How are your biochemistry skills? Well, luckily, you don’t need to be a biochemist to understand how adrenal hormone production in the body is achieved. Let’s take a look at this hormonal pathway picture while I guide you though a look at your hormones!
First, take a look at the top left: CHOLESTEROL! So, you do need cholesterol to manufacture all of the important end products we will discuss: adlosterone, cortisol and DHEA.
Let’s start with aldosterone. It helps regulate blood pressure. It is also known as a mineralcorticoid because it regulates the body’s sodium, water and potassium. When Aldo is high, this will INCREASE blood pressure. This means that ensuring that the adrenals are functioning optimally is important for anyone that suffers from high blood pressure. Dizzy? Lightheaded? Fainting? Perhaps your adrenals have too low function and are not making enough Aldo!
The next hormone end product of importance is cortisol. Cortisol is your stress hormone. You need cortisol to feel rested in the morning and at night to make you feel ready for bed. Cortisol follows what is called a diurnal pattern: highest in morning and lowest at night. Wake feeling fatigued? Hit an afternoon slump? Perhaps your adrenals are having a hard time in the morning. Insomniac? Problems staying asleep? Night sweats? Perhaps too high cortisol is to blame.
The final hormone we will discuss is DHEA. This hormone can become further metabolized to the hormones testosterone and estrogen. What is interesting about DHEA is that it changes with age. Levels are highest in your 20s, and by age 70, DHEA levels have dropped about 80%. That is why this hormone is SO important in anyone that is going through menopause or male hormone decline. If the reproductive organs have decreased their own natural production due to age (as in menopause!), who is going to pick up the slack?! Adrenals to the rescue! DHEA is important for weight maintenance, mood, and lean muscle mass. According to researchers who used salivary samples to evaluate cortisol and adrenal function, DHEA was also found to be highest in the morning.
Biochemistry is not so hard after all! This lovely chart can be the answer to many health concerns that we have discussed. In my practice, I refer to it daily when I am working to find the why for your health concerns!
Reference: Hucklebridge F, Hussain T, Evans P, Clow A. The diurnal patterns of the adrenal steroids cortisol and dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) in relation to awakening. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2005 Jan;30(1):51-7.