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1Your adrenal glands are approximately the size of 2 walnuts that sit just above your kidneys. They comprise the outer layer (adrenal cortex) and the inner layer (adrenal medulla). The adrenal cortex produces mineral corticoids like aldosterone, cortisol, and the sex hormones estrogen and testosterone. The adrenal medulla produces the stress hormones adrenalin and noradrenaline.

These hormones collectively have many vital functions to your health and well-being.

Aldosterone: regulates your level of sodium and potassium. Aldosterone conserves sodium and releases potassium from your kidneys. Aldosterone plays an important role in regulating your blood pressure.

Cortisol: Cortisol is more commonly known as “the stress hormone” but its most important role is regulating your blood sugar. When your blood sugar gets low cortisol stimulates the release of stored sugar (glycogen) from your liver. Cortisol also regulates your body’s stress response, suppresses inflammation/immune response and helps regulate your sleep/wake cycle.

Estrogen and Testosterone production in the adrenal glands play a more important role for women than men. After menopause, women rely on their adrenal glands for the production of these sex hormones.

Adrenalin and Noradrenalin: are essential for your stress response. They increase your heart rate and redirect blood flow to your heart, lungs, and muscles. Adrenalin makes your brain more alert.

Let’s talk about the HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) axis. Your hypothalamus and pituitary are located at the base of your brain. They are the “Master Glands” that control the function of your adrenal glands. Your HPA axis works on a negative feedback loop. A negative feedback loop is your body’s way of keeping your endocrine system in balance.

For example: if you are in a stressful situation your sensory organs (eyes, ears, skin, muscles) will signal to your brain that you are in some kind of danger. Your brain (hypothalamus/pituitary) will tell your adrenal glands to secrete stress hormones (cortisol, adrenalin). Your stress hormones will flood your blood streaming enabling your body to evade a potentially dangerous situation. High levels of stress hormones will eventually tell the hypothalamus/pituitary to stop signaling your adrenal glands to make stress hormones, bringing your body back to homeostasis.

The above example is how things work in a perfect world. Unfortunately, maintaining a healthy balance in our lives can be quite challenging. Hormonal imbalance whether it’s estrogen, progesterone, thyroid, or cortisol, can have devastating effects on your health. Hormones are very powerful and once out of balance can be difficult to reign in by just diet and exercise alone.

Stay tuned for my next blog when we discuss what can go wrong when our adrenal hormones are out of balance and ways to bring you back to health.

Feeling overwhelmed? Not sure how to meet your health goals on your own? Frustrated with traditional medicine? >> Book an appointment with Dr. Chris and get back in balance!

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