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Adrenal glands - stress hormones, energy levels

Adrenal glands

The adrenal glands are triangular shaped organs that rest on the top of each kidney. Each adrenal gland comprises of two parts - the cortex or outer section which is responsible for the production of cortisone, and the medulla or central section, which secretes adrenaline.

The adrenal cortex helps to maintain salt and water balance in the body. It is also involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and the regulation of blood sugar. The adrenal cortex produces a sex hormone similar to that secreted by the testes as well. The medulla of the adrenal gland produces the hormone epinephrine, also called adrenaline, when the body is under stress. This hormone speeds up the rate of metabolism in order to help cope with stressful situations..

The functioning ability of the adrenal glands is most often impaired due to excessive use of cortisone therapy for disorders such as arthritis and asthma. Long term use of cortisone drugs causes the adrenal gland to shrink in size. Adrenal cortical failure is also caused by pituitary disease and tuberculosis..

When the adrenal cortex is under active, a rare disorder called Addison's may develop. Discolouration and darkening of the skin is common in people suffering from this disease; discolouration of the knees, elbows, scars, skin folds and creases in the palms are more noticeable when these body parts are exposed to the sun. The mouth, the vagina and freckles will appear darker. This disease is also characterised by bands of pigment running the length of the nail and darkened hair. Other symptoms include a decreased amount of body hair, such as under the arms, fatigue, a loss of appetite, dizziness or fainting, an inability to cope with stress, nausea and moodiness. The individual may also constantly complain about being cold. Addison's disease is a life long condition. In order for the adrenal glands to work at their highest functioning ability, a sufferer of this disorder must pay strict attention to their diet.

Nutritional supplements are recommended for adrenal gland health.

Whereas Addison's disease results from an under active adrenal cortex, Cushing's syndrome is a rare disorder caused by an overactive adrenal cortex. Those with this disease generally are heavy in the abdomen, face and buttocks, but have very thin limbs. Muscular weakness and wasting of muscles are also characteristic of this syndrome. Round red marks mimicking acne may appear on the face and the eyelids may appear swollen. Increased growth of body hair is common and women may grow moustaches and beards. A "Cushinoid" appearance is frequently presented with prolonged cortisone use. People with Cushing's generally are more susceptible to illness and have trouble healing properly. Thinning of the skin from Cushing's syndrome often leads to stretch marks and bruising.

To look after your adrenal glands - Avoid stress

In order to keep the adrenal glands functioning properly, stress must be avoided. Continuous and prolonged stress from troubled marriages, bad job conditions, illness or feeling's of low esteem or loneliness can be detrimental to the adrenal glands.

Stress will impair adrenal function

Because the adrenal glands must work harder under stressful situations, continuous stress will impair their functioning ability. Poor nutritional habits, smoking and alcohol and drug abuse can also contribute to adrenal gland failure.



Reduced adrenal gland function may be indicated by the following: Weakness, lethargy, dizziness, headaches, memory problems, food cravings, allergies and blood sugar disorders. The normal systolic blood pressure (The higher of the reading - 120/80) is approximately 10mm higher when you re standing than when you are lying down. To test adrenal gland function, take and compare two blood pressure readings - one while lying down and one while standing. Rest for 5 minutes in the recumbent position (lying down) before taking the reading. Stand UP and immediately take the blood pressure again. If the blood pressure is lower after standing, suspect reduced adrenal gland function. The degree to which the blood pressure drops while standing is often proportionate to the degree of the hypoadrenalism.

Dietary recommendations support your adrenal glands

Eat Less

Avoid alcohol, caffeine and tobacco, as these substances are highly toxic to the adrenal and other glands. Stay away from fats, fried foods, ham, pork, highly processed foods, red meats, soft drinks, sugar and white flour. These foods put unnecessary stress on the adrenal glands.

Eat More

Consume plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables - particularly green, leafy ones. Brown rice, legumes, olive and safflower oils, nuts, seeds, wheat germ and whole grains are healthy additions to the diet. Eat deep water fish such as salmon and tuna - at least 3 times a week.


B Complex vitamins are essential, but especially vitamin B5 or pantothenic acid. 100mg of the B vitamins should be taken twice a day. Vitamin B Complex 100 is the best B complex we have found on the market.

A correctly combined magnesium supplement is an essential addition for anyone who has adrenal problems. Xcel health Superior Magnesium is our favorite.

Vitamin C plus bioflavonoids are essential for a healthy functioning of the adrenal glands. Between 4000-10,000mg have been used daily, split unto many small does throughout the day. We use the Vitamin C with Hesperidin powder and put this into a drink bottle and drink this throughout the day.


Adrenal herbs include withania, licorice & rehmannia and often this combination are found combined with the amino acid L-Tyrosine, which aids adrenal function and helps relieve the excess stress put on these glands.

Adrenal essentials

To conclude, we have found that just by improving your diet - to one that is high in protein and lower in carbohydrates, has helped dramatically with adrenal problems. Ideally eat every 2 ½ hours throughout the day. Strive for no less than 10-15 grams of ACTUAL protein per meal. Most foods have a nutritional panel on the back, which will give you an idea of the amount of actual protein contained in the product.

What is a protein food

In a "nut shell", protein is anything that comes from an animal (meat, fish, eggs, dairy products) also nuts, seeds and soy products. As an example of portion size, 1 x 85 gram tin of tuna meat provides approximately 15-25 grams of actual protein.

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The Naturopathic Team
Ideal Health

Disclaimer: The health information presented here has been written for the New Zealand health consumer. It is of a general nature and is only intended to provide a summary of the subjects covered and is intended to be used for educational and general information purposes only. It is not intended as medical advice or as a means to diagnose, treat, cure or prescribe for any particular condition or disease. You assume all responsibility for the treatment which may be undertaken as a result of the information on this site, or treatment recommended by any other party. While all care has been taken to ensure the accuracy of the information, no responsibility or liability is accepted, and no person should act in reliance on any statement contained in the information provided. All health ailments should be treated by a qualified health professional.

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