Primary Functions of Adrenal Glands

Your adrenal glands rest atop each of your kidneys. They are not large—about the size of a walnut—but they produce some of the most vital hormones in your body. These hormones balance stress responses, blood sugar, blood pressure, the immune system, and the body’s basic metabolism.

There are two parts to the adrenal glands: the larger adrenal cortex, and the adrenal medulla located inside it. The adrenal cortex contains three different zones—the zona glumerulosa, the zona fasciculata, and the zona reticularis—each of which produces specific hormones, while the adrenal medulla is responsible for the creation of the so-called “stress” hormones. Your body cannot function without the adrenal glands, and when they are not working properly, serious issues may ensue. Contact a skilled gynecologist to discuss potential adrenal fatigue treatment options.

What is the Function of the Adrenal Gland?

Part of the primary adrenal gland functions is to produce over 150 hormones. Among the best-known, and the ones that most noticeably affect the body, are cortisol, epinephrine, aldosterone, estrogen, and androgen.


This hormone regulates blood pressure and blood sugar, and controls the use of carbohydrates, fats and proteins in the body. Cortisol also oversees the sleep and waking cycle. When someone is stressed, their body produces cortisol so that it can respond to an emergency. Cortisol possesses anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties.


Also known as adrenaline, this hormone aids the body when stressed. It can increase the heart rate and its muscle contractions, which produces more blood flow to the brain and other muscles. Furthermore, in response to stress, it can help maintain blood pressure. Along with a similar hormone, noradrenaline, epinephrine controls the body’s fight or flight response.


This hormone regulates blood pressure, as well as potassium and sodium in the body. Because it controls the levels of these electrolytes in the bloodstream, it also maintains blood pH. Aldosterone plays a crucial role in kidney function.

Estrogen and Androgen

These sex hormones control reproductive organ growth in females and males, respectively. After menopause, the adrenal glands become the main source of estrogen for women.

Symptoms of Poor Adrenal Functioning

When the adrenal glands do not function well and produce too little or too much of particular hormones as a result, various symptoms may follow. Common signs of poor adrenal functioning include:

  • Aching muscles
  • Fatigue
  • Mood swings
  • Salt craving
  • Low blood sugar, also known as hypoglycemia
  • High blood pressure

Overactive and Underactive Adrenal Glands

The most serious ailments connected with the adrenal glands, other than rare adrenal gland cancer, are Cushing’s disease, which results from overactive adrenal glands, and Addison’s disease, resulting from underactive adrenal glands.

Patients may have grounds to suspect Cushing’s disease if they develop diabetes, or their skin becomes thin and constantly bruised. Other possible symptoms include psychiatric problems, excess facial hair growth, and osteoporosis. Women may experience irregular periods.

Symptoms of Addison’s disease include appetite and weight loss, nausea and vomiting and abdominal pain. While many other conditions may mimic these symptoms, one telltale sign of Addison’s disease is pigmentation of the skin and mucous membranes. Either of these diseases require prompt medical treatment.

While adrenal cancer is rare, adrenal tumors are not. Fortunately, such tumors are usually benign, but they can affect hormonal functioning. If these growths cause overproduction or underproduction of hormones, surgical removal is needed.

Contact Dr. Jacobson Today

If you suspect you may suffer from adrenal fatigue or another adrenal-related disorder, call Dr. Edward Jacobson’s office and arrange a consultation. Dr. Jacobson could conduct testing at any one of his practice locations—his home office in Greenwich, Connecticut, or periodically at satellite locations in Newport Beach and Beverly Hills—and devise a custom-tailored treatment plan if your hormone levels are affected. It could be critical to learn more about the primary functions of adrenal gland if you suspect you may be suffering side-effects of a disorder.