Adrenals & Cortisol
The adrenals are the control tower of the body. In concert with the brain of course. When it comes to handling stress, it's the master endocrine gland, the adrenals, that take control. The adrenal glands make a number of hormones, most related to maintaining equilibrium with an ever-changing environment. These include: cortisol, adrenaline (or epinephrine), norepinephrine, and aldosterone. They all serve various functions under various "stresses," perhaps most importantly, the fight or flight response.
Cortisol is perhaps the most abundant and constant of the adrenal hormones, regulating wakefulness, blood sugar, immune response, and inflammation. It's released in such a predictable pattern that it makes an ideal hormone to test for adrenal dysfunction. It has been shown to decline in a predictable fashion when a person is subjected to extended or intense stress. As it declines, a cascade of deleterious effects will be observed, including sleep dysfunction, blood sugar imbalances, fatigue, weight gain, infertility, infection.... etc.
Being the master gland of the body, it will keep working as long as possible while the body begins to neglect other endocrine systems, including the thyroid and sex hormones. It is this hierarchy of control that makes assessing the adrenal glands an important first step in addressing many concerns.
Adrenal Fatigue is a very common condition, with most not even aware they have. They continue to just live with the declines in their health or grow frustrated with a medical system not able to diagnose their problem.
This dilemma of adrenal fatigue doesn't just happen in a vacuum. It comes on slowly over years, decades, a lifetime of accumulated stress. It is very treatable, but requires identifying the exact deficit. Effective treatment is multifaceted and addresses the present stressors, including dietary stress, physical and emotional stress, and at times, GI and infection stress (see section on GI).
Once the adrenals are put on the road to healing, it becomes much easier to cope with inevitable life challenges and begin the healing process.