This, I believe would haunt us, our next generation, and the generations to come, if we are not determined to make a change.
Adrenal glands, are the two grape size organs situated on top of the kidneys. One of the functions of the adrenals is to produce stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline to help the body deal with stress.
Stress hormones (cortisol in particular) production is most active during the day to help us to stay alert, to provide the necessary drive for our daily activities and provide energy to cope with occasional (hopefully) crises. The levels of stress hormones will go down to a background low during the night so we could have a good night sleep (who wants to have high levels of stress hormones running around in our blood stream while we sleep?). More precisely, cortisol production is at a peak in the morning and gradually declines during the course of the day. The level would drop to the lowest from around 6pm and onwards, getting us ready to go to bed. During sleep, the adrenal glands only produce minimal amount of hormones and are rejuvenated and restored, happy to restart the next day. And the body has a peculiar habit to repair the adrenal glands before 12 midnight . It is other organs’ turn to repair themselves after midnight– This is our natural body rhythm.
For thousands of years, our ancestors subconsciously followed the nature’s biological clock, going to bed after sunset, being limited in visibility.
Then we invented electricity. We realize we could do so much more at night. We stay up. We go to bed past midnight.
And come computers and internet. We are now able to connect with the world 24/7. We sleep even less. Or we stop sleeping completely (some of us).
This is what happen when we stay up past the resting time for the adrenals: they restart the engines and start producing higher level of cortisol to keep us awake. If we do that frequent enough, the adrenals miss out on repair and rejuvenation while chronically over work. The consequence is the gradual loss of adrenal function and loss of the fine balance between the adrenals and many organs in the entire endocrine system including the thyroid, the brain, the ovaries, the testes, the liver, the pancreas, to name a few.
These are some common symptoms of adrenal dysfunction:
1. Insomnia and restless sleep, due to an over production of cortisol at night
2. Excessive daytime fatigue, due to an inability of the adrenals to produce adequate cortisol during the day
3. Post exertion “crashes” and slow recovery time, due to a reduced ability of the adrenals to cope with increased demand
4. Weight gain around the waist, due to a disrupted balance of related hormones
5. Hypoglycaemia with excessive hunger and food craving, due to a compromised function of the adrenals to regulate blood sugar level
6. Chronic fatigue, indicating the adrenal reserve has dropped to a critical level
7. Hormonal disturbances in females, manifested as abnormal periods, premature menopause, infertility and so on
People with adrenal issue struggle to achieve their potential in life. They have symptoms that are often unexplainable by conventional medical tests and therefore the condition is not readily recognized by the medical profession. Treatment is available, recovery is possible but slow and challenging.
We used to see people with adrenal dysfunction in the middle age or older age group, due to accumulated life stresses over the years, especially major trauma like divorce, death in the family and so on. However, we are observing an alarming trend of increase in younger patients (in their teens) with adrenal issues in recent years, confirmed by lab testing. One could not help but wonder, among many things, if our electronic advances are contributing to the crisis.
Adrenal’s number one enemy is chronic stress and/or late nights. We are increasingly doing both. Our adrenal reserve is of course varied from one person to another, but one thing is certain: as a society, we collectively push our adrenals much more than we would a few decades ago and at times we push it beyond its limits.
Chinese medicine believes the adrenal gland is the Fountain of Youth. Modern medicine has confirmed that. As besides stress hormones, adrenal glands also produce an anti-aging hormone called DehydroEpiandrosterone (DHEA). If we are serious about staying youthful and healthy, do the right thing by starting nurturing our adrenals today.