If you are “adrenals are shot”, then your stress-coping abilities are severely depleted. That is, you’ll just stress out.
Adrenal fatigue can affect anyone who experiences frequent, persistent, or severe mental, emotional or physical stress. It can be a contributing factor in health conditions ranging from allergies to obesity. Despite its prevalence in our modern world, adrenal fatigue is for the most part ignored and misunderstood by the medical community.
The adrenals are located on top of your kidneys and they are responsible for producing noradrenaline and adrenaline which are important for your “fight or flight” acute response. Your adrenals are also responsible for producing steroid hormones from cholesterol, including DHEA, progesterone, estrogen, testosterone and cortisol.
Cortisol has a fundamental role in coping with chronic prolonged stress (psychological, physical or emotional). Cortisol is anti-inflammatory; it increases stamina, boosts mental and physical energy and has a role in your immune/defense system response. It is here where the low fat scam takes its toll. But several things may go wrong other than low cholesterol levels. For instance, your adrenals and your HPA axis might be overstressed or dysfunctional.
The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is what can be considered the head master of your adrenals. As the name suggests, the HPA axis is composed of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland (both in the brain), and the adrenal glands.
Our hypothalamus is that part of the brain considered to be the master gland of the endocrine system due to its homeostatic (balance) effect over all our hormonal system.
This is why the HPA axis regulates many functions such as blood pressure, digestion, circadian rhythms, sex drive, body temperature, balance and coordination, heart rate, sweating, water balance, blood sugar levels, adrenal hormones, thyroid hormones and metabolism.
The HPA axis, as the head master overseeing your adrenals, has an effect in your reactions to stress. What is more, chronic stress can suppress the HPA axis, leading to lower production of cortisol by the adrenals.
If there is an imbalance of the HPA axis, it will disrupt your body’s ability to maintain the homeostasis of the hormonal system. Thyroid function may become compromised by any disruption to the HPA axis, so stress can definitely have an effect on thyroid function. A dysfunctional HPA-axis can cause estrogen, testosterone, and progesterone to become imbalanced as well.
If you have leptin resistance due to a high carbohydrate intake, that will make your HPA axis most unhappy as well. Leptin is a major hormone that ultimately influences all other hormones and the functions of the hypothalamus in the brain. Thus, leptin controls the function of the HPA axis. As it happens, it seems that leptin enhances your flight or fight response and it inhibits the secretion of steroid hormones (cortisol) by the adrenals. Thereby it promotes the stress response and it discourages anti-inflammatory effects.
An imbalance in your HPA axis is known to cause symptoms such as muscle or joint pain, dizziness, fatigue, low body temperature, a compromised immune system, constipation or diarrhea, abdominal pain, depression, and less mental acuity.
People with low cortisol levels have a tendency towards allergies, especially hay fever, and the beginnings of arthritis. Low cortisol is associated particularly with autoimmune disorders, such as asthma, arthritis, allergies, ulcerative colitis, and fatigue.
Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Syndrome
Adrenal fatigue refers to the concept of too much stress depleting your adrenals and causing a decrease in the output of adrenal hormones, particularly cortisol. Even though mainstream medicine denies its existence, adrenal fatigue has been called hypoadrenia, neurasthenia, non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, subclinical hypoadrenia, adrenal neurasthenia and so forth.
Low cortisol levels may make you less able to respond when you need to, and it has been associated with low grade, frequent emotional (and sometimes physical) abuse and neglect. There is a strong link between low cortisol and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Low cortisol has also been associated with a lack of positive good feeling.
Years of poor sleep, excessive stimulants such as coffee, chronic psychological stress (anything from a divorce to an economic collapse without mentioning stressful climate changes…), surgeries, traumatic events, and environmental toxicity can have a very heavy toll in your adrenals.
The adrenals, in their effort to regulate blood sugar extremes from a lifetime of a high carb diet, become overburdened, eventually burning them out.
People can look normal, yet they are living with a general sense of unwellness. People who suffer from adrenal fatigue often have problems regulating their blood sugar, they tend to experience more delayed food allergies, they are more vulnerable to infections and they tend to have pains and mood problems such as anxiety and depression other than sleeping problems. People with frequent respiratory infections, rhinitis, asthma, frequent colds, allergies, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, diabetes, autoimmune disorders tend to have adrenal fatigue. In fact, allergies seem to get worse when there is more stress since cortisol is needed to counteract the inflammatory reactions.
People with adrenal fatigue tend to skip breakfast. They wake up without appetite and the only thing they want is coffee. This has the effect of stimulating their adrenals, extracting the very last juice of them so they can start-up the day. Under more stress, they can faint easily if they skip further meals or just drop exhausted anywhere. So if you are to heal your adrenal function, you must absolutely eat a big fatty breakfast.
Other hormones produced by the adrenals also may leave the ladies prone to more facial hair or acne.
People can crave more salt since the adrenals are also responsible for releasing a hormone related with salt and water. In adrenal fatigue, more sodium is lost than usual, leading to drops in blood pressure, tiredness and lots of salt craving. It is a crime to deprive a person with adrenal fatigue of salt. As it happens, salt has anti-inflammatory effects since it is a natural anti-histaminic. Why do you think it is recommended for sinus congestion?
Since the adrenals produce the rejuvenating steroid hormone DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone) – precursor for estrogen, progesterone and testosterone – people with adrenal fatigue tend to have bone loss, loss of muscle mass, depression, aching joints, decreased sex drive and so forth.
Another thing often overlooked is that if you are meant to normalize a low thyroid function, you must absolutely heal your adrenals first, otherwise, nothing will happen. Thyroid function often normalizes when you support your adrenals and remove delayed food allergies. Thyroid problems often mean gluten intolerance, and if gluten is removed on time, and you support your adrenals, the damage is reversible.
Adrenal Fatigue Protocol
Adrenal fatigue symptoms and signs include chronic stress, tiredness, excess facial or body hair growth in women, several food sensitivities, multiple chemical sensitivities, hair loss, acne, salt cravings, recurrent infections, low blood pressure, tend to skip breakfast in the morning (lack of appetite and/or drink only coffee), or feeling cold. Keep in mind that you’ll never normalize a low thyroid function (diagnosed either by lab tests or clinical symptoms) if you don’t address adrenal fatigue.
First, try titrating doses of vitamin C since it is a very important nutrient for adrenal function and repair, other than cholesterol. Most folks need only to up their intake of this important nutrient in the form of supplemental vitamin C (most fruits are so loaded in sugar that it makes them useless for the little C that can be obtained from them). For more information on vitamin C, see Heal Thyself with Homemade Liposomal Vitamin C.
Low Dose Hydrocortisone
Dosage as follows:
– Start with 2.5 mg (a quarter of a 10-mg tablet or half of a 5-mg tablet) per day between 6 and 8 am for one week.
– Increase the dose to 5 mg per day between 6 and 8 am if you saw no positive response with the lower dose for one week.
– Increase the dose to 10 mg per day between 6 and 8 am if you saw no positive response with the previous dose for one week
– Maintain your dose of 10 mg in the early morning and add 5 mg at noon if you saw no positive response with the previous dose for one week.
– Maintain your dose of 10 mg in the early morning and 5mg at noon, add 5 mg at 4pm if you saw no positive response with the previous dose for one week.
If at any point you experience carbohydrate cravings, bloating or insomnia, feel hyper, or have any other negative symptoms, either stop or reduce the dose. This is not meant to be a permanent therapy, you can stop this protocol a few days after you feel better, regardless of the dose you were taking. In case of illness or trauma or physical stress, you can take hydrocortisone again with double the dose.
Ask your physician for a hydrocortisone prescription. Most doctors will prescribe therapeutic or lower doses of cortisone for inflammatory conditions, do they shouldn’t have a problem prescribing such a low dose of hydrocortisone. We are not talking here about therapeutic dosages. This is very important to understand.
Hydrocortisone is the chemical form of the cortisone your adrenal gland produces. The average daily production of hydrocortisone in your body is about 30 to 40 mg. If you have adrenal insufficiency (low adrenal function or adrenal fatigue), you may be producing much less and have symptoms as a consequence. By supplementing your low production with 5 to 20 mg of hydrocortisone, your body’s supply becomes normal and symptoms should promptly disappear.
The misunderstanding with this low dose hydrocortisone protocol stems from the use of high-dose cortisone therapies like prednisone, medrol, etc. With such high doses there are significant side effects such as high blood pressure, osteoporosis, Cushing syndrome, immune supression and so forth. But these effects have absolutely nothing to do with low-dose hydrocortisone treatment. In fact, the reason why most doctors are reluctant to prescribe it is because the dose is way too low in order to make any difference whatsoever. Keep in mind that mainstream science is completely ignorant about adrenal fatigue. The low doses we are talking here is even much lower of what your body normally produces, even if your adrenal’s output of hydrocortisone is normal. High-dose mainstream treatment of cortisone is several times your body’s daily output, that is, 60 to 300 mg of hydrocortisone per day. So if someone tells you that you are crazy for being in cortisone because it has serious side effects, you can reassure them that you are taking below levels of physiological doses of what your body already produces. Remember, it is not prednisone, it is hydrocortisone. 5 mg of hydrocortisone is the same as about 1 mg of prednisone. Fludan.com sells hydrocortisone in powder form which people can then weight with a scale for mg, such as a jewel scale. If you are unable to get a hold of hydrocortisone or experience unsuitable symptoms on it, you can use low dose progesterone cream to support adrenal function.
Keep in mind also that the best test to see if you will benefit from this therapy is the trial one, that is no lab test will be able to tell you with accuracy if your adrenals need a boost. People who have negative tests often benefit from low dose hydrocortisone therapy.
Of course, these are temporary measures. As useful as they may be, they will never replace the need for eating a diet that is most supportive to your body’s physiology and functioning. For more information on a healing diet that will prolong your life and support your adrenals, see Primal Body, Primal Mind by Nora Gedgaudas. Eating animal fats and protein, cutting out on sugar, grains and foods full with anti-nutrients is essential to heal our bodies.
Those with chronic fatigue, recurrent infections and joint pains should keep in mind that iron overload (ask your physician to test for ferritin, transferrin, TIBC and iron) should be ruled out. Ferritin levels should be ideally less than 80 and transferrin saturation should be ideally less than 40%. If you are above those levels, you might want to donate some blood or refer to the Iron Disorders Institute. A great book on the subject is The Elephant Iron by Roberta Crawford. In addition to that, people with iron overload are discouraged from taking vitamin C without proper monitoring.
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 Malendowicz LK, Rucinski M. et al. Leptin and the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Int Rev Cytol. 2007;263:63-102.
 Rodger H. Murphree. Treating and Beating Fibromyalgia and Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: The Definitive Guide for Patients and Physician. Harrison & Hampton Publishing; 2 edition (January 2003)
 James L. Wilson. Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome. 2001, Smart Publications.
 Sue Gerhardt. Why Love Matters: How Affection Shapes a Baby’s Brain.Routledge; 1 edition (24 Jun 2004)
 Sidney MacDonald Baker. Detoxification and Healing: The Key to Optimal Health. McGraw-Hill; 2 edition (August 27, 2003)
About the Author:A countryside family medicine doctor and former heart surgeon in service of the Hippocratic Oath.