Stress…A Tale of Three Glands
When it comes to hormones, we commonly focus on the more obvious players within the endocrine system like testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.
But there are other hormones that are also critically important to your health. Not just because of what they do…but because of how they affect glands that produce other hormones.
Three glandular systems in particular (and the hormones they produce) have a profound effect on your health and well-being. And they have a profound effect on each other.
The glands in question? The adrenal glands, the thyroid gland, and the pancreas.
Let’s look at each of them separately:
Think of your adrenal glands as “stress central” for your body. These glands secrete more than thirty different hormones and steroids, with most of these substances being responsible for how your body handles stress.
The most important adrenal hormones are:
- Adrenaline (also known as epinephrine)
Your body releases adrenaline when you’re under stress. Adrenaline increases your blood sugar and also makes your body release fat to burn for energy.
This is important for short-term stress that requires physical action…like if you were trying to escape a wild animal.
Not so good if you’re sitting at your desk worrying about the presentation you have to give in an hour. In this more modern example, all that sugar in your bloodstream just gets converted to fat.
This is another “stress hormone” that signals your liver to release glucose (sugar). Or cortisol can make glucose by removing protein from your muscles.
Like adrenaline, cortisol is useful for short-term physical stresses, but can be damaging to your body under longer term stress.
Your body uses DHEA to create important hormones like estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone. It also supports your immune system and the many processes that keep your body strong and functioning properly.
Thyroid hormones control your metabolism, promote cell growth, and control the production of important neurotransmitters.
There are two broad categories of thyroid hormone: T3 (the active form of thyroid hormone) and T4 (the inactive form). Only about seven percent of what is produced by the thyroid gland is active at any given time.
When your body needs more T3, your liver releases an enzyme that converts T4 to T3.
This important gland regulates the sugar in your blood. That sugar in turn supplies energy to the cells in your body.
Attached to the small intestine, the pancreas secretes two hormones that regulate blood sugar:
- Glucagon (which increases blood sugar)
- Insulin (which reduces blood sugar)
The pancreas also secretes somatostatin (which limits gastric acid), as well as digestive juices that are used by the small intestine.
What’s the Connection?
Your adrenal glands, thyroid, and pancreas don’t function independently. If the hormones they produce aren’t balanced relative to each other, your health can be negatively affected.
And the most common thing that affects the proper functioning of these glands?
Our bodies evolved to respond to short-term crises…usually either catching food or avoiding being eaten.
This worked well in prehistoric times. But our modern world tends to cause long-term worries…and our bodies don’t handle this well.
Chronic stress makes your adrenal glands overproduce the stress hormones adrenaline and cortisol. It also reduces the production of DHEA. Not only does this directly cause a loss of lean muscle mass, elevated blood sugar, and immune system suppression, but it also negatively impacts the thyroid gland and pancreas:
- Excess cortisol suppresses T3 production. It also blocks T3 receptor sites, making your body less responsive to the thyroid hormone that is available.
- Cortisol overproduction also causes a loss of iodine. Meanwhile, adequate iodine levels are vital for proper thyroid function.
The adrenal and thyroid glands also impact the health of your pancreas. When stress affects the proper functioning of those glands, your pancreas can lose the ability to properly regulate blood sugar levels.
The bottom line: balanced hormones involves more than just testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone . At Renew Youth, we can work with you to heal the damage caused by chronic stress.
Call us at 800-859-7511 or use our contact form to set up your free 30-minute consultation.