Adrenal glands, which are also called suprarenal glands, are small, triangular glands located on top of both kidneys. An adrenal gland is made of two parts: the outer region is called the adrenal cortex and the inner region is called the adrenal medulla.
The adrenal glands release three main hormones from the cortex. The first group are called glucocorticoids, the main one being cortisol. Ongoing stress, whether it is physical, mental or emotional, will release cortisol, which helps regulate sugars, but also reduces inflammation and allergic responses. Cortisol also plays a role in heart disease, thyroid disorders and oxidative stress.
Normal Cortisol levels are necessary to regulate the immune system, glucose and lipid (fat) metabolism and maintain cardiac output by increasing vascular tone and decreasing vascular permeability.
Abnormal cortisol levels are associated with hypertension, increased heart rate and increased levels of total and low-density lipoproteins, cholesterol, fasting insulin and glucose levels.
Cortisol increases glucose levels and as such is an important factor in the development of Type II diabetes (Diabetes Mellitus).
The second main group is the ketosteroids, the main one being DHEA. It converts into our sex hormones: estrogen, progesterone and testosterone.
The third group are the mineralocorticoids, the main one being aldosterone. These help regulate the mineral balance, especially sodium and potassium levels. If stress is ongoing or long lasting, the balance of the hormones is upset and many areas may be affected.
Other symptoms of adrenal problem are low blood pressure, dizzy feeling on rising, sleep, mood swings, anxiety, nervousness, sadness, poor motivation, frustration, poor energy, frequent colds/flus, poor digestive function (gas, bloating, alternating diarrhea or constipation), mid- body weight gain, hormonal imbalances, problems with heavy bleeding, skipped cycles, cramping, PMS and night sweats.
Modern medical testing does not always give us a complete look at the subclinical function of our adrenals. alternative forms of testing are available.
Reviewing your family history of adrenal related diseases can be a good place to start.