Your adrenal glands are not likely something you’ve given much thought to in the past. These two tiny powerhouses are housed on top of your kidneys and have been responsible for keeping humans alive for millennia. When we’re under stress or in danger, adrenal glands flood our bodies and brains with a hormone cocktail of adrenaline and cortisol. The adrenal glands wear many hats including managing energy levels, blood pressure, immune health, and our stress response. We’re going to take a look at what our adrenal glands do and how we can support them to avoid adrenal fatigue.
What Are Adrenal Glands and What Do They Do?
Your adrenal glands are actually made of two parts. The adrenal cortex is the outer part and is responsible for the hormones that are vital to staying alive. For example, aldosterone regulates our blood pressure and the balance of salt and water in our systems. The adrenal cortex releases cortisol, otherwise known as the stress hormone, and it regulates our metabolism and stress response.
The adrenal medulla is the inner portion of the adrenal glands. The adrenal medulla is in charge of adrenaline which helps us respond to and handle stress. It also plays a major role in our Fight or Flight response, which is when our bodies either identify and fight the threat or retreat to safety.
Too much or too little of these hormones can cause a domino effect of issues in our bodies. The situation that causes the most disruption is our “GO GO GO” modern stressful lifestyles. When we are threatened, or under great stress, a rapid game of Pong happens between our adrenal glands and our brains. At each ping to the system, specific hormone cocktails are released to handle the situation at hand. The result almost always involves adrenaline and cortisol.
Adrenaline gives us an instant boost of energy, while also increasing our blood pressure and heart rate. Cortisol increases glucose to fuel the brain for quick decision making with sharp focus, while putting things like digestion and immune response on the back burner. Cortisol is our body’s built-in alarm system controlling motivation, mood, and fear response. However, when we are not in stress, cortisol also regulates how the body converts food to energy.
How to Support Your Adrenal Glands
So how do we know if our adrenals are working like a fine-tuned machine or rather needing some maintenance? Just like anything else, getting tested is a great way to find your answer. Most adrenal testing is a simple saliva test and can give you and your doctor a wealth of information on how your body is handling stress in your life. Many people think they are handling stress really well until they see the test and find out there is a lot of harmful activity going on behind the scenes. Or worse yet, their body sends them a wake up call in the form of a health crisis.
What Can I do?
One of the easiest ways to support your adrenal glands is to watch your diet. Limiting or eliminating caffeine, sugar, and junk food is beneficial to your adrenal health as well as almost every other system in your body, and the benefits are huge. Increasing your protein and healthy fats also helps support your adrenals. Magnesium-rich foods such as fatty fish, avocado, legumes, and leafy greens support adrenal health and assist in balancing hormone production levels.
There are many adaptogenic herbs and supplements that give extra support to your adrenal glands. Cordycep mushroom, Omega-3 fatty acids, ashwagandha, rhodiola, lemon balm, chamomile, panax ginseng, tulsi, and astragalus are all well-known supplements for adrenal health and stress management. Be sure to check out Pure Encapsulations Adrenal and Cortisol Benefits by Davinci Labs, along with all our other adrenal health supplements in the store.
You are the only one responsible for taking your adrenal health seriously. So, if you feel like you need to make a change, take action! Prioritize good sleep by turning off your screens an hour or two before bed and developing a good sleep routine. This has many health benefits beyond your adrenals, but they will be grateful for the change as well. Managing your stress is easier said than done, but you don’t need to act radically by quitting your job and moving to the beach. There are easy and small steps you can take during the day to help your mind and body cope much better with the stressors in your life. Learning breathing exercises, developing a gratitude habit, going for a walk or spending time in nature, meditating or praying, and even light stretching and yoga can all help your body disperse the pent up stressful energy inside and keep you grounded. This can also include low intensity and restorative exercises. While some of us might hit the gym to blow off some steam after work, many people just do not have the bandwidth for it. For those looking to get started, YouTube is full of videos that will help, as well as a new wave of apps available for increased mindfulness.
Adrenal health and stress truly go hand in hand. This is why it is so important to educate ourselves on how our bodies deal with the stress of modern life and actionable steps we can take to help it react to stress in a healthier way.