The Adrenal Connection

Dr. Duebendorfer hosted a free class at Winter Ridge explaining the Adrenal Connection. Here are notes from the class provided by our Wellness Team Member, Rhylaigh.


The Adrenal glands are small glands located on top of the kidneys, and produce hormones that control heart rate, blood pressure, the way the body uses food, the levels of minerals in the blood and other functions involved in stress reactions.  Adrenals come from the Limbic part of the brain, a complex system of nerves and networks involving instinct and mood.  This system controls basic emotions like fear, anger, pleasure and drives hunger, sex, dominance and caring for others.


Our Limbic system affects us in two ways:

1) The Pituitary gland stimulates the adrenal center initiating fight or flight syndrome, which causes our digestion and immune system to shut down

2) The Hypothalmus activates the adrenal mendula and releases epinephren.  Our cardiovascular system is affected, and heart rate, pulse and blood pressure go up.  This, in turn, affects our nervous system


The adrenal glands are also affected by emotions as well as external dangers, either real or perceived.  It is a normal process when we encounter an acute danger:  Our body reacts in a fight or flight mode. However, when “perceived” dangers, such as emotional reactions become chronic (this can result from early childhood patterns of coping associated with defense mechanisms and behaviors are reinforced as we go into adulthood), the body develops a tolerance to the adrenalin released and adapts to it.  We, then, no longer have the capacity to have an appropriate adrenal response, developing a tolerance to the adrenalin and its effects.


The constant release of adrenalin affects many systems in our body:

  1. Fatigue is the first symptom occurring from adrenal stress drain, due to a lack of adrenalin.  Our thyroid is affected by hormones released, exhausting the thyroid and the adrenals become fatigued.  Taking thyroid feels better but our adrenals wear out eventually. In this way, thyroid becomes over prescribed
  2. Cardio system becomes over stimulated, causing high blood pressure, and a breakdown of heart and bones
  3. Immune system shuts down causing more chronic infections, auto immune diseases and allergies, which begin to happen on a tissue level.  The body doesn’t realize what is healthy and white  blood cells are reduced in activity
  4. Digestion is affected and shuts down. We have lymph nodes in out digestive tract that make up 80% of our immune system. A lack of absorption of nutrients causes inflammation and cortisol breakdown that causes oxidative damage
  5. Mood/Depression are an issue as the adrenals effect the hormones that control our moods, as well as reproductive hormones.  Erectile dysfunction and menopause are also affected
  6. Cancer– There is a tremendously strong connection between stress hormones and cancer, as an increase in receptor sites occurs, and cancer cells multiply more quickly and are more mobile


To help rebalance adrenals:

Diet– When adrenals are down, a natural protective function is to eat sugar and carbs when tired.    These cravings are a sign that your body has adapted. Avoid processed sugar and resist starches when you cook.  It is important to eat regular solid meals, ideally four to five hours between meals. The focus of 2-3 ounces of protein at each meal will stabilize blood sugar.  High fiber carbs are best eaten in the evening, as carbs increase insulin, which decreases cortisol.  To reset adrenals, increase cortisol levels so they are high in the morning and low at night.  Protein snacks before bedtime help us to sleep better.

Sleep– It is essential to have proper sleep for adrenals to recharge.  If you experience insomnia, you are not relaxed enough from stress.

Emotional Balance– Check for defense mechanisms and beliefs that are responsible for emotional triggers of fight or flight. Creatively initiate new coping approaches.


In conclusion, adjusting life styles will support a healthy adrenal connection.

  • Decrease stress by letting go of the perception that we are “running out of time”.  This will help to eliminate worry and stress
  • Don’t multitask.  Focus on one thing at a time rather than trying to get everything done all at once
  • Set priorities. What is your passion?  Include activities that you enjoy as a simpler way of life
  • Prayer helps brain waves slow down, which can bring insight, creative thoughts and healing before deep sleep.  Brain waves actually do affect clarity and efficiency.  Give your burdens to a higher principal.  Trust that the appropriate response will arise.  Feel gratitude all day long.  Meditation also causes a positive shift.


Suggested reading:  The Adrenal Reset Diet, by Dr. Allen Christensen


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