If you’re intrigued by the title, I thought you would be. After all, who doesn’t love at least one of these things? But really what do Salt, Sugar, Sex and Stress have in common? Well, these are the jobs of the adrenal glands. The adrenal glands are unique in that they perform the important function of bridging between all of the regulatory systems of the body. The adrenals do so by producing hormones and neurotransmitters, chemical messengers, for the body in addition to immune system functions.
So this organ has the heavy work of keeping our lives in balance!
The adrenal glands lay above your kidneys in the lower middle part of your back. These two triangular-shaped organs have three outer layers, or cortexes, that each have a different function – salt to sugar to sex. The middle cortex of the adrenal glands deals with stress, mainly via the adrenalin hormones. While, the outer cortex of the adrenal gland deals with salt, sugar and sex. Let’s get into the good stuff, shall we?
Salt- The outer layer known as the zona glomerulosa creates a class of hormones called mineralocorticoids, the main hormone being aldosterone. Aldosterone regulates blood pressure and the salt and electrolyte balance of the body. This makes sure your blood pressure is close to that 120/80 level and you’re not feeling faint, suffering from headaches or swollen feet.
Sugar- The middle layer, known as the zona fasciculata produces glucocorticoids. Cortisol is well known as the body’s natural anti-inflammatory, it’s the equivalent of water dousing a fire, and as the hormone required for periods of long term stress. Cortisol is also a signal to the body to release sugar into the blood stream for producing extra energy to fuel stressful times (its chemical make-up looks much like a sugar molecule too!). This is one way stress can wreak havoc on your body, prolonged periods of elevated cortisol and blood sugar imbalance contribute to abdominal weight gain and an improperly functioning immune system.
Sex- The inner most layer called the zone reticularis produces sex hormones (weak androgens) such as DHEA and precursors to testosterone and estrogen. When women transition into menopause the ovaries stop producing estrogen, and the adrenal glands are the primary source of sex hormones – converting androgens into estrogens. That is why it is so important to manage stress and ensure good adrenal function during perimenopause and menopause.
Stress – The centre of the gland is know as the medulla and is comprised of neurological tissue. This area produces the acute hormones known as catecholamines; norepinephrine (“ noradrenaline”) and epinephrine (“adrenaline”). These are the hormone signals that give you an “adrenalin rush” in response to acute stressors. Adrenaline gives you the energy to lift heavy objects and run quickly to escape dangerous situations. However, this is a short-lasted response and if the stress goes on for too long, your body will switch to “the sugar”, cortisol, to adapt.
The adrenal gland is an organ of life in balance and regulation, often taking the brunt of our stress. What’s are some clues that it may need help?
Big Clues that your Adrenals Need Attention:
- Fatigue in the Afternoon: Your sleep wake cycle is dysregulated, and your energy tanks mid-afternoon. You may lose your gas and start reaching for a second coffee or a sweet treat for a boost.
- Craving for Salt: Salt feeds the adrenal glands and is part of the aldosterone and blood pressure regulation cycle. So, if your adrenals are working overtime because you are stressed, your body will require more salt to fuel it’s processes.
- Craving for Chocolate: This is a common sign of magnesium deficiency. Magnesium is another important electrolyte that supports healthy adrenal gland function and hormone production. When you are stressed, your body loses magnesium quickly and your healthy adrenal function suffers.
- Can’t live without Coffee: You are wrecked without your morning JAVA because cortisol should be at its highest first thing in the morning. When your adrenals are suffering, you lose that morning pep in your step and caffeine naturally boosts adrenaline in the body. Over the long term, this depletes your adrenals even more by giving you a false sense of energy – we call this energy debt. If you are exhausted and need coffee to function, you likely don’t have healthy adrenal hormone rhythm.
There are many other signs and symptoms of suboptimal adrenal function, but because this organ crosses over into all the regulatory systems, you need a Naturopathic Doctor who can diagnose what exactly is going on inside your body.
Simple Sanas Health Practices to Support your Adrenal Glands:
- Cut the Caffeine. Caffeine is like a credit card on your adrenal glands; it steals energy from the future, depleting you for the present. It will also mess up your sleep & wake cycle, which is imperative to regulate if your adrenals are stressed. Organic Estate Green Tea in the morning is the best option because it contains some caffeine, that will gently stimulate your cortisol burst in the am (which we want). However, green tea also has the benefit of containing L-Theanine, which is a molecule that calms the nervous system so you don’t get the same anxious jitters as coffee.
- Sleep Soundly. Sleep is restorative to your adrenal glands, and having a good sleep and wake cycle, helps to best support their recovery. A relaxing bedtime routine away from digital stimuli and a regular sleep time are very helpful.
- Wake up and Exercise. Exercise naturally stimulates your cortisol, reminding it to peak first thing in the morning in response to the rising sun.
- Feed the ADRENALS. Start your day with an Adrenal Drink like PuraSanas Alka Practice formula full of electrolytes, vitamin C and magnesium to feed the adrenal glands. Once you’ve addressed mineral and vitamin deficiencies, look into an herbal adaptogen formula like PuraSanas Adapt & Relax. Unlike other adrenal formulas, this one is not stimulating and focuses on toning and rejuvenating hormonal function.
- Some Salt. A little sea salt is good for the adrenals. Of course if you have a medical concern and have been told to stay away, please follow those recommendations. Our favourite salt is Himalayan Sea Salt which is also full of natural minerals, grind to taste.
- B’s for Bountiful Energy. The B vitamins in the proper ratios such as those found in B-Sauve, are supportive for the adrenal glands, detoxification and cleansing function. Make sure to get your daily dose to keep energy levels optimal and stress better managed.
- Mindfulness and Meditation. Stress reducing practices are important to ease the load on your adrenal glands. These can include yoga, meditation, deep breathing, journaling and others.
Consult with us to find out if you are having issues with your adrenal health. It’s integral to your health practices and ultimately experiencing infinite health.