The adrenal gland or suprarenal glands are the small triangular-shaped endocrine glands sitting on top of both of your kidneys. This gland secret a variety of hormones including cortisol, adrenaline, and steroids aldosterone such as testosterone. These hormones help regulate metabolism, blood pressure, immune system, response to stress, and other essential functions. Among these, adrenaline (epinephrine, norepinephrine) and cortisol are produced in response to fight stress.
Cortisol is produced during times of stress to help get an energy boost and handle whatever emergency is occurring. It does so by altering/regulating the metabolism of fat, carbohydrates, and proteins. It also suppresses inflammation, regulates blood pressure, and blood sugar level.
Fight or flight response hormones; epinephrine and norepinephrine also respond to physical and mental stress conditions by increasing energy sources and by utilizing additional ones and help endure unusual strain.
Adrenal insufficiency is a disorder of the adrenal gland characterized by the low production of adrenal glands. Weight loss, poor appetite, fatigue, nausea and vomiting, hyperpigmentation, and abdominal pain are some of the symptoms, among others.
On the other hand, excess production of cortisol from adrenal glands may lead to a syndrome termed as Cushing syndrome. It is expressed as weight gain and fatty deposits in some parts of the body such as the face, blow the back of the neck (buffalo hump), abdomen, muscle weakness, fatigue, diabetes, and many others.
Apart from these two conditions or adrenal defects, there may be another, not very commonly known term, adrenal fatigue. If you have been doing everything you can to lose that extra amount of weight around your belly especially; eating the right amount of food, doing exact exercises, burning all extra calories, but the weight is stubborn and isn't coming off, it may be the time to check your adrenals and associated overall stress level.
According to an estimate, 75-90% of people visiting primary care physicians came with complaints associated with stress, either acute or chronic. In June 2008, more people were reporting stress than last year, and half of them mentioning that their stress has increased over the past year. An online poll was conducted with some of the following results.
Persons Reporting this Behaviour
Overeating/Eating unhealthy food
Physiology of Stress and Its Relation to Obesity
Stress response of 'fight or flight' in response to an acute stressor comprises of production of catecholamines, such as adrenaline and noradrenaline, which are produced in the sympathetic system and from adrenal glands too. This causes increased blood pressure, heart rate, and blood sugar.
Hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis (HPA axis) involvement also causes the release of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) from the brain and its end product cortisol. CRH initially causes a decrease in appetite, but the intake of food is stimulated with excess production of glucocorticoids (GCs) in response to CRH. These GCs also increase the level of neuropeptide Y (NPY), which in turn reduces the sensitivity of the brain to leptin, and it also increases insulin resistance., Furthermore, GCs also increase the taste and preference of food which are rich in sucrose and fat.,
When this acute stress persists and leads to the chronic form, the main effector is then cortisol. Now various studies prove the direct and indirect connection of cortisol with obesity. 1st of all, the Cushing syndrome demonstration can be taken as an example. With pathologically elevated levels of cortisol in this condition, a patient typically presents with clinical manifestations of abdominal obesity, abnormal glucose intolerance, hypertension, and muscle weakness.
To demonstrate the direct relation of obesity and hypercortisolism, the level of cortisol was measured in different individuals. On average, obese individuals were found to have more cortisol in scalp hair.
Many of the cohort studies confirmed the relationship between an increase in BMI, adiposity measure, and hair cortisol concentration (HCC)., It was found that there is a 10-fold increased risk of obesity in children with the highest cortisol concentration. This study was done on 3000 6-year-old children.
In a later study, cortisol was also found to be involved in abdominal fat distribution and an increase in this fat mass. So, long-term cortisol levels and their elevation is related to weight gain, particularly abdominal fat mass.
How it effects more in the abdominal region rather than in all body tissues?
This can be explained by the presence of more glucocorticoid receptors in visceral adipose tissue than any other adipose tissue causing more and more fat distribution to this region.,
Cortisol & Belly Fat; Connection Explained
When stress is overloading you, the adrenal fatigue, the hormonal imbalance, the higher adrenal hormones especially higher cortisol level will be taking control of your body response. It would mean increase glucose level with increase insulin level.
The insulin, a major fat storage hormone, will be adding to your fat even if you are eating the same or less. Now having more receptors at your waistline (as explained earlier) will be producing a specific kind of unpleasant effect; more fat around your belly.
High cortisol levels producing more craving for salty and sugary food will be adding insult to the injury, making you eat more and more. Leptin, a hormone that produces a feeling of fullness and satiety, works no more as a result of high cortisol, and you can predict the result yourself.
So, your whole body is programmed to hold on to that extra belly fat mass and weight gain during times of chronic stress.
After chronic exposure to the stress, you can experience what is called adrenal fatigue, which leads to low levels of cortisol, leading to a weaker response to the stress and a longer recovery period.
Now the point to prove is that all of this overload of stress leading to a classic symptom of weight gain causes adrenal fatigue, the exhaustion of adrenal glands producing lesser hormones ultimately, and causing the body to exhibit this so-called pathology in its way.
It is one of the most common hormonal problems occurring to men and women these days but also most overlooked ones by patients as well as doctors until things have gone way too far.
If ‘I’m exhausted’ and I’m so stressed has become your daily mantras and you always feel tense, stressed, and overloaded. If you feel energy cycles all your day having peaks and dips at different moments, then you certainly are facing a phase of adrenal fatigue. Adrenal fatigue can be divided into different phases:
Phase 1. High Alert:
As a response to some stressor; a deadline, a sick child, yelling boss daily, you enter this 1st phase for a short period where a surge of hormones power you up but then quickly makes you so low that you feel more worn out. But there's still enough gas left in your tank to get through the day.
Phase 2. Tired and Wired:
Consistently facing stress conditions and going under chronic stress, your cortisol levels are triggered again and again to cope up with this condition but unable to do so at this pace so having off period, so you need more and more coffee and such products to get through your day.
Phase 3. Burnout:
The most advanced and longest phase, makes a person's cortisol levels to go flatline. Because your body recognizes that cortisol stores are depleted, it is adopted by reducing cortisol receptors. So, instead of peaking in the morning to give you an energy boost and levelling off slowly afterwards, it just is flatlined in response to this much chronic stress, and that's exactly why you feel so incredibly exhausted all the time.
Other symptoms of adrenal fatigue with which the patient can present himself include:
- Difficulty in waking up and dragging yourself out of bed
- Difficulty in concentrating/foggy vision
- Difficulty in learning/remembering things
- decreased sex drive
- Unexplained hair loss
- Digestive problems
- Low energy all the time
- Constipation/diarrhea (Alternating
- Increased illness
- Low body temperature
- Cravings for sweet/ salty food
Treatment for Adrenal Fatigue/ Weight Gain
With the help of your doctor, you may be able to alleviate the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. You may also overcome the problem of weight by having some minor lifestyle changes. Using natural remedies with these changes can permanently offset the problem of adrenal fatigue.
Lifestyle changes/Eliminating Stressors:
Change your lifestyle to avoid all the stressors leading to your condition may help you reduce the symptoms. Removing yourself from such an environment may help. Changing a job, finding a different route, avoiding toxic people are one of the few things you can always do as a favor to yourself.
Increase the intake of vegetables and take nutrients from fruits and vegetables. Drink plenty of water, whole grains, whole cut of meat. Avoid processed and high sugar foods.
Exercise 20 to 30 times daily and for a minimum of 3 periods per day.
If you are experiencing signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue, you can have a couple of herbs to help relieve your symptoms. You may uproot the cause of adrenal fatigue permanently solving the issue.
1. Withania Somnifera (Ashwagandha):
This Indian or ginseng is a pre-eminent adaptogen which is proved to increase the stamina strength of a person by increasing DHEA-S and testosterone levels. It helps to relieve stress conditions by aiding in nervous exhaustion and fatigue. It improves adrenal health and stabilizes blood sugar. It promotes overall well-being by improving many hormonal systems, including thyroid and adrenaline.
Ashwagandha-3000 MG-120 VEG Capsules and Deep Sleep-Natural Sleep Aid both help alleviate the symptoms of adrenal fatigue. They help in reducing stress symptoms by improving sleep quality, improving adrenal health, and therefore restore cognitive functions by waking up a person energized and renewed.
2. Eleuthera (Eleutherococcus hsenticosus):
It is used to support immune function, physical stress, alertness, cognition. It may act as stress mimetic and help to activate stress-protective heat shock proteins.  Eleuthera is beneficial for patients with stressed conditions suffering from recurrent infections.
3. Acai Berry:
This is used as a natural and healthy way of reducing weight by having appetite suppressing qualities and fiber-enriched nature. Thus, these have an overall positive impact on the digestive system. These improve metabolism and help run the body smoother.
A blend of acai berry with ginger root and papaya is made by Be Herbal Detox Complex and is full of health-boosting powers. It helps enhance focus, remove toxins, waking up early in the morning. So, it helps in being energized and rejuvenated.
Saffron helps prevent snacking by suppressing appetite. In a study, it was proved that women taking saffron supplements snacked less, felt fullness, and lost significantly more weight than in the placebo group.
In another study, it was concluded that taking saffron extract supplements helped reducing appetite, body mass index (BMI), total fat mass, waist circumference. The exact theory of saffron reducing appetite is not known, but it may act by elevating mood and thus reducing snack cravings.
Golden Saffron Extract-100% Pure is a powerful supplement that combats bad mood, depression, and anxiety. It brings calming vibes and mental comfort and will overtake unnecessary comfort. It helps get slim without getting fat burners.
5. Rhodiola (Rhodiola Rosea):
It affects monoamine oxidase A (MAO) and causes upregulation of HSP70. It increases mental functions, prevents fatigue, increases stamina. It ameliorates symptoms of mild depression, and after combining with Ginseng, it adds vitality and endurance.