The adrenal glands are two glands that sit on top of your kidneys that are made up of two distinct parts.
- The adrenal cortex—the outer part of the gland—produces hormones that are vital to life, such as cortisol (which helps regulate metabolism and helps your body respond to stress) and aldosterone (which helps control blood pressure).
- The adrenal medulla—the inner part of the gland—produces nonessential (that is, you don’t need them to live) hormones, such as adrenaline (which helps your body react to stress).
Adrenal glands help the body to maintain proper functioning during life-threatening, stressful situations. They are responsible for managing hormones and activating blood sugar. Adrenal gland secretions give the body energy, endurance, immune system strength and the ability to manage stress. Adrenal fatigue occurs when the body's ability to compensate is diminished or disabled. Once the adrenal gland is depleted of stress-compensating chemicals, adrenal fatigue symptoms occur.
The largest amount of hormone produced by the adrenals is DHEA, dehydroepiandrosterone. It is the precursor for a host of other hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. In order for us to remain in balance as we grapple with stress, we need to produce a wide array of hormones that allow us to deal with stress appropriately. If we can't, we lose the ability to cope- both physically and psychologically. Levels of DHEA peak between the ages of 20 and 30 years old and decline with age. . Having appropriate DHEA levels offers several health benefits, ranging from increasing energy to possibly helping with Alzheimer’s disease.
Symptoms of DHEA Deficiency
- brain fog
- decreased libido
- recurrent infections
- generalized sense of "I don't feel well"
Testing for DHEA is simple, it's the evaluation that comes into question. The normal values for DHEA from the laboratory are 130-980 (ng/dL) for women and 180-1,250 (ng/dL) for men. According to Neil Nathan, M.D., these numbers represent a huge range. He feels many physicians are unaware that unlike other tests, the reason for this large spread is that these values are age-based. Hence, 130 is normal for a 90 year old woman, while 950 would be normal for a teenage girl. As for men, 180 is normal for a 90 year old male and 1,250 would be normal for a teenager. So on a closer look, if a test shows that a "normal" age man's reading is 200 then his DHEA could be low actually. If you take the mid way between the proposed readings of 180-1,250 then HIS normal range should really read between 600-700. This is quite a difference from his actual reading of 200.
He further states that treating DHEA deficiency is a simple process. There are several treatments and supplementation available. DHEA can be purchased from any natural food store and is usually taken once a day in the morning. It is also available in cream form. Dr. Nathan discourages anyone from treating themselves and suggests you find a doctor who is familiar with the knowledge of reading such test results. DHEA is a hormone and must be taken with precaution. Furthermore, it must not be taken by anyone who has been diagnosed with breast, ovarian, or prostrate cancer.
Jot this one down to bring to your next physician visit.