Your adrenal glands are part of your endocrine system – the system of organs that produce your hormones.
They produce hormones needed to support many of your vital bodily functions.
In addition, your adrenal glands are part of your body’s stress response system.
When your adrenal glands are overworked or impacted by disease you might experience fatigue, nausea, problems with blood pressure, and more.
Keeping your adrenal glands healthy is just one of the many ways you can maintain optimal health.
Here at 1stCallHealth, we’re a Washington DC medical clinic and we’re here to help.
Book your appointment with us today for accessible, affordable primary care services for your adrenals and the rest of your body too.
Or, read on to find out more about your adrenal glands.
What Are Your Adrenal Glands?
Your adrenal glands are two small organs that produce several hormones your body needs to function.
Each of your adrenal glands is about the size of a walnut.
One of these triangular glands sits on the upper lobe of each of your kidneys.
Each of your adrenal glands consists of an outer adrenal cortex and an inner adrenal medulla.
These parts are responsible for the production of different hormones.
Your adrenal glands are part of your endocrine system, a set of glands throughout your body.
The glands of the endocrine system produce the hormones your body uses to regulate your health and bodily functions.
What Do Your Adrenal Glands Do?
Your adrenal glands produce several hormones, including:
Steroid hormones like aldosterone and cortisol are produced by the outer adrenal cortex.
Adrenaline, noradrenaline, and several other hormones are produced by the inner adrenal medulla.
These hormones help regulate everything from the nutrients in your blood to your metabolism and stress responses.
Your body uses the hormones produced by your adrenal glands for many things, including:
- Maintaining sugar levels
- Managing blood pressure
- Balancing magnesium and other minerals in your blood and organs
- Regulating your menstrual cycle
- Managing your mood
What Are Some Adrenal Gland Disorders?
Adrenal gland disorders may develop for a variety of reasons.
Adrenal gland disorders can be the result of:
- Inherited genetic traits
- Infection of your adrenal glands
- Cancerous or noncancerous tumor formation inside the adrenal glands
- Poor functioning of the pituitary gland, which regulates hormone production
Let’s take a closer look at some of the health conditions which may affect your adrenal glands.
1. Congenital Adrenal Hyperplasia
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia is an inherited hormonal disorder.
If you have this disorder, you may overproduce some hormones and have difficulties producing others.
Congenital adrenal hyperplasia can affect the development of sex organs.
More severe versions are diagnosed in the first months of life.
However, your primary care provider may talk to adults or parents of children about testing for a milder version called “non-classical CAH”.
This may be the case if you developed early puberty, early menstruation or if you have abnormal menses that otherwise may suggest polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS).
2. Cushing’s Syndrome
Cushing’s syndrome can have similar symptoms to prolonged steroid use.
This is because it’s the body’s response to too much of a certain kind of steroid.
This can include taking steroids for too long, or certain types of tumors which can trigger steroid production.
Cushing’s syndrome is rare and occurs when your adrenal glands produce too much cortisol.
3. Addison’s Disease
Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disease.
This means your immune system mistakes your adrenal glands for a pathogen and attacks them.
Addison’s disease develops when your adrenal glands don’t produce enough cortisol or aldosterone.
Addison’s disease is diagnosed when a person becomes very ill and requires hospitalization after a short period of low blood pressure, fatigue, or stomach upset.
President John F. Kennedy famously had Addison’s disease, and had a common side effect of long term or chronic Addison’s disease which is darkening or “tanning” of the skin.
Pheochromocytoma involves the development of tumors in the inner medulla of your adrenal glands.
Pheochromocytoma tumors are most often benign, or non cancerous.
Your doctor may consider testing your blood and urine for this if you have new or difficult to control blood pressure.
5. Adrenal Cancer
In cases of adrenal cancer, one or more malignant tumors develop in your adrenal glands.
How Do I Know If I Have Adrenal Gland Issues?
The symptoms of adrenal gland disorders can be subtle.
Many adrenal gland disorder symptoms overlap with symptoms of several other conditions.
In the case of adrenal gland disorder, however, symptoms typically get worse and occur more frequently with time.
Symptoms to watch out for include:
- Dark patches of skin
- Excessive fatigue
- Increased salt cravings
- Irregular menstruation
- Low blood pressure
- Muscle and joint pain
- Weight fluctuations
If you experience any of these symptoms on a regular basis, contact your 1stCallHealth care provider for an appointment.
Your 1stCallHealth primary care provider will most likely begin with blood tests to try and get a better idea of your symptoms.
Blood tests used to identify adrenal gland disorders measure your levels of:
- Adrenal hormones
- Pituitary hormones
Your care provider might follow up with imaging – ultrasound, X ray, or MRI – of your adrenal and pituitary glands.
Imaging can help your care provider identify issues like tumors, tissue damage, and other signs of disease.
It also helps to rule out other health disorders that may be causing your symptoms.
How To Keep Your Adrenal Glands Healthy
Your adrenal glands rely on regular rest and a balanced lifestyle to recover from everyday stress.
Without time and the right conditions to restore and repair, you may experience adrenal fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when your adrenal glands are having trouble producing cortisol when your body needs it.
Luckily, there are many things you can do to keep your adrenal glands working well.
Many of these solutions are also great for your overall health.
1. Eat An Adrenal Friendly Diet
An adrenal friendly diet is low on inflammatory foods, rich in nutrients, and limits processed foods and chemicals.
Foods that are rich in omega 3 fatty acids and leafy greens are great for overall health and your adrenal health.
Some foods to include in your diet:
- Fatty fish like salmon, mackerel, and sardines
- Olive oil
- Walnuts, and almonds
- Chia, flax, and pumpkin seeds
- Cruciferous vegetables like cauliflower, broccoli, and kale
- Free range chicken and other lean meat
2. Keep Your Stress Under Control
The adrenal glands are part of your body’s stress response system.
Naturally, managing and reducing your stress will lighten the burden on your adrenal glands and help prevent adrenal fatigue.
Rest, proper sleep, and exercise are all great ways to manage your physiological responses to stress.
Meditation, journaling, talk therapy, yoga, and not overworking are also good ways to limit the stress in your life.
You can also use adaptogenic herbs to reduce your anxiety naturally.
We’ve covered these before – in our article Adaptogenic Herbs To Help Soothe Your Anxiety Naturally.
But here are a few adaptogenic herbs that can help manage your stress.
Licorice root contains a compound known as glycyrrhizic acid.
Glycyrrhizic acid stops your body from breaking down cortisol.
Eating licorice root can help you regulate your cortisol levels if you are experiencing adrenal fatigue.
Licorice root is available as a tea that tastes like fennel or anise, or as a tincture or topical gel.
Several studies have demonstrated that lavender oil extract is an effective way to:
- Reduce restlessness
- Decrease anxiety
- Ease agitation
- Improve sleep
- Relieve headaches
Lavender oil is easy to find in most drugstores and herbalist shops.
Apply lavender oil to your temples or pulse points on the wrist and neck, or add a few drops to a warm bath.
Note that, while you can buy lavender teas and other food products, lavender oil is not safe for consumption.
Also known as tulsi, holy basil helps reduce depression, anxiety, insomnia, and exhaustion.
Holy basil leaves can be steeped in hot water to make an herbal tea.
For those who don’t like the taste, you can also find supplement pills at your local drugstore or health food store.
3. Get Enough Sleep
Rest is essential to give your adrenal glands an opportunity to replenish and restore themselves.
Getting between 7 and 9 hours of sleep each night should give your adrenal glands time to replenish.
Many people experience a wave of energy just before midnight – this wave is a surge of cortisol.
Because this surge of cortisol can disrupt your sleep patterns, it’s best to get to sleep by 10 or 11pm.
4. Get Enough Vitamin C
There are many health benefits of vitamin C, but one of them is that it can help reduce the impact of stress on both physical and psychological health.
Vitamin C works with cortisol to improve your body’s response to stress, and to maintain your adrenal glands responsiveness.
Citrus fruits, berries, and cruciferous vegetables are great ways to get vitamin C from your regular diet.
It’s worth noting that your body doesn’t store vitamin C very well.
Try to get some vitamin C in your diet every day.
5. Get Enough Magnesium
Magnesium is associated with many of your body’s stress management systems.
Your body goes through magnesium faster when you’re stressed.
Replenishing your magnesium stores is a good way to encourage recovery and fight adrenal fatigue.
To add healthy sources of magnesium to your diet, try:
- Dark chocolate
- Nuts, particularly almonds, cashews, and Brazil nuts
- Legumes like lentils, beans, peas, and chickpeas
- Flax, pumpkin, and chia seeds
- Whole grains like wheat, oats, and barley
- Some fatty fish, specifically salmon, mackerel, and halibut
- Leafy greens
Book Your Appointment With 1stCallHealth Today
Prolonged stress on your adrenal glands can affect your energy levels, weight, blood pressure, and a host of other systems.
Diagnostic testing can help you get a better picture of your health if you are experiencing symptoms of adrenal fatigue.
If you’ve been burning the candle at both ends with little time to de-stress, your adrenal system might be out of balance.
To get your energy back and your adrenal glands functioning well, book your appointment with 1stCallHealth today.
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Washington, DC 20005
1stCallHEALTH provides affordable access to primary care services. We believe that everyone deserves affordable, high quality primary care. Our vision is to challenge the status quo, focus on the individual, and empower personal control to change the way we think about healthcare.