What Are The Adrenal Glands?
No bigger than a walnut and weighing less than a grape, each of your two adrenal function glands sits like a tiny pyramid on top of a kidney ("ad" "renal" means "over" the "kidneys"). But don't let their small size fool you; these powerful little hormone producing glands manufacture and secrete almost 50 different hormones, including steroid hormones such as adrenalin, cortisol, aldosterone, estrogen and testosterone that are absolutely essential to your health and vitality. They not only significantly affect the functioning of every single tissue, organ and gland in your body; they also have important effects on the fluid balance control and blood sugar regulation. They even regulate how you think and feel and determine how effective your immune system functions. Without the hormones the adrenals produce you would die very quickly, and when out of balance the quality of your health and wellbeing becomes severely compromised. Does it not make sense therefore to optimise the functioning of these tiny glands? Of course it does.
What Is Their Purpose?
The adrenal glands keep your body's reactions to stress in balance so that they are appropriate and not harmful. For example, the protective activity of anti-inflammatory and anti-oxidant adrenal hormones like cortisol helps to minimise negative and allergic reactions, such as swelling and inflammation, to alcohol, drugs, foods, environmental allergens, cancer, infection, and autoimmune disorders (like lupus, rheumatoid arthritis, MS, and the 70 odd other auto-immune conditions). These hormones closely affect the utilisation 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 (hypoglycemia is one of the problems related to poor adrenal function), and proper cardiovascular and gastrointestinal function.
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 steroids (adrenal hormones) affect muscular strength and stamina.
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 very brief overview, how well you live depends a great deal on how well your adrenal glands function. For a more detailed explanation of adrenal function, please refer to Dr. Wilson’s book: ”Adrenal Fatigue: the 21st Century Stress Syndrome”, and read Chapter 22: “Anatomy and Physiology of the Adrenal Glands”.