[Continued from above] . . first line of defense and response to physical and emotional stresses. The adrenal glands are shaped like the French Emperor Napoleon's hat and, just as Napoleon's three-cornered hat sat on his head, so each gland is perched on each of the kidneys. These glands are about one to two inches in length; they weigh only a fraction of an ounce each yet are among the most productive of all of the body's glands, secreting more than three dozen hormones. The adrenal cortex takes instruction from the pituitary glands and have important effects on physical characteristics, development and growth. The adrenal gland has two parts. The cortex, or outer, yellow layer, takes its instructions from the pituitary hormone ACTH. The hormones secreted here are called steroids and have three main types: those which control the balance of sodium and potassium in the body; those which raise the level of sugar in the blood; and sex hormones. The inner, reddish brown layer of the adrenal gland (the adrenal medulla) makes two types of hormones; this part of the adrenal gland takes its instruction from the nervous system, producing chemicals which react to fear and anger and are sometimes called fight or flight hormones.
With the increasing prevalence of allergic conditions, many studies have examined risk factors for allergies and how to modify these to potentially prevent allergies. The development of allergies results from a complex interplay between a person’s genetic make-up (genotype) and its interaction with the environment (phenotype). Having family members with allergic conditions increases the risk of allergy. Numerous environmental influences may also affect the development of allergy, such as breastfeeding, cesarean sections, diet during pregnancy, vitamin D levels, use of antibiotics, use of probiotics, animal exposures, pollutant exposure, and diet during infancy. Of all the factors studied to date, it appears that introducing highly allergic foods into the child’s diet before one year of age may decrease the risk of food allergy, particularly peanut allergy. Allergen immunotherapy (allergy shots) have also been shown to decrease the risk of developing future environmental allergies and asthma. Finding additional ways to prevent allergic conditions remains an active area of research.