There is a world of difference between the opinions of conventional physicians and integrative physicians when it comes to the subject of our adrenal glands. In medical school I received excellent instruction on the anatomy and physiology (A&P) and healthy functioning of the adrenal glands. In case you skipped that lecture, they are small glands that sit atop our kidneys and are divided into two hormone-producing regions. The inner part of our adrenals (the medulla) produces epinephrine and norephinephrine, or adrenaline, our “fight or flight” hormones. These hormones kick in whenever there is a perceived threat, and gear us up for either fighting off the threat or fleeing from it. The outer cortex produces the hormone cortisol in a more gradual and consistent way, but also in response to stress, especially chronic stress.
After A&P classes, we next studied Pathophysiology. In conventional medical “wisdom” the adrenal glands are either fully functioning or fully failed. Addison's disease is the term for complete adrenal failure, requiring life-long replacement of adrenal function. Physicians practicing in a more integrative model have realized that it's actually not all or nothing: as with many other bodily functions, the adrenals can fatigue and perform in a less than optimal manner, and that impaired level of function can be diagnosed and reversed long before it progresses to full-blown Addison's disease.