This article is written by Fitday Expert panel member, Dr. Umashri Rao Francis (M.B.B.S)
For a healthy functioning human body, the endocrine system plays a very important role. The hormones produced by the system are carried in our blood and distributed to all the organs in the body. This system consists of many glands namely the pineal gland, adrenal glands, the pituitary gland, thyroid, pancreas, ovaries, and testicles.
Let’s take a brief look at their functions and nutrition approaches for managing and/or treating the disorders.
The Pineal gland is a small gland located in the brain, and plays a role in regulating female reproduction, sexual maturation, thyroid function and controls circadian rhythms, hence maintains your sleep cycle. It secretes a hormone known as melatonin.
Pineal gland disorder
Pineal gland can get partly calcified and its function may deteriorate. Calcification can take place due to aging, or deposition of excess melatonin and in certain diseases like Alzheimer’s, kidney disorders. Usually patients present themselves with symptoms like insomnia, abnormal thyroid function, anxiety, intestinal hyperactivity, and menopause.
Nutrition for Pineal gland disorder
Researchers find in many people, due to poor diets or food laden with pesticide, chemicals and environmental toxins such as fluoride in water, the effects on the pineal body leading to its calcification and affecting the melatonin levels in the body.
Natural Supplements that will help are:
- spirits, wheat grass, and chlorophyll rich foods like leafy greens
- apple cider vinegar, iodine
- goji berries, watermelon, honey, coconut oil, seaweed
- alkaline foods like most vegetables and fresh fruits
- cumin seeds (jeera), almonds, flax seeds, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds
- millets, lentils, cinnamon, sea salt, olive oil
- Calcium rich food, chestnuts, ginger
Foods to be avoided are alcohol, artificial sweeteners, refined flours (maida), pasta, refined sugars, sweetened soda beverages, and canned & processed foods.
Additional Supplements required to maintain good health of pineal body are:
- Vitamin K2 which help to carry calcium deposits from pineal body and arteries
- Vitamin B12 which help in melatonin production and hence helps in inducing good sleep
- Cod liver oil and Vitamin D also play a crucial role in maintaining good health of pineal body
Adrenal glands are two glands that sit on top of the kidneys. They produce the adrenaline, cortisol, and aldosterone hormones. Adrenaline helps the body to react to stress, while Aldosterone helps control the blood pressure and Cortisol is also famously known as stress hormones. They help in regulation of metabolism and triggering the flight or fight response to danger and stress.
Adrenal gland disorder
When the adrenal glands produce more cortisol and it reaches high levels in our body, the body goes into adrenal fatigue. This usually happens in high stress, mental trauma, or intense sorrow or long-time stresses like an illness or loss of family member. Adrenal fatigue is not exactly a disease but a group of signs and symptoms when the glands malfunction due to prolonged production of excess cortisol and they burnout.
Usually a patient of adrenal fatigue presents with complaints of low energy, brain fog, depression, mood swings, salt and sweet cravings, lightheadedness, fatigue, and skin pigmentation.
Cushing syndrome is a condition that occurs from exposure to high cortisol levels for a long time. The most common cause is the use of steroid drugs, but it can also occur from overproduction of cortisol.
If the adrenal glands secrete very little cortisol it causes Addison’s disease in which patients complain of the following:
- Extreme fatigue
- Weight loss and decreased appetite
- Darkening of your skin (hyperpigmentation)
- Low blood pressure, even fainting
- Salt craving
- Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia)
- Nausea, diarrhea or vomiting (gastrointestinal symptoms)
- Abdominal pain
- Muscle or joint pains
- Depression or other behavioral symptoms
- Body hair loss or sexual dysfunction in women
Diet for Adrenal fatigue
If you are suffering with adrenal fatigue then you should make an ideal combination of fat, protein, and carbohydrates as a part of your daily diet. Foods should be such that will provide a constant, steady source of energy.
Good quality protein as in meat, fish, fowl, eggs, dairy, and various plant sources are good for recovery of adrenal glands. Complex carbohydrates which maintain steady source of energy should be eaten like brown rice, whole wheat, oats, quinoa, and amaranth.
Vegetables should be at least 6-7 servings taken daily as they provide the necessary vitamins and minerals, antioxidants and fiber. As adrenal fatigue may increase blood sugars, so fruits are to be taken sparingly. People with adrenal fatigue may crave for fatty food and oils. Some fat is required by adrenal glands to make steroid hormones but only 20-25% of your diet should be made of fat.
The essential fatty acids and the omega group of fatty acids are essential for good health of the adrenal glands. Good sources of fatty acids are sesame seeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, and flax seeds. Nuts like Cashews, almonds, fresh coconut, pecans, walnuts, peanuts, and chestnuts are also an excellent source of fatty acids.
Foods to be avoided in Adrenal fatigue are:
- Avoid sugar and white flour products like doughnuts, pies, cakes, cookies, crackers, candy bar, and soft drinks
- Avoid hydrogenated oils like margarine, oil in peanut butter
- Avoid eating deep fried food
- Avoid eating fast/junk and processed foods
- Avoid food which trigger allergies
- Cut down on caffeine and soda intake
The Pituitary gland is just the size of a pea. It regulates the growth and is also called as master gland as it secretes hormones that act on the adrenal glands, thyroid gland, mammary glands, ovaries, and testicles. It also controls metabolism, growth, sexual maturation, reproduction, and blood pressure.
Pituitary gland disorders
Acromegaly- this is a condition due to high production of growth hormone. The patient usually presents with an enlargement of the face, head and feet. This may be caused due to a benign tumor on the pituitary gland.
Growth hormone deficiency can also cause lot health issues like Adult Growth Hormone Deficiency. This may be caused due to trauma to the brain, which may be because of radiation, tumor, surgery, or accident.
Diabetes insipidus- a hormone called anti-diuretic hormone (ADH), or vasopressin, helps control how fast or slow fluids are excreted. ADH is made in a part of the brain called the hypothalamus and stored in the pituitary gland. If the pituitary gland is damaged due to any trauma to the brain, genetics, or low blood supply, it may cause this complication.
Diet for healthy Pituitary gland
Important nutrients for good pituitary function are a variety of minerals- especially manganese, magnesium, and vitamin E. Foods rich in minerals are wheat, leafy greens, nuts and some legumes. Other important nutrients are iron and iodine. Excess of iron damages the pituitary glands so it should be taken under a physician’s supervision. Reduce sugar intake, and to boost the growth hormone levels take protein shakes around workout times.
Hence, we conclude by stressing on the importance of adoption of intake of balanced nutrition in improving the health of our endocrine system. Increasing incidence of obesity, diabetes, infertility are examples of ill effects of bad eating habits, lifestyle, and stress on our endocrine glands. There is a famous proverb ‘Health is wealth’. But I would like to add to it, Eat healthy, sleep healthy, live healthy to enjoy your wealth.
- Image 1 : https://courses.lumenlearning.com/waymaker-psychology/chapter/the-endocrine-system/
- Image 2 : https://www.yoga-anatomy.com/adrenal-gland-fatigue-myth-or-reality/
About Dr. Umashri Rao Francis: Dr. Francis has been practicing Medicine for over 27 years. She is an experienced General Physician successfully treating a vast majority of the local population, in particular the poorly diagnosed and difficult cases. Dr. Francis is a regular contributor to the #FitBlog and is available to answer your article related questions at firstname.lastname@example.org
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