More and more health practitioners are beginning to recognize how widespread adrenal fatigue is in the general population these days. Now they're starting to wonder if cortisol can help treat adrenal dysfunction effectively and safely.
People feel they are under constant pressure and stress, sluggish, irritable and fatigued during most of the day and they are desperately trying to clear up that mental fogginess with coffee or other stimulants, just to crash worse afterwards. Although it’s been widely accepted as the “common way of living in a working, modern society” it is not normal!
What Are the Symptoms of Adrenal Dysfunction?
The adrenals produce hormones like cortisol that help balance the blood sugar and manage the daily ebbs and flows of energy. Low levels of adrenal cortisol can result in symptoms such as hypoglycemia, fatigue, muscle aches, low blood sugar, sugar or salt craving and shakiness relieved with eating. Also one may suffer from moodiness, food sensitivities, allergies, recurrent infections, dizzy when standing, low blood pressure, decreased ability to handle stress, “brain fog”, swollen ankles that are worse at night, muscular weakness, difficulty getting out of bed, wiped out with exercise and the inability to tolerate thyroid replacement.
The Role of Cortisol in Adrenal Function
The most important anti-stress hormone in the body is cortisol. It protects the body from excessive adrenal fatigue by:
- normalizing blood sugar: cortisol increases the blood sugar level in the body, thus providing the energy needed for the body to physically escape threat or injury in order to survive. Cortisol works in tandem with insulin from the pancreas to provide adequate glucose for energy.
- anti-inflammatory response: cortisol is a powerful anti-inflammatory agent. It is secreted as part of the anti-inflammatory response. Its objective is to remove and prevent swelling and redness of nearly all tissues.
- immune system suppression: cortisol influences most cells that participate in the immune reaction, especially white blood cells. It suppresses white blood cells, natural killer cells, monocytes, macrophages and mast cells. It also suppresses adrenal fatigue.
- vaso-constriction: people with low cortisol have low blood pressure and reduced activity to other body agents that constrict blood vessels.
- physiology of stress: people with adrenal fatigue can not tolerate stress and will then succumb to severe stress. As their stress increases, progressively higher levels of cortisol are required. When the cortisol level cannot rise in response to stress, it is impossible to maintain the body in optimum stress response.
Cortisol sustains life via two opposite, but related, kinds of regulatory actions: releasing and activating the existing defense mechanisms of the body, while shutting down and modifying the same mechanisms to prevent them.
Can Cortisol Help Effectively and Safely With Adrenal Dysfunction?
In the right situation and using the right dose, hormone replacement can be of great benefit for people with adrenal dysfunction. Medical science is just beginning to find out that a person can feel horrible and function poorly even with a minimal to moderate hormone deficiency that is clinically undetected by routine blood tests. This is evident in the case of adrenal fatigue.
Some physicians, notably Dr. Jefferies in the mid 1980s, have advocated low dose cortisol as safe for long-term use. Dr. Jefferies found that as long as the adrenal hormone level is kept within the normal range, the main toxicity that a patient might experience was a slight upset stomach, due to the body not being used to having the hormone come in through the stomach.
There are side effects when using cortisol. If the dose is too high, one may feel shaky and the dosage should then be lowered. If cortisol causes upset stomach, the patients should take it with meals or lower the dose. If taken too late in the day, it can disrupt sleep. At a dose of over 20 mg a day, one will begin to see the more toxic side effects of cortisol. Clearly higher doses are not recommended unless the benefits do clearly outweigh the risks.
In an article published by Dr. Kent Holtorf in the Journal of Chronic Fatigue Syndrome about therapeutic doses of cortisol for patients with fibromyalgia and chronic fatigue syndrome, he states: “Because treatment with low physiologic doses of cortisol (< 15 mg) has been shown to be safe and effective and routine dynamic ACTH testing does not appear to have significant diagnostic sensitivity, it is reasonable to give a therapeutic trial of physiologic doses of cortisol to the majority of patients with CFS and FM, especially to those who have symptoms that are consistent with adrenal dysfunction, have low blood pressure, or have baseline cortisol levels in the low or low-normal range. (…) Physiologic replacement of cortisol at doses of 5 mg to 15 mg a day are safe, with little or no associated risk. Such physiologic doses don’t carry the risk of adrenal and immune suppression or bone loss, which are well known risks of pharmacological doses of corticosteroids. Cortisol treatment carries significantly less risk and a greater potential for benefit than standard treatments, such as antidepressants, muscle relaxants, anticonvulsants and narcotics.”
If you were diagnosed with adrenal fatigue or suspect it, you can benefit of some of the most effective treatments that suit your metabolism, without the side effects. Healing protocols should include adrenal glandulars, vitamin C, Pantothenic acid, licorice, chromium and even low dose cortisol can reverse your negative symptoms of adrenal fatigue and dramatically improve the quality of your life.