The adrenal glands are small triangle-shaped organs that sit on the top of each kidney. Despite their size, they work hard to help your body maintain normal blood pressure, normalize water and electrolyte balance, control stress and carry pregnancy.
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These glands consist of two layers, which produce different hormones.
Outer part called cortex is responsible for generating steroid hormones such as cortisol, sex steroid hormones and aldosterone.
Medulla is the internal part of the adrenal gland, which releases adrenaline and noradrenaline, also known as epinephrine and norepinephrine.
Aldosterone sustains appropriate water-salt balance and helps control your blood pressure.
Cortisol (or hydrocortisone) coordinates the way your body uses fats, proteins and carbs, as well as it regulates heart function. It works together with adrenaline and noradrenaline to respond to stress, activating all defensive processes.
As everything in your body, secretion of adrenal hormones is ruled from the brain. The pituitary gland, located at its base, stimulates adrenal glands to generate sufficient amount of hormones.
When adrenal glands fail to create hormones, serious problems may occur.
This commonly happens because of congenital abnormalities, tumors and autoimmune processes.
There is wide variety of diseases that can result in adrenal insufficiency. The most well-known of them are Cushing's syndrome, Addison's disease, congenital hyperplasia of the glands, pituitary tumors, tuberculosis and pheochromocytoma.
If adrenal glands don't perform their function properly, people experience different symptoms, like low blood pressure, abdominal pain, inexplicable fatigue, cravings for high-sodium foods, menstrual irregularities, drop of blood sugar, muscle weakness, profuse sweating etc.
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Alternative medicine practitioners claim that in some cases, adrenal glands decrease production of hormones (especially cortisol) so slightly that it couldn't be noticed in blood tests, but nevertheless causes symptoms.
In 1998, the term “adrenal fatigue” was first proposed by naturopath James Wilson.
Those, who believe in existence of this disorder, say that long-term exposure to stress and negative emotions, associated with elevated cortisol and adrenaline secretion, can eventually deplete the adrenal glands.
As a result, people feel extremely tired, lose ability to sleep well, shed pounds without trying and rely on stimulants like coffee.
In reality, there is no scientific evidence to prove adrenal fatigue-theory. Symptoms are so non-specific that they might be caused by wide variety of health conditions.
Proponents of this theory say that following balanced diet, reducing alcohol and tobacco consumption, avoiding processed foods is a perfect option for treating adrenal fatigue.
However, we all know that these recommendations work good for all people, whether or not they have any diseases.
Naturopaths often advise to take special supplements and vitamins to get rid of adrenal fatigue. But be aware that these are not regulated by the US Food and Drug Administration, so they can be ineffective and even dangerous.
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For those, who really have problems with adrenal glands, the best idea is to make an appointment with medical professional. If something goes wrong with adrenal hormones, doctor will prescribe special diagnostic tests. Depending on the results of examinations, substitution therapy or surgery may be recommended.
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