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What are these Adrenals?
You have two adrenal glands, and each one is located on top of each kidney (see the figure below).
A main function of adrenal glands is countering stress by producing several hormones. By countering, I mean opposing or buffering. And what I mean by stress is any outside body pressure or inner body pressure. The adrenals don’t know the difference between physical or mental stress; they react both with the same stress hormones. Every type of stress influences these glands—injury, infection, divorce, financial stresses, job-related stress, irritable people, drugs and medication, surgery, pain, illness, poison ivy, excessive cold or heat, giving birth, menstruation, staring into computer monitors for hours at a time, eating junk foods, starvation diets, excessive exercise, and babysitting fifteen small children under the age of five for over thirteen hours without proper ventilation.
The medical profession does not yet recognize adrenal fatigue: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adrenal_fatigue.
The adrenals have many other functions such as anti-inflammatory actions (ridding the body of pain and swelling), immune system protection, balancing fluid and salt levels, controlling minerals (potassium, for example), rapid heart rate, and sleep and awake cycles. They even act as back-up organs for the ovaries during menopause. In other words, they make the same hormones as the ovary does.
Why does the adrenal hormone test NOT always show positive?
There are different degrees of adrenal problems, but many of them do not show up on blood tests until they are well advanced into dangerous stages when 90% of the adrenals are destroyed.
“The normal adrenal cortex has an enormous functional reserve. Indeed, adrenal cortical deficiency does not become clinically manifest until nine tenths of the cortical tissue has been rendered unresponsive”.
(Pg. 101 CIBA COLLECTION OF MEDICAL ILUSTRATIONS, VOLUME ENDOCRINOLOGY, FRANK NETTER, MD)
This means that until 90% of the adrenals are destroyed, you will not be able to see them on testing.
The adrenal glands are set on a timing mechanism in the brain; therefore, testing the blood or saliva for adrenal hormones should be done every four hours during a twenty-four-hour period (cortisol test). Testing the adrenals for a one shot evaluation is useless.
The following is a description of what happens when the adrenal glands do not function properly—some symptoms occur when there’s too much hormone, and others occur when there is deficiency of hormone.
Excess fat in both the midsection (a buffalo-like torso, for example) and the face can occur from overreaction of this gland. In the midsection, the fat forms primarily in and around the abdominal organs and sags downward over the belly. This is called visceral fat and cannot be safely extracted with liposuction. Another term for this stomach is pendulous, meaning loose, hanging and sagging. This is different from the Liver body shape, which is a potbelly or a protruding stomach like a water balloon, while in the Ovary body shape, the person has a small bulge below the bellybutton. More info on this is in my other book, The 7 Principles of Fat Burning.
A common problem with the Adrenal type is the inability to fit into clothing, around the waist. Some people even wear elastic bands to suck it back in, but this can constrict vital organs within the abdomen and the pressure around the waist can irritate the adrenal glands.
Fat accumulation in the face gives a round or “moon face” appearance. The face also shows redness because of weakened blood vessels.
A fat pad can develop in the lower neck and upper back area, called a “buffalo hump.” I believe the reason the body creates this hump is to anchor the belly so you don’t fall forward.
Reddish purple striations (strips or bands resembling stretch marks) can appear on the stomach, thighs, buttocks, arms and breasts as well. This is because the person loses collagen, the protein glue that holds the body together.
Why does fat go to my belly?
The reason is very interesting. Since fat is a survival mechanism or what we call potential energy—sounds better, right?—stress triggers the accumulation or holding of this scarce energy and directs it to the most vital area of the body, the organs in your gut. The body is just trying to survive and doesn’t care what you look like.
If this stress continues, the adrenal stress hormone (cortisol) breaks down leg muscle and turns it into sugar. The specific muscle it eats up first is the thigh muscle (quadriceps). This is the body’s survival attempt to find quick energy from itself; if you were being chased by a lion, you would need fast fuel energy and steal it from any place you could. You first take it from the sugar storage in your liver and muscle, but then the legs eventually become thinner and weaker too, especially at the knees. Cortisol, the main adrenal stress hormone, will also take muscle from the buttocks and use it too, causing loss of tone in that area.
The pictures below show the changes from a normal body shape through the progressive stages of the Adrenal type.
Adrenal cases don’t necessarily have to have a belly—it all depends whether the hormones are increasing or decreasing.
The face and eyes become puffy, and a double chin and wrinkles ensue. You say this is age, but I say it’s the adrenal hormones being pumped too much. The adrenal hormones are the aging hormones.
Adrenal Type Symptoms
- Pendulous abdomen (sagging and hanging)
- Midsection weight
- Buffalo hump (fat pad) at the upper back, lower neck area
- Thinner legs and arms
- Difficulty getting out of bed in the morning
- Need for midafternoon naps
- Anxiety (worry); frequent feelings of stress
- Can’t tolerate stress
- Thinning skin
- Acne or poor skin
- May have white or discolored patches on skin
- Reddish purple stretch marks on the stomach, thighs, buttocks, arms and breasts
- Red cheeks
- Round or moon face
- Puffy face and eyes
- Dark circles around eyes
- Double chin
- Facial hair
- Full eyebrows
- Receding hairline
- Deeper voice
- Sparse hair on forearms and lower legs
- Atrophy of breasts
- Tightness in chest, or chest pains
- High blood pressure
- Lax ligaments—weak ankles and knees
- Weak or brittle bones (due to a loss of calcium and protein)
- Difficulty absorbing calcium
- Needs coffee to wake up
- Salt, cheese, chocolate and sugar cravings, late afternoon and evening
- Inflammation or pain in joints, back, neck
- Heel spurs
- Overreactive immune system—allergies, chemical sensitivities
- Autoimmune conditions
- Increased susceptibility to viruses
- Dehydrated (intracellular) despite amount of water drunk
- Fluid retention in between cells
- Pitting edema (especially in ankles)
- Gets out of breath when climbing stairs
- Legs feel heavy, especially when exercising
- Moodiness and irritability
- Brain fog or dullness
- Ringing in ears
- Low sex drive