How Adrenal Function Affects Your Everyday Life
The purpose of your adrenal glands is to help your body cope with stresses and survive. In fact, the adrenals are known as “the glands of stress.” It is their job to enable your body to deal with stress from every possible source, ranging from injury and disease to work and relationship problems. Your resiliency, energy, endurance and your very life all depend on their proper functioning.
Just as Napoleon, a small man with great power, mobilized huge forces to make his presence felt in every part of his world, so your adrenal glands command powerful hormones to extend their influence throughout your body and your life. No bigger than a walnut and weighing less than a grape, each of your two adrenal glands sit like a tiny pyramid on top of each kidney. From this central location they not only significantly affect the functioning of every tissue, organ and gland in your body, but they also have important effects on the way you think and feel. The forces that these two little Napoleons mobilize largely determine the energy of your responses to every change in your internal and external environment. Whether they signal attack, retreat or surrender, every cell responds accordingly, and you feel the results.
One way to get an overview of the far-reaching extent, variety and depth of the effects of your adrenal hormones is to take a look at the wide range of medical conditions treated with drugs that imitate the actions of the adrenal hormone cortisol (synthetic corticosteroids). The uses of hydrocortisone (a corticosteroid) listed in The Physicians’ Desk Reference will give you the story. They include treatment of diseases and disorders of the joint mucus membranes, the heart, the blood, the respiratory tract and lungs, the gastrointestinal tract, the skin, the eyes, and the nervous system.
Hydrocortisone is also used to control swelling and inflammation as well as symptoms of allergies, cancer, viral infection, and immune and auto-immune disorders. However, the effects of your body’s own adrenal hormones on your health and bodily functions are even more varied, profound and extensive.
The hormones secreted by your adrenals influence all of the major physiological processes in your body. They closely affect the utilization of carbohydrates and fats, the conversion of fats and proteins into energy, the distribution of stored fat (especially around your waist and at the sides of your face), normal blood sugar regulation, and proper cardiovascular and gastrointestinal function. The protective activity of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant hormones secreted by the adrenals helps to minimize negative and allergic reactions to alcohol, drugs, foods and environmental allergens. After mid-life (menopause in women), the adrenal glands gradually become the major source of the sex hormones circulating throughout the body in both men and women.
These hormones themselves have a whole host of physical, emotional and psychological effects, from the level of your sex drive to the tendency to gain weight. Every athlete knows that muscular strength and stamina are acutely affected by the adrenal hormones, more commonly known as steroids. Even your propensity to develop certain kinds of diseases and your ability to respond to chronic illness is influenced significantly by the adrenal glands. The more chronic the illness, the more critical the adrenal response becomes. You cannot live without your adrenal hormones and, as you can see from this brief overview, how well you live depends a great deal on how well your adrenal glands function.
About the Author: With a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.