The adrenal, liver and pancreas connection

Organs involved: liver, adrenals, pancreas.

Roles: controls blood sugar stability, eg. Raise blood sugars when too low; hypoglycaemia and lower blood sugars when too high; hyperglycaemia.


Pancreas carbohydrates -

Secretes insulin - insulin gives the instruction to use fats and protein for instant energy, and to store excess. Secretes glucagon - when blood sugars dip to low to raise blood sugar levels.

Adrenals -                 

Secretes cortisol – also known as ‘the stress hormone’.  These two glands sit just above each kidney and their main purpose is to allow us to fight or flee, or to keep us safe in other words.  Because of this role, they are also heavily involved with heart rate and body temperature. 

BSL too high or too low = adrenals release cortisol = signals to the pancreas and liver = pancreas and liver release glucogen (signals store energy).


Pancreatic exhaustion - over consumption of carbohydrates can lead to the bloodstream being drenched with insulin, and blood sugars rising uncontrollably as the pancreas cannot match its insulin production with the volume of carbohydrates we eat. This in effect is diabetes, metabolic syndrome or insulin resistance. It also explains why some individuals experience afternoon slumps.

Adrenal exhaustion – the adrenal glands are carrying out many tasks, so if they are constantly having to respond to high sugar levels they become fatigued. In effect, the stress of ‘life’, stimulants, drugs, lack of exercise can actually create this, which will then make blood sugar control difficult as part of the chain of events is affected. 

The liver clock – modern diets are very heavy with simple carbohydrates. This means the energy they provide is used up very quickly. Our bodies know this, and it perceives this as a potential crisis, ie we need energy for later, so the liver converts the glucagon to glucagen so it can store the ‘fuel pack’ as fat in our muscles and the liver. Sedentary lifestyles means this stored fat stays put, leading to congested fatty livers and commonly our abdomens. (If the stored muscle energy is not utilised within approx. 1 hour/90 mins it will be diverted to the liver and also form adipose fat.)

The solution:

  • Keep your blood sugars steady and avoid large peaks and troughs by eating complex carbohydrate.
  • Reduce simple carbohydrates such as rice, grains, bread, pasta, cereals, sugars.
  • These carbohydrates should be reduced in the diet.
  • Increase more complex carbohydrates eg. oat bran, oatmeal, wheat germ, buckwheat, barley, maize.
  • Use good quality protein such as whole chicken, turkey, lean beef. Use foods containing essential fatty acids such as salmon, avocado, hemp, sardines, seeds and nuts.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author. All articles published on Nutritionist Resource are reviewed by our editorial team.

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Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19
Written by Victoria Shorland, Nutritionist, Allergy Testing, Phlebotomist, Faversham, Kent
Faversham ME13 & Folkestone CT19

Victoria Shorland runs The Therapy Clinic Rooms from Faversham, Kent. The clinic offers integrated services:

Food intolerance testing available with instant results.
Specialist IBS/IBD clinic.
Candida/FODMAP clinic.
Consultant nutritionist clinic.
Hypnotherapy and CBT clinic.
Cancer tailored massage.

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