The adrenal glands secrete hormones such as DHEA, Cortisol, Estrogen, and Testosterone that are essential to health & wellness and have a significant impact on total body function. As a person ages, the adrenal glands become the major source of sex hormones in both women and men. Whether addressing thyroid health or an age-related decline in the sex hormones, evaluating the level of adrenal function will allow for more accurate patient diagnosis and treatment. The sex hormone pathways are closely connected to Cortisol and DHEA and will directly affect one another. In addition, hypoadrenia and hypothyroidism share many of the same symptoms.
The adrenal glands produce:
• Glucocorticoids: Cortisol / Hydrocortisol
• Mineralocorticoids: Aldosterone
• Androgens: DHEA, Testosterone
• Estrogens: Estrone, Estradiol
The hormones secreted by the adrenal glands enable people to deal with stress caused by allergies, hormonal imbalances, low thyroid, and injury. The chronic stress that many people experience on an daily basis in today’s fast-paced society may cause adrenal fatigue. When adrenal glands become exhausted, natural cortisol levels drop significantly. Physiological levels of cortisol are essential for good health. Cortisol bolsters the immune system, increasing resistance to infections and inflammation. Cortisol also promotes the assimilation of thyroid hormones and sex hormones. Low levels of cortisol have been associated with lowered metabolism and a weakened immune system. The adrenal glands also produce dihydroepiandrosterone (DHEA). This hormone enhances brain function, muscle tone and libido. DHEA is a precursor or prohormone that serves as an adrenal source of both testosterone and estradiol. Additionally, the adrenal glands produce pregnenolone. Pregnenolone is the building block of all the adrenal hormones and exerts a powerful effect on the brain, and plays an important role in cognitive function. The decline of these hormones has been shown to correlate with the aging process and are often considered to be part of a well-balanced hormone replacement plan. It is important to test Cortisol and DHEA levels when evaluating a patient for BHRT. Supplementing with unneeded or non-physiological doses of Cortisol and/or DHEA can aggravate or increase existing symptoms.
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