Know Your Glands: Your Adrenals

What:
Adrenals.

Location:
Triangular structures located on each kidney.

Function:
The main role of the adrenal glands is to help the body cope with all stressful situations. They produce the hormones adrenaline and cortisol, in response to internal and external conditions such as illness or stress. The glands also create testosterone, and modulate the functioning of every tissue, organ and gland. The adrenal glands work interactively with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland.

Use:
The adrenal cortex produces the stress hormone cortisol, while the adrenal medulla secretes adrenaline. Both help you to cope with stress.

Adrenalin helps feed your muscles
To combat stress, your adrenal glands produce adrenaline, which increases strength and heart rate, and raises blood pressure. It also speeds up the conversion of glycogen into glucose, which provides energy to muscles. Research has indicated that intense exercise, especially weight training, is beneficial for this, says Barry Tigay, PhD, a behavioural health and stress management specialist. Exercise helps to absorb and burn off excess adrenaline.

Cortisol, your morning alarm clock
Excess cortisol causes a “wrong side of bed” feeling in the morning. Research at Lubeck University, Germany, shows cortisol production is your body’s natural wake-up call. “The hormone delivers energy before you’ve had a chance to get it from food,” says Professor Steve Atkin, Hull York Medical School’s head of endocrinology in the UK. Use that energy to boost your mood with an early workout. “Aerobic exercise ups your output of mood-boosting serotonin and the motivational hormone dopamine,” he says.

Work around your testosterone level
You began the day with a full tank of testosterone (as evidenced by your morning erection). Six hours later, your T dips a bit. Studies in the Journal of Clinical Endocrinology & Metabolism has linked low testosterone to bad moods, brittle bones and loss of muscle mass. Hold a meeting during lunch while you eat. When testosterone levels are high, your brain is primed for independent, focused work (like writing, filing reports or generating ideas). Your lower noon-time level is ideal for meetings.

Perk up your brain
Hours before 6pm and you feel yourself shutting down. Jeri S. Janowsky, PhD, a professor of behavioural neuroscience at Oregon Health and Science University in the US, explains that a reduction of testosterone hinders the proper function of neurons in the brain and affects memory. Skip the coffee and take a competition break instead. Just make sure the contest – for instance, a quick computer game – is one that will challenge you.

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