We don’t often think about our adrenal glands, but having healthy adrenals is really a key for feeling well. These walnut sized glands sit atop our kidneys. They have a lot to do with controlling of other glands and hormones of the body. The outer layer or cortex produces hormones such as testosterone, estrogen, DHEA and cortisol.
The central portion produces adrenaline, which is used in the fight or flight response.
Under stress your heart rate and blood pressure increase, your energy stores are ready for immediate use and your digestion slows. Your senses are also sharpened. This is healthy response to stress in an emergency. But in modern society stress can become an ongoing state of affairs. When we don’t get enough sleep, when there are financial pressures, relationship issues, and a reliance on caffeine and simple carbs for energy our adrenals can become fatigued.
In oriental medicine what we think of as adrenals was considered part of the kidney energy system. Symptoms of deficient kidneys are what you may consider as old age symptoms like graying or losing hair, weakening of bones or teeth, low back pain, memory loss, sleeping poorly, low sexual energy and sensitivity to cold.
It was thought that the kidney/adrenal energy could especially be healed during the winter. I’m concerned that with our lack of a real winter this year, the energy is not going deeper in the body to replenish the kidneys, like a tree trying to bud when it should be storing up nutrients in it’s roots.
Fear and anxiety are the emotions generated by an imbalanced kidney/ adrenal energy. But also being in a state of fear can weaken those organs.
A sauna can warm up the kidneys, as can a compress over the kidneys made of strong ginger tea. Silent meditation or mindfulness, just being in the present moment, without mental chatter, can be very useful in reducing stress.
There are many herbs that help the adrenals as well such as ginseng, schizandra, rhodiola, turmeric, astragalus, galanga and ginger. These are found in a product I often use called “Adrenal Balance”. Some foods that can help the kidneys are the high protein grain quinoa, burdock root, kale, azuki beans, tempeh, sea vegetables, green tea, olive oil, and miso soup. Try to enjoy what’s left of our deficient winter without kidney/adrenal deficiency.