Perhaps surprisingly, the answer is neither!
-Adrenal glands, also known as suprarenal glands, are small, triangular-shaped glands located on top of both kidneys.
-Adrenal glands produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essential functions.
-Adrenal glands are composed of two parts — the cortex and the medulla — which are each responsible for producing different hormones.
-When adrenal glands don’t produce enough hormones, this can lead to adrenal insufficiency (Addison’s disease).
-Adrenal glands may develop nodules that can be benign or malignant, which can potentially produce excessive amounts of certain hormones leading to various health issues.
Adrenals are a very unique gland! We can think of the adrenals being like our planet in the sense that, like the earth, they have an inner core (medulla), outer core (cortex) and crust (capsule.)
Fascinatingly, the cortex of the adrenals is made of endocrine tissue while the medulla is made of neurological tissue! This is the only gland to be made of differing types of tissue! According to doctors, endocrine tissue has the capacity to become “fatigued” while neurological tissue does not.
But the term “adrenal fatigue” actually isn’t accurate since adrenal fatigue is caused by other factors relating to and originating in the brain. One could make the argument that adrenal fatigue is actually brain fatigue.
Adrenal fatigue is considered to involve symptoms of: an inability to handle stress, trouble waking up and getting going, memory problems, digestive issues, difficulty falling asleep, craving salt and/or carbs, needing caffeine or chocolate to get going, low blood pressure, hormone fluctuations, reduced libido, frequent infections/colds/sore throat, depression, and weight gain. Obviously, these are troublesome symptoms but the adrenals by themselves are not to blame.
So what is the story with adrenal fatigue? Cortisol and Adrenaline are two major players.
Research shows that chronic stress and/or trauma make epigenetic (“Epigenetics is the study of biological mechanisms that will switch genes on and off, to be put as a simplified definition.”) changes to the hypothalamus (located in the brain) that affect the way cortisol (corticotropin) receptors are made. When these cortisol receptors aren’t produced well, the brain stops signalling to the outer adrenal core (the adrenal cortex) to make cortisol. For a time, it was understood that thus, the adrenals are fatigued, but now we know that it is the brain having disjointed signals to the adrenals that are the problem.
Cortisol insufficiency leads to having low energy, craving salt and sugar, insomnia, sex drive issues, depression, anxiety, and really, most of the symptoms associated with adrenal fatigue.
The innermost layer of the adrenal gland, the adrenal medulla which is made of neurological tissue, does not fatigue however, and in times of chronic stress/trauma the sympathetic nervous system activates the brain to signal the adrenal medulla to produce more adrenaline (epinephrine and norepinephrine).
“Adrenaline is an important part of your body's ability to survive, but sometimes the body will release the hormone when it is under stress but not facing real danger. This can create feelings of dizziness, light-headedness, and vision changes. Also, adrenaline causes a release of glucose, which a fight-or-flight response would use. When no danger is present, that extra energy has no use, and this can leave the person feeling restless and irritable. Excessively high levels of the hormone due to stress without real danger can cause heart damage, insomnia, and a jittery, nervous feeling.”
And while it is true that those issues stem from hormones that are produced in the adrenals, the real problem lies with the brain.
This combination of low cortisol and high adrenaline is what we commonly called adrenal fatigue.
So how can we treat “Adrenal Fatigue?”
Some Doctors and Alternative practitioners will encourage the use of bovine adrenal supplements or Cortef, a medication to make cortisol in your body, but these are long term treatments as the root problem is not being addressed and healed and the brain is still malfunctioning.
Supplements can be helpful in giving your brain the support that it needs, but addressing the root cause will provide long-lasting, effective and natural results.
Similar to how a person would work with a personal trainer at a gym to determine the best specific exercises, diet, and lifestyle changes to meet their goals, our patients work with us to rehabilitate and re-build their brain through neuroplasticity exercises, diet, and lifestyle changes to reduce stress, regulate hormones and promote healing.
If you have any questions regarding Adrenal Fatigue or you are ready to tackle your low-energy frustrations, please contact us at (775) 507-2000 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
By Gemma Ward. Based on information shared by Dr. Gates on https://youtu.be/6qul_HCduhM