Adrenal Glands Anatomy and Hormone Function

Adrenal glands sit on top of the kidneys near the spine. The adrenals are just underneath the 12th rib. 

Both adrenal are only a very short distance from the aorta, the major artery of the body. Also, they are close to the vena cava, the major vein. This strategic placement allows for a rapid adrenal response to hormonal messages transported via the blood. The Adrenal Corticotrophic Hormone (ACTH) is a hormone messenger from the pituitary gland that tells the glands how much cortisol to secrete. Very soon after this message is received, the correct level of cortisol is sent from the adrenals to the rest of the body. 

The liver, pancreas, major fat storages, kidneys, and other organs that need rapid communication with the adrenals are placed closed to the adrenals for situations that require immediate response to adrenal hormones. 

Adrenal Glands

Regions of the Adrenal Glands

The medulla and the cortex are regions of the adrenals that produce different hormones that serve a variety of functions in your body improving adrenal health

The medulla is the inner part. The cortex is the outer part. 

The Adrenal Medulla

The medulla produces the adrenal hormones, epinephrine (adrenaline) and norepinephrine (noradrenalin). Epinephrine and norepinephrine are important for crisis situations. These hormones work together helping the body respond to the stressful situations via "fight or flight". The medula is involved in extreme stress, and epinephrine and norepinephrine both work with cortisol from the adrenal cortex. 

The Adrenal Cortex

Most daily regulation and modification of bodily processes arise from the adrenal cortex. 

Four zones... 

Zona glomerulosa is the outermost zone from which the hormone aldosterone is secreted.

Zona fasciculata is the next zone where the cortisol is produced. 

Zona reticularis is the innermost zone where progesterone, DHEA-S and DHEA are produced. Zona riticularis is the site of production of most sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen. 

These four zones of your adrenal cortex produce about 50 hormones. 

Zona Glomerulosa and Aldosterone

The hormone aldosterone is secreted by zona glomerulosa. Aldosterone is the major hormone that controls sodium and potassium levels. It also controls the fluid balance within your bloodstream and cells and intersitial fluids. 

Zona Fasciculata and Cortisol

The zona fasciculata secretes cortisol and is by far the largest part of the adrenal cortex. Cortisol is important because it controls or greatly influences the metabolism of fats, proteins, and carbohydrates to maintain blood glucose, keeping it within optimal range even under stressful conditions. 

Zona Reticularis and the Sex Hormones

The adrenal zona reticularis produces male hormones in women and female hormones in men to keep the effects of the dominant sex hormones in balance. The zona reticularis manufactures the DHEA and DHEA-S hormones. Nearly all the DHEA-S in circulation is manufactured by the adrenal glands. This is why DHEA-S blood or saliva levels are excellent indicators of adrenal function. 


› Adrenal Glands

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