The Happy Adrenal
Our adrenal glands, as the name suggests, sit just on top of our kidneys, and are involved in a huge range of normal and very important, every day functions. These include managing our metabolism, helping control our blood pressure, even helping manage bone density. They also produce a small amount of our sex hormones.
Aldosterone is a steroidal hormone also produced by the adrenal glands. This hormone is vital in controlling blood pressure. It does this partly by controlling sodium and potassium levels in the blood, and managing water retention or loss. When it is out of balance we can become dehydrated, and in the long term, imbalanced aldosterone is a main contributor to cardiovascular disease.
But our adrenals are probably best known for managing stress. We have probably all heard of Adrenaline. Our bodies produce this in a flight or fight response. This design was literally for a life or death situation, where there is an imminent chance of death or injury. Blood would get diverted from all non-essential functions - eg digestion - and sent to muscles to maximise our ability to get away from danger. Have you ever had butterflies in your stomach? This happens when we feel nervous because our bodies think that maybe you will need you to run away from something. Bloodflow is temporarily turned off from our stomach and digestive system and we feel butterflies.
This design is obviously brilliant in the right setting, but less good if it is a low level daily response.
Another part of the stress response is Cortisol. Cortisol has a vital role in how our bodies use fats, protein and sugars. It regulates blood sugar and also blood pressure, and is key in regulating our sleeping and waking cycle. In the afternoon and evening, levels dip down low and we relax, but we get a boost of cortisol in the morning to get us going. However, we also release cortisol in response to stress, and when we live in a constant low level, stressful environment, or we work in unnatural shifts, we keep making cortisol all the time. Often this is a lower volume, but still a constant stream into our systems.
Dr Lam has some useful information in his newsletters:
Keep a look out for the next episode in the Adrenal series - "Is Cortisol good or bad?"