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Adrenal Hormone Imbalance                       

The adrenal glands are orange-colored endocrine glands which are located on the top of both kidneys. The adrenal glands are triangular shaped and measure about one-half inch in height and 3 inches in length. Each gland consists of a medulla (the center of the gland) which is surrounded by the cortex. The medulla is responsible for producing epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline) which are the “fight or flight” stress hormones. The adrenal cortex produces other hormones necessary for fluid and electrolyte (salt) balance in the body such as cortisone and aldosterone and serve to control inflammation in the body, control blood sugar, and regulate blood pressure. The adrenal cortex also makes sex hormones but this only becomes important if overproduction is present.

Traditional Medicine recognizes only two common “disease” states with regards to Adrenal functioning.  The first of these is diseases is called “Cushings Disease” which results when there is too much cortisol in the blood stream from either overproduction or taking excess cortisol (or cortisone) by mouth.  The second disease is “Addison’s Disease” which occurs when the adrenal doesn’t make enough cortisol (or cortisone).  President John F. Kennedy suffered with Addison’s disease.

We now realize that there is a whole spectrum of abnormal Adrenal functioning from low (hypoadrenal) to high (hyperadrenal) functioning.  The term Adrenal Fatigue was coined by Dr. James Wilson as the common clinical findings associated with low Adrenal function and may contribute to sleep problems, fatigue (especially early morning), depression, body aches, allergies, and others.  Adrenal fatigue begins with stress induced production of excess cortisol which may, over time, turn into reduced functioning and low or “flat line” levels of cortisol.  Either low or excess adrenal functioning may significantly alter the body’s other hormone systems, especially the thyroid.

Adrenal functioning is best assessed by either a 24 hour urine collection or salivary hormone levels measured throughout the day.  The salivary hormone measurements are accurate and simple to perform by simply collecting tubes of saliva at 8 a.m., 12 noon, 4 p.m. and bedtime.  Either of these tests is a better measure than “spot” serum measurement of cortisol in the early morning hours.

Treatment includes restoration of sleep, regular exercise, healthy eating and nutritional support, stress reduction techniques, and taking time to play (or smell the roses).  Cognitive behavioral therapy may help to reduce the body’s reaction to stress, as can bodywork such as yoga and therapeutic massage.

Medication treatment may include physiologic “low dose” cortisol and / or specific herbal supplements which are called “Adaptogens” for their ability to support adrenal under functioning as well as dampen over functioning.  Recovering healthy functioning of the adrenals often takes from months to years to occur.

Want to find out more... Considering calling our office at: (912) 681-9292 to schedule a Hormone Consultation with Dr. Weathers.