Cell health and adrenal function: how are they linked?
The adrenal glands play a central role in managing your stress response. Learn how you can support your adrenal function to help improve the way your body responds to stress.
May 10, 2023|
May 10, 2023
What are the adrenal glands?
The adrenal glands are a lesser-known organ pair that sit on top of the kidneys, they almost look like little hats. The name adrenal is derived from their location; being near (ad) the kidneys (rene). They are triangular in shape and measure approximately 0.5 by 2 inches.
What do the adrenal glands do?
The adrenal glands are some of your essential endocrine organs which secrete hormones into the body. They play a central role in our fight-or-flight response. When most people think of the adrenal glands, they think of adrenaline, an important hormone which gives us an “adrenaline rush”. While it’s true that this is where adrenaline comes from, the adrenal glands also have other roles like controlling carbohydrate and fat metabolism, and testosterone production in men.
The adrenal gland is made of two major tissues, the cortex, and the medulla. Each tissue creates and releases different hormones.
The cortex makes up the outer layer of the adrenal gland and secretes steroid hormones. These hormones are created from cholesterol, and the mitochondria of the cells in the cortex play a key role in this process. A few of the main steroid hormones of the adrenal cortex include:
- Hydrocortisone (cortisol)
- Adrenal androgens
The medulla is the inner core of the adrenal gland and produces catecholamines like:
- Adrenaline (epinephrine)
- Noradrenaline (norepinephrine)
How are stress and the adrenal glands linked?
The adrenal glands are a key part of our stress response. They are involved in the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA axis for short. While this is a mouthful to say, it’s an elegant system that allows sensory information to be passed from the brain to the adrenal glands regulating how our body responds to stress.
Everyone’s stress response is different, based on previous life experiences and social, environmental, and psychological factors.
When we perceive stress, be it an unwanted phone call, a delayed flight, or an approaching work deadline, the hypothalamus in the brain activates the HPA axis, stimulating the adrenal gland to produce adrenaline and cortisol. These hormones then go on to impact our bodily processes and contribute to some of the sensations we may feel when under stress.
How does adrenaline affect cells?
Adrenaline (epinephrine) triggers the fight-or-flight response in the body if we encounter stressful/threatening situations. This response exists to prepare us to either flee the situation or fight by giving the body a sense of hyper-awareness and an energy boost, often described as an “adrenaline rush”. Evolutionarily, this would have kept us safe from predators and violence, but in the modern world, this response can be triggered by situations that aren’t quite so dangerous. Adrenaline causes many changes in the body, including:
- Constriction of blood vessels to the major muscle groups and organ systems.
- Acceleration of the heart to supply oxygen to the body.
- Slowing the digestive system.
- Releasing glucose from the liver into the blood to be used as fast energy.
- Activation of the dilator muscles of the iris to widen pupils, improving sight.
- Increased feelings of fear, aggression, and acute nervousness.
What does cortisol do to cells?
Cortisol is released by the adrenal glands when we perceive stress. This is a key hormone linked to the regulation of your immune response and cellular metabolism.
Increased cortisol causes many changes in the body, including:
- Stimulating glucose production in the liver and increasing the brain’s use of glucose.
- Preventing wasted energy by reducing unneeded functions in a harmful fight-or-flight scenario.
What helps our response to stress?
Stress influences our whole body and our interactions in the world. For best results, a holistic approach should be taken when looking to support your stress response.
Care for your body by aiming to exercise for 30 minutes a day. Intense exercises like weightlifting or running can help you utilize the adrenaline rush you may experience. Slower forms of exercise, such as yoga and tai-chi, may help reduce cortisol levels and invoke a sense of calm, especially if they involve deep breathing and mental focus.
Do your best to get a good night’s sleep. Poor sleep quality and sleep deprivation are known to activate the HPA axis and increase your cortisol levels.
Research suggests that the foods we consume can have an impact on our stress response. You may find adrenal support by including:
- Lean protein
- Whole grains
On top of a healthy diet, there are certain supplements that can help to regulate our stress-related hormones.
- Ashwagandha – this ancient herb is known to reduce stress and cortisol levels
- Rhodiolia – has been traditionally used as an adaptogen to reduce stress and help the body resist stress and exhaustion.
- L-Theanine – promotes relaxation and improves sleep
Can MitoQ help?
The MitoQ® patented molecule is the world-first mitochondria-targeted antioxidant that works to address free radicals at the source and can help to combat cell stress. Paired with powerhouse ingredients Sensoril® Ashwagandha, Rhodiolife® Rhodiola and Maritime Pine extract, MitoQ adrenal + balance can supercharge your mitochondria and support your body through everyday stress in combination with a healthy diet and regular exercise.
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