Diabetes and the Adrenal Glands


Diabetes Mellitus or simply diabetes is a medical condition caused by extremely high blood sugar in the body. The elevation of blood sugar in diabetics occurs either because the pancreas does not produce enough insulin or there is an ineffective use of insulin in the cells. There are two main types of diabetes, Type I or the Insulin Dependent Diabetes (IDD) and Type II diabetes or the Non-Insulin Dependent Diabetes (NIDD). Of these types, Type 2 diabetes is the most common, affecting 90% of diabetics worldwide. Common symptoms of diabetes are known as the 3 Ps of diabetes including polyuria (frequent urination), polydipsia (increased thirst), and polyphagia (extreme hunger). Diabetes is often a result of multiple conditions, one of which is hormonal imbalance in the adrenal glands.

Adrenal glands or suprarenal glands are hormone releasing (endocrine) glands located on top of both kidneys. The functions of the adrenal glands are influenced by the hypothalamus and the pituitary "master" gland located under the brain. These glands are composed of two main parts, the adrenal medulla or the inner section, and the adrenal cortex or the outer section. Each section produces specific hormones essential to life and total wellness. The adrenal cortex produces cortisol, aldosterone, and androgen hormones while the adrenal medulla manufactures adrenaline and noradrenaline. Of all the adrenal hormones, cortisol is implicated in diabetes as it is involved in the production of blood sugar.

Overproduction of cortisol, a condition known as Cushing's syndrome can lead to diabetes. Cortisol increases blood sugar because it stimulates the metabolic pathway called gluconeogenesis. Gluconeogenesis is a process that takes place mainly in the liver in which non-carbohydrate substances, more often than protein and amino acids are converted into glucose. The glucose produced in the liver then goes to the blood circulation and supplied to the cells. To correct the overproduction of cortisol and the resulting diabetes, cushing syndrome must be treated. Treatment options for cushing's disease include surgery and medications. Surgery is aimed at removing tumors in the adrenal cortex causing the cortisol imbalance. Medication for caching's syndrome are designed to lower cortisol in the body. Drug treatment for caching syndrome typically includes ketoconazole, metyrapone, and mitotane.

Clearly, diabetes is a complication of disorders in the adrenal glands. Thus, healthy adrenal functioning is equivocal to diabetes prevention and wellness. Eating foods with high vitamin and fiber content, normal salt intake, effective stress management, and regular exercise all contribute to healthy adrenal glands, normal cortisol production, and normal blood sugar levels.