens when we produce too many stress hormones?

We can end up in a state of “adrenal fatigue”. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue are:

  • Fatigue
  • Body aches
  • Nervousness
  • Sleep disturbances 
  • Digestive distress

So how do we support our adrenals and keep them healthy and functioning properly?

  • Eat a diet low in sugar, especially refined sugar. 
  • Limit or eliminate processed foods.
  • Focus your diet on whole foods. 
  • Speak to your Naturopathic Doctor and/or specialist about additional supplementation.
  • Find ways to manage stress better – we have many blogs about managing stress with breathwork, meditation, and even yoga.The blog highlighted above is specifically about breathwork, but be sure to look at the others.
  • Get your 8 hours of sleep – Get to sleep before midnight as best you can.
  • Lastly, work with a therapist to help you process stress better and gain a different perspective on the stressful life events you face daily. Sometimes talking it out or hearing an alternative perspective can assist us in de-stressing. 

If you are struggling with increasing amounts of stress or anxiety and think that you may have some challenges with your adrenals, here at Dr. Erika Horowitz, we can test for adrenal fatigue and treat it.  For more information, email us at contact@drerikahorowitz.com.

Sources used: 

  1. https://www.hopkinsmedicine.org/health/conditions-and-diseases/adrenal-glands#:~:text=Adrenal%20glands%2C%20also%20known%20as,stress%20and%20other%20essential%20functions.
  2. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/addisons-disease/expert-answers/adrenal-fatigue/faq-20057906
  3. https://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/adrenal-fatigue-is-it-real