Your glandular system
Josée Fortin, ND
The adrenals, the pituitary, and the hypothalamus are known as the stress axis. Calming herbs such as rhodiola and flowering oat can calm the stress response.
Stress is impossible to avoid. It is a natural result of the body adapting to new or challenging circumstances. While many people associate it with a negative source or event, it can even stem from something positive, such as a promotion
at work. How do we deal with it?
Our bodies still possess the fight-or-flight mechanism that helped us when we had a hunter-gatherer lifestyle—when stressed, our adrenals release adrenaline, increasing blood flow to deliver oxygen and glucose to the brain, muscles, heart, and lungs. Adrenaline fuels our bodies to cope with the immediate crisis by providing energy to help us fight or flee from it. However, when it occurs frequently, this adrenaline surge can contribute to glandular exhaustion.
Stress axis awareness
The glands responsible for stress management are the adrenals, the pituitary, and the hypothalamus.
The adrenals produce adrenaline but are also key glands in blood sugar control; cortisol secretion (inflammation and sleep patterns); and hormone production. If the adrenals become too stressed, the body experiences increased fatigue, cravings, aches, and pains; difficulty falling asleep; and/or strong menopausal symptoms for women. In more severe situations, the adrenals can get completely exhausted, causing chronic fatigue syndrome.
The pituitary is the master gland regulating the hormonal secretions of all other glands. When it is overstimulated, the body may experience an overactive mind, sleep issues, anxiety, panic attacks, and nervousness.
The hypothalamus is the last gland comprising the stress axis: a link between the nervous system and the glandular system. It takes all the stimuli from the nervous system, including the emotions, and transfers the information in hormonal secretions that help the pituitary adjust the glandular system appropriately. When overactive, the hypothalamus tends to amplify emotional reactions and increase appetite and thirst.
The effects of stress accumulate in these glands. To improve the reaction to stress, it is important to nourish the whole stress axis. A diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains is important so the adrenals have enough vitamins C, B5, and B6 for optimal function.
Adrenals can be strengthened with adaptogen plants such as rhodiola and aswagandha, but be careful about ginseng and other adaptogens that act as stimulants, since their use is not recommended for more than three consecutive months.
The pituitary gland, hypothalamus gland, and nervous system can also be strengthened and calmed with flowering oat (Avena sativa). Finally, magnesium is a good addition for nourishing the adrenals, as it also has a relaxing effect on the nervous system and muscles.
Always keep in mind that the glandular system works as a whole, and make sure to support it well.