The adrenal glands are situated just above the kidneys; they are sometimes referred to as the suprarenal glands. They play an important role in your body as they produce an array of hormones; including adrenaline and cortisol.
The actual glands are complicated. They have an outer cortex which produces steroid hormones. These are the ones that are most important to your body’s ability to function every day.
Types Of Steroid Hormones
There are actually 3 types of steroid hormones; mineralocorticoids, glucocorticoids, and androgens; between them, they influence almost all the regular chemical reactions in your body.
Understanding Adrenal Insufficiency
The first thing to understand is that adrenal insufficiency is not the same as adrenal fatigue. Fatigue is seen as a milder form of adrenal insufficiency and is not recognized as a medical condition by many medical practitioners.
Adrenal insufficiency is recognized and relates to when the adrenal glands cannot produce enough of your hormones.
How Hormone Insufficiency Occurs
The most obvious cause of adrenal insufficiency is when the adrenal glands have been damaged. This can occur through trauma or from an infection or disease.
In fact, adrenal insufficiency is divided into primary or secondary categories. The primary category is referred to as Addison’s disease. It is estimated to affect 50 people per million people of western civilizations.
Secondary adrenal insufficiency is when the pituitary gland at the base of the brain fails to tell the adrenal glands to produce cortisol. This can cause the adrenal glands to shrink over time reducing its ability to produce any hormones. Secondary adrenal insufficiency is much more common than primary.
The Issue With Cortisol & Aldosterone
Cortisol is your stress hormone. Whenever you’re in a stressful situation your body releases this hormone and prepares you to either fight or flight. Unfortunately, the modern world is extremely stressful and this reaction happens many times per day; even when it is not strictly needed.
It also helps to regulate blood pressure, regulate your metabolism and manage your immune response! If the production of this hormone becomes low it can lead to a variety of other issues in your body.
Aldosterone also helps with blood pressure and sodium regulation. If levels of aldosterone drop your sodium level will fall and your potassium level will rise. This can result in an irregular heartbeat.
The Symptoms Of Adrenal Insufficiency
There is an array of symptoms although you may not experience all of them:
- Chronic fatigue
- Weak muscles
- Reduced appetite
- Abdominal pain
- Loss of weight
- Nausea or vomiting
- Low blood pressure
- Craving for salty food
- Loss of Interest in Sex (women only)
You can also get a darkening of the skin with primary adrenal insufficiency.
If you have these symptoms it is important to see your doctor. If the condition becomes worse you may experience:
- Low blood pressure
- Severe pain in lower back
- Loss of consciousness
It is not easy to diagnose adrenal insufficiency in its early stages but regular hormone testing can help you to establish a downward trend and take appropriate action.
About The Author:
James Andrews is a veteran of creating and managing digital content for organizations and individuals across the internet. James has a background in journalism, he has co-authored of multiple books on content marketing and more. These days, James is more of a digital nomad and travels the world while freelancing & blogging (currently up to 80+ countries), on various topics.