If you are tired and irritable most of the time, you might benefit from studying the adrenal glands. The adrenals are endocrine glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They are responsible for regulating stress response in the body by producing and delivering hormones. The adrenal hormones are directly related to metabolism, balance, energy levels, memory, circulation, blood pressure, sex drive, and immunity.
One well-known adrenal hormone, adrenaline, controls our response to stress. Adrenaline produces acceleration of heart and lung action, stops stomach and digestion activity, constricts and dilates blood vessels, dilates the pupils, relaxes the bladder, and inhibits erection. It readies the body for "fight or flight."
In modern day times, stress hormones build to excessive levels. Busy lives, bad diet, negative emotions, and limited physical exercise can lead to adrenal exhaustion, adrenal atrophy, and Addison's disease. Adrenal glands are also weakened by refined carbohydrates, sugars, and stimulants including caffeine.
Adrenal glands can benefit from a low-salt diet that is rich in vitamins B, E, A, and C. Flax seed, bran, oatmeal, brewer's yeast, wheat-germ, fruit, and vegetables should be eaten regularly. Adding zinc, selenium, potassium, manganese, germanium, and magnesium supplements may also be beneficial.
If adrenal exhaustion is suspected, royal jelly (from honeybees) and ginseng can help. Other remedies include daily consumption of evening primrose, hawthorn, or licorice tea.
Herbal extracts for adrenal health include Echinacea root, ginseng root, and milk thistle seed. Warm compresses applied to the lower back may bring relief to the adrenals. If adrenal exhaustion is diagnosed, licorice extract taken under the tongue twice a day is an option (see note*).
The main symptom of adrenal exhaustion is an inability to cope with stress. There may be other signs such as anorexia, unexplained weight loss, nausea, dehydration due to vomiting and diarrhea, low blood-sugar, apathy, and development of black freckles on the head and shoulders. Sometimes abnormal dark brownish pigmentation appears on the skin, particularly on the knees, elbows, palms, nails, gums, and skin folds.
Other symptoms of adrenal exhaustion include lack of energy, dullness, anxiety, poor circulation, memory problems, low blood-pressure, moodiness, sugar dysfunctions, brittle nails, back pain, muscle spasms, insomnia, and sugar or salt cravings.
Blonde hair may darken, body hair may decrease, and the person may feel cold. In advanced cases there may be a sudden loss of strength, severe abdominal pain, and kidney failure.
If adrenal exhaustion becomes extreme, the adrenals may shrink. In some cases this leads to Addison's disease which is associated with hypothyroidism.
* Prolonged use of licorice can cause hypertension, water retention, sodium retention, and loss of potassium. Licorice should not be used for more than four to six weeks. During this time, a diet rich in potassium (such as bananas and dried apricots) is required. Licorice is never recommended for people with depression. Always consult with your physician before using any herbal remedy.
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