The adrenal glands, part of the body’s endocrine system, are located atop the kidneys. The glands are composed of two types of tissue: the adrenal medulla and the adrenal cortex.
The adrenal medulla, comprising 10%¬20% of the gland, is located in the interior portion and is responsible for the production of the hormones epinephrine saline) and norepinephrine (noradrenaline). These hormones are released in direct response to the sympathetic nervous system ( the fight-or-flight response).
The adrenal cortex, the outer layer, surrounds the medulla and accounts for 80%-90% of the gland. It s responsible for the production of corticosteroids acids (also called adrenal steroids). More than 30 different steroids have been isolated from the adrenal cortex, including cortisol and cortisone.
Cortisol secretion (as well as the adrenal gland’s other steroids, DEIEA, adrenaline, and aldosterone) occurs in daily cycles, peaking in the morning and having the lowest values at night.
Cortisol promotes protein building, regulates insulin and glycogen synthesis, and helps produce prostaglandins (hormone-like fatty acids involved in inflammatory processes).
Under conditions of stress, high amounts of cortisol are released. Imbalances in cortisol secretion are linked with low energy, inflammation, muscle dysfunction, impaired bone repair, thyroid dysfunction, immune system depression, sleep disorders, and poor skin regeneration.
The adrenal glands also produce precursors to sex hormones, so hyperadrenal response increases sex hormones and hypoadrenal response decreases sex hormones.
During a stress response, the adrenal glands release high amounts of the hormone cortisol, which shuts off any allergic reactions.
Adrenaline (or epinephrine), another hormone, is also released if you are frightened or angry, which is why during a severely stressful situation, such as on a battlefield, people with asthma are generally free of symptoms.
If stress becomes chronic, however, the adrenals can become exhausted and depleted of their natural cortisol. If you have allergies, inflammation during allergic responses will worsen as your adrenal glands stop producing cortisol. This is not uncommon in people with persistent allergies, and, since allergies themselves are stressful, there is often a vicious cycle of allergies leading to weakened adrenals leading to more allergies.
Additionally, the adrenal glands play a central role in maintaining the body’s energy levels. When these glands are functioning poorly, the result can be allergic fatigue, muscle weakness, depression, and, in cases of allergy-induced arthritis, a magnification of arthritic symptoms.
For a patient in this situation, conventional medicine typically prescribes pharmaceutical drugs similar to cortisol (corticosteroids) for the pain and inflammation; prednisone, for example, is 30 times as potent as endogenous cortisol.’ Adrenaline is also administered in cases of anaphylactic shock.
Many practitioners of natural medicine feel that, while the judicious use of corticosteroids may be necessary for a short period of time to stabilize the patient, the long-term use and reliance on these powerful drugs is devastating.
These drugs can suppress immunity, interfere with sleep cycles, and increase bone and collagen breakdown as well as suppress the proper function and production of the adrenal hormones and further diminish the functioning of the adrenal glands. When used topically, these drugs increases skin permeability, possibly leading to further sensitization.