This Is Your Endocrine System – Adrenals
We have two adrenal glands, each perched atop a kidney. With your spine dividing your back in two, you can locate a kidney in the middle of each half, with the bottom of the kidney right around the bottom of your rib cage. Several inches above that sits an adrenal gland, topping the kidney like a little beanie.
The adrenals handle our everyday energy needs, and our fight-or-flight response in stressful situations. Healthy adrenals don’t even let you know they’re on the job; they just go about their complicated business. Unfortunately, these babies own an uncanny ability to get into trouble.
If heavy stress goes on and on, it can conk out in adrenal fatigue, which is fixable if you take care of business. The first advice you’ll hear is to get rid of your stress, which may or may not be possible.
Here’s some advice you generally won’t hear: Get to bed by 10:00 p.m. every night and get good nutrition. Any form of sugar stomps on the adrenals, so get rid of sugar-even though you probably crave it. Instead of sweets, eat fatty protein. (Saturated fat is the endocrine system’s friend. Brain’s friend, too.) Then add a good program of vitamins and minerals to your daily routine so your adrenals have something to work with.
Adrenals can also go down by trying to help a bum thyroid. Treating thyroid problems without first checking your adrenal status is asking for trouble, but most doctors do just that. It’s a good news/bad news situation: Not checking the adrenals is the bad news. The good news-of a sort-is that most doctors treat hypothyroidism with Synthroid, which doesn’t help the thyroid enough to get the adrenal glands’ attention, so at least things don’t get worse. You’re still in a mighty deep ditch, but, hey, things could be worse.
A damaged hypothalamus can cause adrenal problems, as can a whacked out pituitary. And things in the environment. And so it goes.
Most doctors use blood tests to check the adrenals, which makes no sense. First off, it measures adrenal levels in the blood, not in the tissues where the action happens. Second, accurate tests of adrenal function cover many hours. A one-shot blood test isn’t accurate-especially since it tests the wrong thing.
Of the doctors who test properly, some use a saliva test while others prefer a 24-hour urine test. Both test adrenal levels in the tissues. The saliva test, done at home, tests for hormones four times in a 12-hour period. The 24-hour urine test explains itself. In that test, both hormone levels and the quantity of urine matter.
Symptoms of adrenals
Symptoms of adrenal problems are a lot like those of the thyroid-constant fatigue, brain fog, hair loss, etc. Symptoms specific to the adrenals include an itchy back, a patchy loss of leg hair and difficulty in word recall, especially names.
Small doses of hydrocortisone treat underactive adrenals, but it’s hard to get a prescription. Almost impossible, in fact, so you usually have to take care of business in other ways.
Well, help would be nice, but sometimes it isn’t offered. Sometimes it’s refused. In either case, helping yourself beats giving up.
God is good,
Copyright by Bette Dowdell. All rights reserved
P.S. Bette Dowdell is not a doctor, nor does she purport to be She’s a patient who’s been studying and successfully handling her own endocrine problems for more than 30 years. She offers introductory teleseminars and an in-depth 12-month subscription program, “Moving to Health” about living well with endocrine issues. She explains how things work-or don’t, discusses what things to avoid as well as the things that help, and she provides a lot of well-researched nutritional information. Subscribe to her free e-zine at Information is power.