Adrenal Dysfunction

Tired. Sore. Brain Fog. Forgetfulness. Lower Testosterone. Blood pressure Dysregulation. Blood Sugar dysregulation. Insomnia. Depression. Irritability. Stress. Poor Immunity.

Your adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys and secrete important hormones: cortisol, adrenaline, and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). These hormones help you to buffer stress and adapt to everyday life demands by determining the stress response.

Under stress, healthy adrenals increase their output of cortisol and DHEA to enable you to preserve health. They also secrete adrenaline, giving you a boost of energy when needed. If this becomes chronic, the adrenals can no longer keep up with the demand, and DHEA levels begin to fall, signifying adrenal exhaustion. In addition, the oversecretion of adrenaline can cause you to feel anxious and nervous. As this becomes a more chronic occurrence, the results of high cortisol and adrenaline levels from prolonged stress include:

• Diminished immune function
• Depletion of cortisol, resulting in low blood sugar
• Less restful sleep
• Increased lipid levels of blood fats
• Water retention
• Loss of cellular potassium, a very important mineral
• Lowered insulin sensitivity, with a higher susceptibility to diabetes
• Loss of the capacity to produce sufficient DHEA

Functions of cortisol

• Converts proteins into energy by increasing amino acids in the bloodstream
• Stimulates the liver to convert amino acids to glucose as needed for energy
• Counters inflammation and allergies
• Helps maintain blood pressure
• Aids in stress reactions

Functions of DHEA

• Precursor to testosterone and estrogen
• Improves resistance to viruses, bacteria, parasites, allergies, and cancer
• Prevents osteoporosis
• Lowers total and LDL cholesterol
• Increases muscle mass and decreases body fat

Cortisol levels change throughout the day. Generally they are highest in the morning, and lowest in the evening. Only getting a blood test for cortisol looks at a single shot in time and will miss the rest of the day. Since cortisol changes so much during the day its best to check it throughout the day to look at the function of your adrenal glands. You may have enough cortisol in general, but the function during the day is what is affecting you. Adrenal dysfunction may also be called HPA Axis dysfunction or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis dysfunction. More outdated terms may also be called adrenal fatigue though evidence may be lacking with that term.

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The information provided by Colorado Center for Functional Medicine is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. All testimonials are specific experiences of specific clients and no similar results are implied or guaranteed for other individuals. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition. Colorado Center for Functional Medicine is not a replacement for your primary care doctor and works in conjunction with your healthcare team.