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What causes adrenal fatigue/failure and enlarged adrenal glands?

Answered on August 19, 2014
Created September 07, 2013 at 12:44 AM

Do adrenals increase their size and secretory capacity with stressors commonly assoc. with adrenal hormone secretion? Ie. do the glands adapt to accomodate stress rendering distress eustress proportional to gland size and secretory capacity(within limits...)?

This post flirts with the issue but doesn't answer it: http://paleohacks.com/questions/34108/does-adrenal-fatigue-exist#ixzz1McFcu1b7

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(19235)

on May 19, 2011
at 12:55 AM

As far as I understand the adrenal glands can increase in size in response to chronic stress.

I found this one study on rats:

Chronic stress induces adrenal hyperplasia and hypertrophy in a subregion-specific manner.

Hyperplasia means an increase in the number of cells in the adrenal gland.

Hyperplasia means an increase in the size of the adrenal glands.

In summary, CVS (chronic variable stress) increases the maximal adrenal corticosterone response to ACTH without affecting sensitivity, suggesting that corticosterone levels may be particularly elevated during times of high stimulation, such as during acute stress.

So the increase in the adrenal gland size and cell number after chronic stress meant that after experiencing chronic stress more stress hormones could be produced in response to a single stressfull event.

This increase in cortical function is paralleled by hypertrophy of the inner zona fasciculata and medulla and hyperplasia that is limited to the outer zona fasciculata.

These data support the idea that chronic stress-induced adrenal growth produces alterations in adrenal function that may have implications for patients with stress-related disorders.

So yes it seems that the adrenal glands can increase their size and secretory capacity in response to stress. I expect humans respond in a similar way to the rats in this study.

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