Reprinted with kind permission of the Adrenal Metabolic Research Society/Hypoglycemia Association Inc., Ashton, MD. This article was first published in Woman’s Day, February 1958. Dr. Tintera was a pioneer in the use of adrenal cortex extract for the treatment of hypoglycemia, allergies, fatigue and adrenal exhaustion.
Your adrenal glands are the regulators of your disposition, your efficiency, and even of your personality. Whether they regulate well, and help you, or regulate poorly, and harm you, depends, in large measure, upon what you eat. Therefore, it is quite possible to improve your disposition, increase your efficiency, and change your personality for the better by selecting the foods you eat with a knowledge of what happens to those foods once they are inside you. This means getting to know your adrenal glands and what they do and showing them proper respect.
The adrenals are part of the endocrine system of glands which are the chemical “policemen” that regulate the functioning of our bodies and minds. The study of this system is endocrinology. It is one of the remaining frontiers of medical science. I work on that frontier; I am an endocrinologist. What isn’t yet known may well be more than is known. But what is known proves that these endocrine glands play decisive parts in making and keeping all of us the kinds of persons we are, for good as well as for ill. The most important and decisive part is played by the adrenals.
Only in this century has science become sharply aware of the importance and subtle workings of the endocrines. Implausible, this; but understandable. The connections among the glands and their cooperative endeavors are so very well hidden, it is no wonder they weren’t easily found out.
All other glands have ducts or channels which carry their secretions to the places where those secretions serve purposes which are self-evident. The endocrines have no ducts. That they secrete and so are glands is anything but obvious; the purposes of their secretions are heavily cloaked by chemical subtleties. Their appearances are different and they’re widely separated.
The pituitary gland is a round mass no larger than a large green pea, attached by a stalk to the brain stem. Yet it has three sections, each a busy factory turning out a variety of chemicals. The thyroid gland, deep down in the throat, resembles a small oyster although in color it is beefy red. Adjacent are the parathyroids and they remind you of BB shots. Most persons have four, but some have only one and others have as many as eight.
The adrenals rise somewhat like mushrooms, one from the top of each kidney. They’re each two glands actually, a core (the “medulla”) and casing ( the “cortex”) like a nut and its husk. But that’s little in the way of concealment when you consider the pancreas gland which lies against the back wall of the abdomen. It has a duct leading into the intestine which is plain to see and so you might think it was no endocrine. But a few tiny segments (“islets”) secrete without there being a duct for the secretions, and so these segments form an endocrine gland. Recently, a much-neglected endocrine gland, the pineal, located in the middle of the brain, has been shown to have an influence on some of the functions of the adrenal, specifically in relation to mental disorders. Little more than this is known about the pineal. The sex glands ( ovaries and testes) complete the endocrine system.
The endocrines are connected by the blood stream. They work this way: the pituitary secretes a particular chemical into the blood which floats it to the casings of the adrenals. They respond by secreting a particular chemical which the blood floats back to the pituitary and causes it to slow production of the adrenals-rousing chemical. As more and more of this adrenals-responding chemical comes into the blood, the pituitary stops producing its chemical altogether, until such time as the adrenal chemical is again insufficient.
The pituitary manufactures and secretes particular chemicals to stir up each of the other endocrines, and each one responds in the same way. All these command-and-response chemicals also are speeding, slowing, and above all, coordinating all other bodily systems: the heart-lungs-blood system, the digestive system, the thinking-feeling-perceiving system.
In the last few years it has been shown that the seeming “master” of all this, the pituitary, has a master. The pituitary is connected to the floor of one of the tiny pouches or ventricles in the brain which has nerve connections with the brain’s centers of seeing, tasting, hearing, and feeling. This floor is called the hypothalamus. That it secretes has been proved. Here, then, is an easily crossable two-way chemical bridge between “body” and “mind.”
Science had believed for centuries that the nervous system was the supreme coordinator of bodily functioning, despite the many marvels of coordination and balance which nervous workings couldn’t explain. As the chemical secrets of the endocrines have been revealed, it has become more and more apparent that the endocrine system and the involuntary nervous system work together most intimately.
Take the “alarm reaction.” “Stress” has come to the body. A “message” is transmitted to the cores of the adrenals by the nerves. The cores secrete a chemical into the blood stream. This chemical steps up the action of the heart and narrows the blood vessels so the blood will be pushed through them with more force. It also relaxes and enlarges airways so the lungs can take in more air, more quickly. When this chemical reaches the pituitary, it secretes chemicals which cause the adrenal casings, the thyroid, the parathyroids and even sex glands (which are not exclusively sexual in function) to secrete theirs. All these chemicals complete the instantaneous preparation of “body” and “mind” to deal with stress. The end results are the seemingly superhuman feats of muscular strength and of quick thinking which we all know the human being can and does perform when he has to.
The pituitary is known to secrete a dozen or so chemicals, the adrenal casings, thirty-two. The other endocrines each give off one principal chemical, so far as is known. But there isn’t a doubt of there being endocrine chemicals not yet identified. These chemicals are called hormones and their hidden powers can astonish you.
For instance, one pituitary hormone regulates the growth of the infant into the adult. If there is too little of it, you have a dwarf; if too much, a giant. The absence of the thyroid hormone used to doom otherwise sound babies to idiocy. Then endocrinology discovered that when the occasional baby born without a thyroid is supplied regularly with the thyroid hormone of meat animals, he develops normally.
These are only a few wonders out of many. To my mind, the most wonderful of all are the chemicals of the adrenal casings. They maintain life, nothing less. Life without any one of the other endocrine glands is possible although it is a fractional, even a monstrous life. Life without the adrenal casings secretions is impossible.
The principle reason why this is so is that they are the prime regulators of the chemical processing which converts what we eat and drink from chemical substances which are useless to us into substances which cause our bodies to function, to grow and to change, and to provide the materials for necessary repairing and rebuilding.
Take steak, because it is rich in protein. But it is beef protein and as such does nothing for people. The body has to break it down chemically into basic amino acids. Then the body, through enzymatic reactions, has to put those acids together again, in other ways. The result is human protein which our bodies can use and have to have. Fats, minerals, and carbohydrates (sugars and starches) have to be individually constructed, too, from the materials contained in food and drink.
Now, we reach a most essential point; what goes in as alien proteins and fats aren’t exclusively converted into human proteins and fats. Among the end products are human carbohydrates which, having been ” manufactured” after the many chemical steps, are changed by two more steps into basic body sugar, glycogen, for storage, primarily in the liver and secondarily in muscle tissue, and by one more step into blood sugar, glucose.
Glucose is always present in the blood. This blood sugar, plus oxygen, are the two ingredients of the “fuel” which ” burns” constantly in every bodily tissue. As glucose is taken from the blood for “burning” glycogen comes into the blood, changing into glucose. For maximum efficiency of the whole body (and that includes “mind”) the amount of glucose in the blood must balance with the amount of blood oxygen.
When all is working well inside you, this balance is maintained with fine precision under the supervision of the adrenal casing hormones. In your moments of relaxation, the chemical circuit is flowing quietly. Then you have to walk a mile or change a tire or think out a difficult problem or you start worrying about something. Whatever it is, you need more energy. Heart and lung action increase. Blood flow steps up, and there is more oxygen in it. And also more glucose, because the converting is moving faster, too.
This process also works in reverse. Say, you’re in a warm bed, fast asleep. The amount of oxygen in the blood is the minimum needed to maintain the energy to maintain life, and so is the amount of blood sugar.
Many of us rough up our adrenals because superrefined carbohydrates abound in our way of life, and we have been trained to regard them as the most delectable of foods. These carbohydrates are all but glucose before we eat (or drink) them. For that reason they largely escape our bodily chemical processing. In the intestines they become glucose whih is absorbed into the blood where glucose is already in precise balance with oxygen.
This shoots up the blood sugar level. The balance is destroyed and the body is in crisis. Hormones pour from the adrenal casings and marshal every chemical resource for dealing with it. Most important is insulin from the endocrine “islets” of the pancreas. This hormone is concerned specifically with holding down blood sugar level, in “antagonism” to adrenal hormones concerned with keeping it up. All these chemical matters proceed at emergency pace, with a to-be-expected result. Going so fast it goes too far. The bottom drops out of the blood sugar level, and a second crisis comes out of the first.
Pancreatic “islets” have to be shut down. And so do some of the “departments” of the adrenal casings. But other adrenal hormones must be produced, to regulate the reversing of the chemical direction and get the blood sugar level up again.
It is reflected at all points in how you feel. Eating the highly refined carbohydrate (say, a candy bar) gave you a quick pickup, all right, while the added glucose was being absorbed into the blood. But this surge of energy was succeeded by a “letdown” feeling when the bottom dropped out of the blood sugar level. Until it was brought up again you were listless and tired; it required effort to move or even to think. Your poorly energized mind was vulnerable to suspicions, even to hallucinations. You could have been “all nerves” and your irritability , enormous.
The severity of the crisis-followed-by-crisis depends upon the weight of the glucose overload. One lump of sugar in one cup of coffee may have no noticeable unpleasant after effects. But if in the course of one day a new double-crisis is always beginning before the old one is ended, if there are many lumps of sugar, a gooey dessert at lunch and dinner and there has been a “soft” drink and perhaps a couple of cocktails before dinner, the accumulative crisis at day’s end can be a lulu.
After a number of years of such days, the end results are damaged adrenals. They are whipped not so much because they’ve been overworked as because they’ve been made to jerk about out of balance (chemically speaking) so many, many times. The overall production of their many hormones is too low, and the amounts produced don’t dovetail as they should. This disturbed function is reflected all around the endocrine circuit.
Meanwhile, the outside you has been declining. Your personality is unpleasant because your disposition is crabbed. Since your mind may, by now, have trouble telling the difference between the unreal and the real, you’re likely to go off half-cocked. When stress comes your way, you’re likely to “go all to pieces” because you no longer have a healthy endocrine system to deal with it. And your day-to-day efficiency is very poor because you “never seem to get anything done.”
All this is the extreme, of course. There are all degrees of rough treatment of the adrenals, and of the consequences of rough treatment. But it illustrates what I mean when I say it is quite possible to improve disposition, increase efficiency, and change personality for the better. The way to do it is to leave the highly refined, rapidly absorbable carbohydrates alone, and I mean cane and beet sugar in all forms and guises, all cereal flours which means breads, pies, cakes, spaghetti, macaroni, etc., all refined cereal products such as cold and hot breakfast cereals (except oatmeal), the quickly absorbable carbohydrate vegetables, potatoes, corn, and rice, all sweet “soft” drinks, and all alcoholic beverages.
The carbohydrates which keep the adrenals healthy are those which are slowly absorbed and are the bodily conversion products of proteins and fats and of green vegetables and fruits.
Editor’s Note: Carbohydrates are absorbed more slowly when consumed with fats.
This article appeared in Wise Traditions in Food, Farming and the Healing Arts, the quarterly magazine of the Weston A. Price Foundation, Winter 2000.