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Stress, Your Adrenal Glands and an Intro to Your Hormones

You think you might have a thyroid or adrenal problems? Many people do. Let’s take a few minutes to learn about them. In a sense they are a yin-yang pair.  Both are part of the endocrine system – a glandular system that creates and puts hormones into your blood. 

Both your thyroid and adrenals affect your general vitality, and your capacity to have the energy you want. Truth be told, your energy level is affected by each of your endocrine glands. 

What’s useful to know about the 4 Element Healing System is that it helps you appreciate the reason each endocrine gland exists where it is. Each does something in harmony with what is happening in its particular portion of the body. Further, it helps us to see important parts of our body in terms of Nature’s 4 Elements.

Your hormone system expresses the Water element’s energy in your body. On the most primitive level, Water includes the watery flesh of each cell; on a more sophisticated level it has created your blood and the circulatory system. At the highest play of Water in us are the hormones. 

The Water element of Nature draws forward the cyclic nature of life.  For this and many other reasons, your hormone system is a cyclic one: each day there are cycles in which your hormones take turns energizing your life. 

This all happens as various endocrine hormones are released into that red watery river of your blood. Each hormone stimulates a variety of energy-giving biochemical reactions. While Fire – as in the primal energy of the sun – is the driver of all Life’s energy, it is Water that brings forth life as it biochemically “steps Fire down”, beginning with photosynthesis and moving eventually through evolution to the activities of our hormones.

Along these same lines, while the Water element of Nature begins as the water that fills the seas, it is useful to see it as the dimension of life where life’s many biochemistries are dissolved. Most of your body’s thousands of biochemical processes occur only because they are energized by that watery medium, your blood.

Let’s quickly work our way up the body to eventually the thyroid to learn how we might heal it (and the adrenals) when their health goes awry. 

At the bottom of humankind’s pelvis are its sex glands – the ovary and testicle. Their location – and their major place of action – is the pelvis. Sitting within the pelvis’ sex organ environment, these endocrine glands relate to our sex drive and the sensual, even erotic nature of human life. 

Problems with this aspect of life may harm the health of these particular endocrine glands. While the affect of the hormones released by your sex glands is found throughout the body, they especially affect the body tissues found in their particular body region, the sex organs. You can look in the Men and Women’s Health Issue section for nutrition and special 4 Element Yoga maneuvers to help these tissues.

Above the sacrum-pelvis and its sex organs are your lumbar spine and a forward facing abdomen.  The frontward abdomen has its digestive organs and an endocrine gland that relates to this digestive process, your pancreas. See the Blood Sugar – Diabetes section for how to help it. 

Importantly for our present purposes, nestled by the lower ribs as they meander into the lumbar vertebra, are your two adrenal glands.  Besides the lumbar spine serving as the supportive column for our spine, these vertebrae also send out the nerves that make a beeline to your legs and feet. For these and other reasons, your legs should be thought of as “appendages” to your lower back.

The reason I mention this is to help you notice that one of the important functions of your adrenal glands is to give you the wherewithal to use your legs to run away from a dangerous situation.  The adrenals are often called “the fight or flight” organ.  Historically, and currently true for most animals today, when life-threatening things are in the process of happening – true stress – the animal either fights or flees.  And what is most involved in this life and death stress? Your legs.

The point is this: much of what the adrenals do is to make it easy for your body to mobilize its resources – metabolically, neurologically and muscularly – to fight or flight your way out of a stressful situation. 

As I work with patients having adrenal gland problems showing up during testing, most are from chronic stress. Unlike the stress of our ancestors, the stresses of today are more mentally framed around too many choices, the time-crunching of all the things you need/want to do, or the mental efforts needed to constantly think things out.

Because these stresses are not being alleviated by the things that the adrenals are meant to promote – physically moving your body – there is a breakdown in what really is meant to be a health-renewing cycle. Yes, stress is meant to be part of a health-renewing cycle.

In other words, when the life-renewing cycle of perceived stress-adrenal stimulation-physical action is hampered, stress hormones cannot be properly metabolized and put into action. While the body can handle this to some degree, over time it takes a toll. You become nervous, anxious, “stressed out”, eventually depressed as you sap away your life energies with mental worry, or “stress”, instead of physical action.

In this context of connecting an endocrine gland to its location in your body, one important antidote for stress is to get your legs moving.  As it turns out, you don’t have to run your stress away. A recent study showed that the important stress hormone, cortisol, is much reduced when walking. 

Researchers that measured the study participants’ blood cortisol levels noticed that the biggest drops in stress hormone happened not from working out in a gym, or walking a treadmill; the most significant drop came from walking outside. 

Stress is most significantly meant to be released by moving those appendages of the adrenal-lumbar region of the body – your legs – especially when you are in the environment where life evolved, outside

Here is my holistic tip to help the adrenals: be more physical with your legs. Always keep in mind that your legs are an extension of the adrenal’s lumbar body region. Your legs are the way the adrenals have worked since humanity’s most ancient times to work off stress and renew our life.

While this release of stress through walking and other physical actions is essential, many of my patients are helped further by the nutritional supports that you can find in the Vitamins and Supplements section. I’ve written about some of these nutritional supports.

There are other ways to help stress buildup and its effect on your adrenals: meditation to relieve mental stress or mindful, slow breathing that helps the body to relax.  I encourage you to try 4 Element Yoga which combines special movements with breathing and Nature’s 4 Element energies.