Do you know much about your adrenal glands? If you are like many women, the answer is probably no; many conventional healthcare practitioners seldom mention adrenal health. These small, but mighty, glands have such an impact on your health and energy that you really should be aware of what they do. Let’s take a minute to look at how good adrenal health is the best foundation for strength, vitality and energy in your life.
Not only are the adrenal glands the great balancer of more than 50 hormones in the body, they are also primarily responsible for activating your stress (“fight or flight”) response. When this response kicks in, your adrenals shift energy away from restorative processes like digestion and toward the organs of action — your heart and skeletal muscles — by pumping adrenaline and cortisol into your bloodstream. When this happens, all of those other hormones, including androgens and their precursors, such as testosterone and DHEA, as well as estrogens and progesterone, suffer. That’s why it’s particularly important to support your adrenal glands as you approach menopause, a time when your body relies even more heavily upon the regulation of hormones.
The Role of Cortisol
The hormone cortisol is a key player in many other regulatory processes across all your systems: protecting the body from stress by regulating blood pressure, normalizing blood sugar levels, helping to regulate the immune and inflammatory responses, and influencing mood, memory, and clarity of thought. As you can see, having balanced cortisol levels is critical. But when your adrenals aren’t working properly, your cortisol levels can be too high or too low, wreaking havoc on your system.
Maybe this helps explain why, when your adrenal reserves are depleted, you might feel a little crazy, and your sleeping and eating habits seem a little crazy, too! In Ayurvedic medicine, the adrenal glands are connected to the “root” chakra and contribute to being grounded, nourishment and physical health. With persistent stress, we become increasingly less grounded, which can increase stress even more. This constant demand for stress hormones means the adrenals become depleted and ultimately exhausted.
Simple Choices for Change
My experience with women over the years has shown me that there is plenty you can do to provide stronger grounding and support to the adrenal glands. It all starts with some simple choices when it comes to eating.
Will your food choices make or break your adrenals? Not exactly. Stress is the number-one major offender when it comes to adrenal depletion, and you can read more about this in my article on stress and the effects of high cortisol. But good nutrition, well-timed meals and snacks, and sometimes a gluten-free diet can significantly relieve the strain on your adrenal glands.
Consider the tires on a car. If you buy good quality tires and routinely check their air pressure, balance and rotate them, and patch any holes, the foundation for how your car moves on the road will be safe, steady, and strong. You’ll get better gas mileage, the car will respond better when road conditions are slippery or uneven, and the car will last longer.
Just as neglecting your tires may not immediately compromise your safety or your car’s efficiency, your adrenals can take a lot of strain before you begin to see the effects on your body. But if you let your good habits slide too long, you will see the impact. Adrenal imbalance can lead to mood challenges, irritability, fuzzy thinking, disrupted sleep, and ultimately, utter exhaustion. But you don’t have to get to that point.
The more you support adrenal function, the stronger your foundation becomes. Selecting high-quality foods, building a strong nutrient base, and paying attention to when and how you eat all make for more efficient and healthy adrenal function — and better health all around. More information on the impacts of adrenal imbalance, and what you can do to turn dysfunction around, can be found in the adrenal health section of my health library.