How Do Your Adrenals Effect Hormonal Health?
Did you know that your adrenals play a key role in how your hormones work? In fact, our adrenals are part of our body’s stress response system and are considered our primary survival organ. The adrenals are two tiny endocrine glands that are located on top of your kidneys; they are responsible for secreting cortisol (AKA “the stress hormone”), as well as the chemical adrenalin. In general, our adrenals play a role in helping our body’s manage stress. Issues with hormone imbalance and overall health occur when we are under too much stress.
The Issue of Too Much Stress
When we experience excess stress, our adrenals secrete cortisol and adrenaline in overdrive, resulting in one being in a chronic state of “fight or flight” and experiencing symptoms such as agitation, anxiety, and insomnia. Excessive cortisol can also present in other ways, including: weight gain, sugar cravings, and brain fog.
When there is an increase in cortisol, there is also an increase in the hormone insulin, causing blood sugar imbalance. This can lead to weight gain, particularly around the middle, where resulting inflammation can cause additional GI distress such as irritable bowel syndrome, indigestion, bloating, and gas. In general, excessive cortisol results in overall hormonal imbalance, which can lead to thyroid issues and low libido. The reason why our adrenals affect our reproductive hormones is because the production of cortisol takes away from the production of estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. When our adrenals are in overdrive for too long, chronic health issues such as high blood pressure, diabetes, high cholesterol, autoimmune diseases, fertility issues/early menopause, and mood disorders can result.
How to Support Your Adrenals
One of the best ways to support your adrenals and hormonal health in general is to destress. Make intentional relaxation a part of your lifestyle. You can do this by incorporating relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and mindfulness into your daily routine. Through active stress reduction, you send a message to your adrenals that you are safe, which allows your body to recalibrate to a lower stress state where you are secreting a more balanced amount of cortisol and adrenaline. Practicing good sleep hygiene is also vital to adrenal and hormonal health; aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep daily. Another important consideration is to maintain balanced blood sugar. This is because steady blood sugar sends the message to your adrenals that you aren’t in survival mode. Maintain your blood sugar by not skipping meals, eating high-quality protein at each meal, and avoiding foods that spike blood sugar. Also consider cutting back on caffeine, as caffeine allows us to push past our normal energy levels; by limiting the amount of caffeine you ingest, you are able to better assess your natural energy levels.