Fight Stress! Your Adrenals Will Thank You

The adrenal glands are two small glands that sit directly above each kidney, and two of the most overlooked causes of ill health. These glands produce male and female hormones in everyone, regardless of sex, and numerous other hormones that perform vitally essential tasks such as regulating of blood sugar levels, helping control blood pressure, helping to provide resistance to stress, and fighting the blood vessel enlargement, swelling and fever associated with inflammation. Hormones produced by the adrenals are the body’s natural anti-inflammatory compounds (cortisone).

A complete failure of the adrenal glands, called Addison’s disease, fortunately is not common. If this does happen, hormone medication is necessary to preserve life.

A more common occurrence is the condition hypoadrenia (low adrenal function), where the glands are not quite capable of meeting all of the demands on them. Hypoadrenia can bring on many symptoms including dizziness, especially when standing; constant fatigue; hemorrhoids; varicose veins; swelling in the ankles, feet or hands; shakiness; depression; nervousness; impotency; chest pains; allergies; irritability and more. Hypoadrenia’s most common symptom is getting a dizzy or “blackout” type sensation if you stand up too quickly.

One of the major ways your adrenals can become depleted and under-performing is through constant exposure to stress. The adrenal glands play such an important role in regulating the body’s response to stress that they have been nicknamed the “stress glands.” To strengthen your adrenal glands you have to be familiar with the different types of stress and how the adrenals are involved.

In the 1920s and 1930s, research by Dr. Hans Selye showed there are basically four types of stress—mental, physical, chemical, and thermal—and each one could have a dramatic effect on the adrenal glands.

Mental Stress

When most people talk about stress, they are usually referring to mental stress. The death of a loved one, financial inability to pay bills, a dead-end job, or not being accepted by friends or loved ones are all good examples of this stress category. There are many methods of dealing with mental stress. Relaxation techniques, medication, yoga, prayer, exercise, and forgiveness are just a few. Everyone must discover their best method of dealing with mental stress.

A certain amount of mental stress is welcome and even beneficial for your mental health and spiritual growth, but you must be able to control your reactions toward it and balance stressful activities with relaxation. If your occupation involves mostly mental work, then you can obtain a better balance in your life by relaxing with physical activities (exercise, woodworking, sewing, etc.). By the same token, if your occupation involves physically demanding activity, you can balance this with reading or other mental activities.

Oftentimes, you hear of the “fight or flight” mechanism when someone discusses stress. The classic example of “fight or flight” is the caveman walking through the jungle who comes face to face with a tiger. To survive, he has to either fight the tiger or run away. Regardless of the choice he makes, his adrenal glands help him prepare for the “fight or flight.” They increase blood sugar for better muscle energy and thinking ability, increase respiration for more oxygen, increase blood pressure and heart rate to better circulate the new energy and oxygen carried to the blood, and perform a host of other duties geared toward survival.

Whether the caveman fights or runs from the tiger, his activity would cause high levels of blood to be pumped through the adrenals and they would be replenished. The situation in modern times is different.

Even though you aren’t confronted with life-threatening situations every day, mentally stressful situations can cause the same response from the adrenals. Continued stress without allowing the adrenals to replenish their reserves can lead to a multitude of problems. You can give the adrenals a chance to replenish by working to control your reaction to mental stress.

Physical Stress

Physical stress results from overexertion, trying to do too much in one day and not giving your body adequate rest. Rest is just as important to the body as food and water. An organized routine that provides adequate rest balanced with sufficient exercise can do wonders for the adrenal glands.

Chemical Stress

This type of stress is usually associated with pollution in our environment like pesticides, automobile emissions, etc. Although these are major components of chemical stress, usually your worst source is from our foods. Refined sugar, white flour, the thousands of preservatives, artificial flavors and colors being used, all place an enormous burden on your adrenals. Avoid refined sugars and white flour, and start to minimize artificial and heavily preserved foods if you want to strengthen your adrenals.

Prescription and over-the-counter medications are forms of chemical stress. These chemicals force the body to perform some action. You’ll always have to pay more than just a monetary price for any benefits they bestow.

Thermal Stress

Quick and drastic changes in temperature place an enormous burden on your body. Getting into an overheated automobile on a hot summer day and then immediately turning on the air conditioner to blow on your face is excess thermal stress. Leaving a warm house improperly dressed for the winter cold is another example. It is best to avoid extreme changes in temperature.

Don’t go overboard with this idea, though. It’s beneficial to experience seasonal temperature changes. Staying under a constant temperature with central heating and air-conditioning never lets your body fully adapt to the seasons. Your body operates on a biological clock and to be in harmony with your environment, it’s necessary to experience the changes from night to day and the different seasons of the year.

No matter what the source of your stress, you can learn to deal with it effectively. Doing so helps you maintain your health—and may even relieve some health concerns you’re currently dealing with.