Meet Your Adrenals, the Heroes of Our Endocrine System

Published on September 22, 2015

They rest atop the kidneys, the size of walnuts and triangular in shape. They influence the body's stress response, immune health, sleep patterns and even mood. They secrete numerous hormones, including cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline.

That last one is your biggest hint. Do you know which body part we are describing?

The adrenal glands.

Adrenal chart

While you might rarely consider them, the adrenals are multi-taskers in the body. They're the unsung heroes of the endocrine system. The hormones they produce naturally assist in maintaining functions ranging from blood pressure and cardiovascular activity to blood sugar levels and metabolism.

Let's examine the adrenals, which are also called the suprarenal glands, and their most common hormones a little more closely. (Supra=above and renal=related to the kidneys)

The inner part of the adrenal gland, called the medulla, secretes less essential hormones such as adrenaline, which prepares your body to deal with a perceived threat and puts your body into fight-or-flight mode. These hormones are naturally secreted after the sympathetic nervous system is activated.

The actions of adrenaline-also called epinephrine-include increasing heart rate and blood pressure, as well as boosting energy temporarily.

The outer part, called the cortex, produces hormones that are essential to life, including cortisol, which is usually secreted in a more gradual and consistent way. It also is released in response to stress, especially chronic stress. In the presence of perceived stress, cortisol also halts all nonessential bodily functions.

Cortisol's normal actions include an increase of blood sugars when the body faces stress and regulation of how the body converts macronutrients (fat, protein and carbohydrates) to glucose for energy.

Cortisol levels naturally fluctuate throughout the day. Normally, this hormone peaks in the morning and drops to its lowest level during the night. This rhythm supports normal sleep that lets you wake up naturally refreshed and energized. Adrenaline and cortisol naturally increase when the body is under a perceived threat, so letting the body return to equilibrium after a stressful event also can help promote normal, restful sleep. Keeping cortisol levels in check is part of the body's way of maintaining balance. As such, optimally functioning adrenals help support a healthy inflammatory response throughout the body.

The hormone DHEA, produced in the cortex, is a critical component for mental clarity and cognition, and it is produced both in the brain and by the adrenals. DHEA naturally decreases after age 30, particularly in women, but keeping the adrenals in balance helps maintain normal DHEA levels as we age. When the adrenal glands have to divert their attention and respond to stress, their natural ability to produce DHEA is limited. Normal DHEA levels ensure your body has a sufficient supply of necessary hormones available on demand.

Did you know how much responsibility the adrenals have within the body? In short, they help you adapt to life, naturally. Our Adrenal Health Liquid Phyto-Caps™ contain a unique blend of herbs called adaptogens, which help support your body's healthy response to stress by nourishing the adrenals.*