Feed Your Glands – The Adrenals

© 2000, Sara B. Ducey

December 2000




      Most of us are unfamiliar with our adrenal glands.  We take for granted the sophisticated work done by this pair of glands located on top of our kidneys.  The adrenals produce the stress hormones.  These hormones help our bodies deal with the minute-to-minute stresses we encounter. 


      The adrenals, for example, help out with body temperature regulation, blood sugar levels, and immune function as well as with the “fight or flight” response that most of us learned about in biology class. 


The Adrenal Glands


·               The adrenal glands are small, pyramid shaped glands, perched atop your kidneys

·               The center of the adrenal gland, the medulla, makes the hormones adrenaline = epinephrine and norepinephrine

·               The outer part of the adrenals, the cortex, makes the hormones cortisol, DHEAs, aldosterone, and small amounts of the sex hormones, estrogen and testosterone.


Adrenal Insufficiency = Adrenal Under activity


A person whose adrenals are working poorly may be unable to tolerate cold, and stay cold for hours after they’re back in a warm environment; they may suffer from hypoglycemia – because it is the adrenals which are to boost blood sugar in between meals; and they may suffer out of proportion from daily stresses. 


The typical sufferer is tired, dizzy and fatigued.  Over time they may have disabling chronic fatigue.  A fair number (but certainly, not all) of those who have chronic fatigue syndrome are actually suffering from inadequate adrenal function.  These people may be over consuming coffee and eating a lot of salt to make up for their adrenal gland insufficiency.  This will only serve to damage these glands.


      A person with poorly functioning adrenals will be fatigued, exhausted and poorly able to deal with stress.  They may be irritable, depressed and will likely also seem to be quite anxious.  Some of these folks will be so anxious that it tires you to be with them – Imagine then how they must feel?!   


      Some people have damaged their adrenals through poor nutrition, excessive drinking and smoking, chronic stress, or a combination of these stresses.  The adrenals can be nourished, and brought back to better functioning through diet and supplementation.


      There are a few local doctors who work on this adrenal insufficiency issue, but the mainstream doctors typically reject this diagnosis unless the adrenals have shut down almost entirely.  Complete adrenal failure is called Addison’s Disease.  This is more extreme than the condition called adrenal insufficiency or underactivity.

Symptoms of a Underactive Adrenal Function:


·               Low blood pressure; and dizziness upon first standing;

·               Low blood sugar = hypoglycemia;

·               Poor tolerance to cold;

·               Irritability, depression and high anxiety levels;

·               High levels of good cholesterol!  Weird, but apparently true;

·               Achiness;

·               Poor response to stress;

·               Recurrent infections/ difficulty getting over infections; and

·               FATIGUE! à Disabling chronic fatigue



Feed Your Glands!  Foods That Support the Adrenals


Not surprisingly eating well can help support the function of the adrenal glands.  So the advice here is not unlike the advice I often hand out.  Eat fresh, whole, organically grown foods.


·               Select many green leafy vegetables

·               Increase the number of servings of fresh fruits and vegetables (helps increase the potassium in the diet)

·               Seek super foods such as:  Brewers yeast, wheat germ, fresh sprouts

·               Eat deep-ocean fish 3x per week

·               Eat nuts, seeds and legumes

·               Choose whole grains rice and grains

·               Eat lots of garlic, onions, and mushrooms – especially shitake mushrooms



·               White flour, sugar, sodas and refined foods

·               Caffeine

·               Alcohol

·               Smoking

·               Environmental toxins




·               Avoid stress

·               Learn to relax and

·               Exercise

Feed Your Glands!  Nutrients and Supplements That Support the Adrenal






Aids adrenal function

Do not take tyrosine if you are taking an MAO inhibitor drug




Vitamin B Complex

All B Vitamins are important for adrenal functioning – B5 or pantothenic acid is particularly important


Vitamin C with bioflavinoids

Very important for adrenal gland function – high amounts of vit. C are stored and used in this gland.

During stress you use and lose high amount of vitamin C in your urine – you need to replace it

Vitamin B12


May have to take sublingual (under the tongue) or take injections

Take a comprehensive multi-vitamin and mineral supplement

Go to a reputable health food store and purchase a name brand product.

I recommend the Apothecary Pharmacy in Bethesda.

(301) 530-0800





Supports the nervous system








Coenzyme Q10

Powerful antioxidant


Glandulars – raw adrenal glandulare and raw adrenal cortex glandular

To rebuild and repair the gland





Chinese Ginseng (Panax ginseng) and Siberian Ginseng (Eleutherococcus senticosus)

Promote adrenal health and enhance resistance to stress



Other Issues to Consider:


·               Treat any thyroid dysfunction that may exist

·               Check sex hormone levels

·               Treat bowel infections (yeast, bacterial or parasitic)

·               Diagnose and manage food allergy

·               Deal with sinus allergy

·               Consider B12 deficiency

·               Diagnose and treat depression



Suggested reading on adrenal dysfunction:


·               Enclycopedia of Natural Healing, revised second edition, © 1998, Michael T. Murray and Joseph Pizzorno, Prima Publishing.

·               From Fatigued to Fantastic!   © 1996, Jacob Tietelbaum, Avery Publishing

·               Prescriptions for Natural Healing, edition, by Balch and Balch