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Adrenal Cortical Hyperfunction

The body has two adrenal glands, one above each kidney. Each adrenal gland is actually two endocrine organs. The outer portion is called the adrenal cortex and the inner portion the adrenal medulla. The hormones of the adrenal cortex are essential for vital life processes while the hormones of the adrenal medulla are not.

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The adrenal cortex produces glucocorticoids (such as cortisol) that help the body control blood sugar, increase the burning of protein and fat and respond to stressors like fever, major illness and injury. The mineralocorticoids (such as aldosterone) control blood volume. They also regulate blood pressure by acting on the kidneys to help them hold onto enough sodium and water. The adrenal cortex also produces some sex hormones, which are important for some secondary sex characteristics or the bodily changes that occur in women and men at puberty.

Whilst hypersecretion of a pathological quantity will cause the disease called Cushing Syndrome, many people experience the adverse effects of a functionally hyperstimulated adrenal cortex, leading to altered capacity to manage all stressors and contributing to symptoms such as insomnia.[1]

When your adrenal glands are working properly and cortisol levels are in a normal cycle, stress is handled more easily, your mind is clearer, weight loss occurs with less effort and your energy levels are normal.

If your cortisol level is elevated throughout the day or night by “stress” or other conditions it  is called “chronic stress”, or “cortical hyperfunction”. Some symptoms of overactive adrenals are: weight gain and excessive body fat as a percentage of body weight,  brain fog, confusion, hypothyroidism, muscle wasting, blood sugar imbalances, insomnia, high blood pressure & constant immune challenges. The management of hypercortisolism is very much possible by lifestyle and nutritional changes including supplementation. These can be monitored by relevant investigations and self assessment. Dr. James Wilson has written a book called ‘Adrenal Fatigue’ and this covers many practical strategies to assist with a return to optimal function.

References

  1. Vgontzas AN, Bixler EO, Lin HM, Prolo P, Mastorakos G, Vela-Bueno A, Kales A,Chrousos GP. Chronic insomnia is associated with nyctohemeral activation of thehypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis: clinical implicationsJ Clin Endocrinol Metab. 2001 Aug;86(8):3787-94.View Abstract
  2. Oberst, B. B. Exchange transfusion. I. Technic and use of adrenal extract as an adjunct to therapy. Nebr.State Med.J. 1955;40(4):121-128. View Abstract
  3. Constantopoulos, G., Carpenter, A., Satoh, P., and Tchen, T. T. Formation of isocaproaldehyde in the enzymatic cleavage of cholesterol side chain by adrenal extract. Biochemistry 1966;5(5):1650-1652. View Abstract
  4. Tait, J. F., Simpson, S. A., and Grundy, H. M. The effect of adrenal extract on mineral metabolism. Lancet 1-19-1952;1(3):122-124. View Abstract
  5. Grundy, H. M., Simpson, S. A., and Tait, J. F. Isolation of a highly active mineralocorticoid from beef adrenal extract. Nature 5-10-1952;169(4306):795-796. View Abstract
  6. Mattox, V. R., Mason, H. L., and Albert, A. Isolation of a sodium-retaining substance from beef adrenal extract. Mayo Clin Proc 10-7-1953;28(20):569-576. View Abstract

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