The adrenals are two small glands. Each weighs 3 to 5 g. They are located above the kidneys. The adrenals have one of the highest rates of blood flow program of any tissue in the body. The adrenal glands are our stress-handling glands. They produce a variety of hormones that help handle all types of stress, whether that stress be physical, chemical, mental, or emotional. The adrenals seek to keep your body functioning in a dynamic balance or in a state of homeostasis amidst whatever external or internal changes or challenges affect the body. The adrenals help mobilize the flight or fight response to stressor. The adrenal glands control fluid balance, blood sugar balance especially between meals. The adrenals act somewhat like your fuel pump and are responsible for providing adequate amounts of blood sugar or fuel to meet your needs. Need is determined by whatever stress activity levels you are experiencing. Inflammatory and anti-inflammatory responses to injury or invasion are also helped managed by the adrenal glands. The adrenals also help with immune system strength and response to bacterial or viral invasion. Each adrenal gland is composed of two separate functional entities. The outer zone or the cortex accounts for 80% to 90% of the entire gland. The gland secretes adrenal steroids. The adrenal cortex secretes cortisol, DHEA, and aldosterone. The inner zone, the adrenal medulla, makes up 10% to 20% of the gland and secretes catecholamines, epinephrine, and norepinephrine. The adrenals are also involved in the production of the sex hormones whose function is tissue repair, body rebuilding, //sex hormones//, and anti-aging functions. They would include DHEA, pregnenolone, progesterone, estrogen, and testosterone. The adrenal cortex as previously stated is involved in the production of cortisol as well as glucocorticoids. These hormones actually are important for blood sugar regulation, anti-inflammatory actions, and immune response modifications. Other hormones produced by the adrenal cortex include aldosterone and mineral corticoids. These hormones are involved in regulation of sodium, potassium, and fluid volume. They are also very important in inflammatory process.
Adrenal rhythm and secretion of hormones is very important. The adrenal glands do not secrete steroid hormones at a constant level throughout the day. The hormones are released in a cyclic-type event with highest levels secreted in the morning and the lowest levels at night. The 24-hour cycle is called as circadian rhythm. Abnormal adrenal rhythm can influence many functions of the body. Abnormal rhythm can influence the body in one of the several ways. Those ways are listed below:
1) Sleep quality. The ability to enter REM sleep cycles is interrupted by high cortisol values at night and in the morning. Chronic lack of REM sleep can reduce the mental activity and mental sharpness of a person which can lead to depression.
2) Energy production. Abnormal adrenal function can alter the ability of the cells to produce energy for activities of daily living. People who have a hard time rising in the morning or who suffer with low energy level through the day often have abnormal adrenal rhythms and poor blood sugar regulation.
3) Muscle and joint function. Abnormal adrenal rhythms are known to compromise tissue healing. Reduced tissue repair and increased tissue breakdown can lead to muscle and joint breakdown with chronic pain.
4) Bone health. The adrenal rhythm determines how well we build bone. If night cortisol level is elevated and the morning level is too high, our bodies do not rebuild well. We are then more prone to osteoporotic process, stresses the energy of bones in postmenopausal women and affects stress worsen due to female hormone imbalance.
5) Immune health. Various immune cells cycle in and out of the spleen and bone marrow. The immune system trafficking follows the cortisol cycle. If the cycle is disrupted especially at night, the immune system is adversely affected.
6) Skin regeneration. Human skin regenerates mostly during the night. With higher night cortisol levels, less skin regeneration takes place. Normal cortisol rhythm is essential for skin health.
7) Thyroid function. The levels of cortisol controls thyroid hormone production. Often times, hypothyroid symptoms such as fatigue and low body temperature are due to an adrenal maladaptation.
8) Food intolerance or gluten intolerance. Grains are not tolerated well by many humans due to gluten sensitivity. The gut becomes inflamed when grains are digested which can lead to an adrenal stress response resulting an increased cortisol production and reduced DHEA.