So What Do My Adrenal Glands Do?

Where are they and what do they do?Adrenal Illustration

The adrenal glands are a pair of triangular-shaped organs that rest on top of the kidneys.  They normally weigh about 5g each and have two parts.  The cortex or outer section is responsible for the production of the hormones cortisone, cortisol, aldosterone, androstenedione, and dehydrepiandrosterone (DHEA). The medulla or central section secretes other hormones, such as adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and norepinephrine which functions as both a hormone and a neurotransmitter.

Adrenaline, cortisol, DHEA and norepinephrine are the body’s four major stress hormones. Adrenaline speeds up the rate of metabolism and produces other physiologic changes designed to help the body cope with danger and is produced when the body is under stress.  Under circumstances of extreme stress, large amounts of cortisol are released which can lead to a host of health problems. Cortisol is involved in the metabolism of carbohydrates and the regulation of blood sugar.

Adrenal Function Disorders

Malfunctioning adrenals can produce symptoms that range from fatigue to total collapse. This includes weakness, lethargy, recurrent infections, dizziness, low blood pressure when standing, headaches, memory problems, food cravings, allergies, blood sugar disorders, inflammation, loss of minerals, weakened joints and insomnia.

If the adrenal cortex is seriously underactive a condition called Addison’s Disease may develop.  Symptoms include fatigue, loss of appetite, dizziness or fainting, low blood pressure, nausea, diarrhea, depression, craving for salty foods, moodiness, decreased amount of body hair, and an inability to cope with stress.

Cushing’s Syndrome, though rare, develops with excessive production of cortisol or by the excessive use of corticosteroids. Symptoms may include fatigue, mood swings, depression, increased thirst and urination and, in women, absence of menstrual periods. If untreated it can lead to muscle weakness, poor skin healing, weakening of the bones that results in osteoporosis and increased susceptibility to serious infections such as pneumonia and tuberculosis.

Things that negatively affect the adrenal glands:

Refined carbohydrates deplete many nutrients required for adrenal support especially B vitamins.  Exposure to electromagnetic fields can affect the  adrenals, along with chlorine, carbonates, dioxin and fire ant poisons, tobacco, alcohol, street drugs, heavy metals, coffee, sugar, pesticides,  herbicides and fungicides. Long term use of cortisone drugs often causes the adrenal glands to shrink in size.  Over-exercising can also deplete the adrenal glands.

Herbs that assist the function of the adrenal glands are:

– Eleuthero

– Blackcurrant

– Liquorice

– Noni

Supporting the adrenals


Plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables, (particularly green leafy ones), brewer’s yeast, legumes, nuts, olive and safflower oils, seeds, wheat germ and whole grains, salmon, tuna, garlic, onions, shiitake mushrooms, and pearl barley.


Alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco as these substances can be highly toxic to the adrenals.


Stay away from:

Fats, fried foods, ham, pork, highly processed foods, red meats, soda, sugar and white flour as these foods put unnecessary stress on the adrenals.

As much as possible, avoid stress. Continuous and prolonged stress can be detrimental to the adrenal glands. Stress is a major factor in hypoglycemia.  Practice stress reduction by praying, listening to soothing music, getting a massage, or using deep breathing techniques.

If hypoglycemia is an issue, do not go without food or eat large heavy meals. Eat 6-8 small meals throughout the day. During a low blood sugar episode eat something that combines fiber with protein such as bran or rice crackers with raw cheese or almond butter.

You can download and print the free reference brochure here!