When the adrenal glands are overworked for any of a variety of reasons (emotional, chemical (mold, heavy metals, pesticides, food sensitivities), or physical stress (over training, inadequate recovery) they shift towards a constant production of cortisol in order to help us deal with stress. One of the many downsides to this is that the production of hormones like DHEA, and it’s downstream metabolites estrogen and testosterone decreases.
In order for the adrenal glands to make cortisol in response to sustained levels of elevated stress, it ends up stealing the cholesterol precursor (pregnenolone) that would normally be used to make something called DHEA, which is the precursor to our sex hormones. This is a phenomenon called pregnenolone steal and can result in hormonal imbalances, increase in severity of symptoms associated with PMS and menopause, infertility, male menopause, low testosterone, and polycystic ovarian syndrome; just to name a few.
Your hormone production is also dampened by overactive adrenals on a cerebral level. The adrenal glands are under control from a part of the brain known as the hypothalamus, which in turn directs the pituitary gland. The pituitary gland either makes, pumps out or sends the signal to trigger hormones like growth hormone, thyroid stimulating hormone, oxytocin, as well as hormones that signal the adrenals.
The anterior pituitary is also responsible for LH (luteinizing hormone) and thus progesterone, and FSH (follicle stimulating hormone) and thus estrogen. These hormones are intracle in properly regulating the menstrual cycle, reproduction and beyond. Stress driven adrenal overdrive overworks the pituitary causing it to be sluggish in its output of other hormones, like LH or FSH, leading to low estrogen, progesterone, and testosterone; complicating matters at multiple levels which both need to be addressed.
When dealing specifically with pregnancy, studies have shown that a mother with adrenal dysfunction can actually pass it on to her unborn baby by drawing hormones through the umbilical cord. We’ve illustrated the systemic effects of adrenal dysfunction in the past, so a newborn child with this condition is highly susceptible to immune and gut dysfunction, allergies, eczema, food intolerances, even autism.
The best thing to do if you are having issues that have been deemed or you presume are hormonal is to embrace a holistic, functional approach and look at the entire picture. Cleaning up the diet and repairing the gut, identifying potential food intolerances, providing adrenal support if necessary, making lifestyle changes on multiple levels, and just taking a deeper look inside for the root of the issue is the logical course of action.
The adrenal salivary index and/or comprehensive hormone panels (both done at home by the patient submitting periodic saliva samples) are two ways to record quantifiable baselines and identify specific areas that need attention and rectification.