Anatomy of the Adrenal Glands & Their Functions
Adrenal glands, which are also called suprarenal glands, are small, triangular glands located on top of both kidneys. An adrenal gland is made of two parts: the outer region is called the adrenal cortex and the inner region is called the adrenal medulla.
The adrenal glands work interactively with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the following process:
- The hypothalamus produces corticotropin-releasing hormones (CRH), which stimulate the pituitary gland.
- The pituitary gland, in turn, produces corticotropin hormones, which stimulate the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroid hormones.
Both parts of the adrenal glands, the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla, perform very separate functions.
The adrenal gland produces various hormones so often the main symptoms of adrenal disorders are hormone related. Some causes of adrenal disorders are Cushing's syndrome, hypothalamic disorders, pituitary gland disorders, pheochromocytoma and benign and cancerous adrenal tumors.
Cushing's syndrome occurs when the body's tissues are exposed to high levels of cortisol for too long. Many people develop Cushing's syndrome because they take glucocorticoids, steroid hormones that are chemically similar to naturally produced cortisol, such as prednisone for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory diseases. Glucocorticoids are also used to suppress the immune system after transplantation to keep the body from rejecting the new organ or tissue.
Other people develop Cushing's syndrome because their bodies produce too much cortisol. Normally, the production of cortisol follows a precise chain of events. First, the hypothalamus, a part of the brain about the size of a small sugar cube, sends corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) to the pituitary gland. CRH causes the pituitary to secrete adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH), which stimulates the adrenal glands. When the adrenals, which are located just above the kidneys, receive the ACTH, they respond by releasing cortisol into the bloodstream.
Cortisol performs vital tasks in the body including:
Cushing's Syndrome – Solutions with Raw Food
- Helping maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
- Reducing the immune system's inflammatory response
- Balancing the effects of insulin, which breaks down glucose for energy
- Regulating the metabolism of proteins, carbohydrates, and fats
As we have seen above, if you are on a healthy well balanced raw food lifestyle, then you most probably didn't use such treatments as mentioned above for prednisone for asthma, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus, and other inflammatory diseases.
Treatment depends on the specific reason for excess cortisol and may include surgery, radiation, chemotherapy, or the use of cortisol-inhibiting drugs. If the cause is long-term use of glucocorticoid hormones to treat another disorder, the doctor will gradually reduce the dosage to the lowest dose adequate for control of that disorder. Once control is established, the daily dose of glucocorticoid hormones may be doubled and given on alternate days to lessen side effects. In some cases, noncorticosteroid drugs can be prescribed.
The hypothalamus is the small cone-shaped structure within the brain that plays a central role in controlling our autonomous nervous system (ANS), responsible for regulating homeostatic metabolic processes in the body. Examples of homeostatic processes include sleeping, eating, thirst, blood pressure, body temperature, and electrolyte balance. The hypothalamus is located under the thalamus, one of the most evolutionarily ancient parts of the human brain, which is located directly at its center. Being as old as it is, the hypothalamus is a brain region possessed by birds, reptiles, and mammals alike, though the structure of the hypothalamus in mammals is more complex than hypothalamuses in reptiles and birds.
The hypothalamus controls the nervous system by synthesizing and releasing neurohormones at regular intervals. Different neurohormones represent distinct signals to the rest of the nervous system. The hypothalamus serves as an interface between the limbic system, endocrine system, and the autonomous nervous system. One well-known hormone released by the hypothalamus is oxytocin, known to play a role in both romantic love and female lactation.
Communicating with the autonomous nervous system via neural signals and the endocrine system via endocrine signals (chemical signals which travel through the bloodstream), the hypothalamus is an axis around which a variety of complex systems within mammals evolved.
Conceptually speaking, the main purpose of the hypothalamus within humans and other mammals is to preserve the appropriate metabolic atmosphere necessary for everything else within the mammalian body to function. Unlike cold-blooded animals such as reptiles, mammalian bodies constantly maintain a strict set of metabolic conditions separating the internal chemistry of the animal from the external chemistry of the surrounding world. Because the hypothalamus is so evolutionarily old, it has had much time to be fine-tuned by the ongoing process of natural selection. Thus, hypothalamic disorders usually come from brain tumors rather than being present from birth (since hypothalamic disorders so severely curtail an organism's ability to reproduce, most inborn disorders of a hypothalamic nature have already been selected out of the gene pool).
Pituitary Gland Disorders
The most frequent cause of pituitary disorders is pituitary gland tumors. The pituitary gland is made of several cell types. Sometimes these cells grow too much or produce small growths.
These growths are called pituitary tumors, and they are fairly common in adults. These are not brain tumors and are not a form of cancer. In fact, cancerous tumors of this sort are extremely rare. Pituitary tumors, however, can interfere with the normal formation and release of hormones.
Two types of tumors exist – secretory and non-secretory. Secretory tumors produce too much of a hormone, creating an imbalance of proper hormones in the body. Non-secretory tumors cause problems because of their large size or because they interfere with normal function of the pituitary gland.
The problems caused by pituitary tumors fall into three general categories:
Hypersecretion - Too much of any hormone secreted into the body is usually caused by a secretory pituitary gland tumor. Many secretory tumors make too much prolactin, the hormone that triggers milk production in new mothers. Other tumors may affect the adrenal glands, making too much of the hormones that stimulate them and causing a hormone imbalance. Tumors also can make excess growth hormone or too much of the hormone that stimulates the thyroid gland leading to overproduction of thyroid hormones.
Hyposecretion - Too little of any hormone secreted into the body is usually caused by a non-secretory pituitary gland tumor, which interferes with the ability of the normal pituitary gland to create hormones. It can, however, also be caused by a large secretory tumor. Hyposecretion can also happen with surgery or the radiation of a pituitary gland tumor.
Tumor mass effects - As a pituitary gland tumor grows and presses against the normal pituitary gland or other areas in the brain, it may cause headaches, vision problems, or other health effects related to hyposecretion. Tumor mass effects can be seen in any type of pituitary tumor that grows large enough. Injuries, certain medications, and other conditions can also affect the pituitary gland. Loss of normal pituitary function also has been reported after major head trauma.
Note: If you think you have a problem with your pituitary gland, it is important that you see a pituitary specialist who can determine whether you have a pituitary gland tumor or another endocrine system disease. An endocrinologist is an expert in hormone-related conditions and some endocrinologists make the pituitary gland their specialty. You may be referred to other doctors if you need surgery or radiation treatments.
Signs and symptoms of pheochromacytoma usually follow a pattern of high blood pressure followed by low blood pressure. High blood pressure usually begins within a change in breathing and a pounding or forceful heart. This may occur several times a week and last for 15 to 60 minutes. Often these episodes of high blood pressure are started by activities that press on the tumor, such as changes in position, exercise, lifting, defecation, emotional distress or anxiety.
The definitive treatment is removal of the tumor by surgery. Continuous monitoring of all vital signs is necessary in the postoperative period in an intensive care unit. Stabilization of the person's vital signs with medication prior to surgery is important and may require hospitalization. In the case of an inoperable tumor, management with medication is necessary. Radiation therapy or chemotherapy have not been effective in destroying the tumor.
Can Lifestyle or Raw Food Diet be the Solution to the above?
No, if you already have the symptoms. Yes if you follow a healthy well balanced raw food lifestyle that it can then keep you hormone level well balanced by following for example such a diet: Eating well balanced goes a long way toward healing your metabolism because it directly impacts hormone production and weight loss. For example, eating a well and balanced meal keeps you feeling full and feeling satiated. It also regulates your blood sugar.
Why is blood sugar regulation so important? When blood sugar rises, insulin is released into the blood stream to clear the sugar away. Insulin is one of the hormones that can tell your body to store energy as fat if your cells are insensitive to it. In fact, a large majority of carbohydrates will go directly to body fat storage instead of being utilized by the muscles for energy if one is insulin resistant.
When you eat a meal that has the sub-optimal amount or type of carbs, protein, or fat, your blood sugar rapidly rises and then suddenly drops. This leaves you still feeling hungry even though you just ate less than an hour ago, and may cause you to consistently over eat. Below are some tips on how to eat well and balanced for optimal hormonal response and blood sugar control.
By TTS Cofounder Botanical Chef Omid Jaffari