Adrenal fatigue or adrenal insufficiency is one of the areas I specialise in as a Naturopath – having experienced severe adrenal issues combined with a thyroid problem myself in the past.
In my own search for answers to my health problems, I became very experienced with all the different remedies for adrenal function – from food, supplements and herbs – to medication.
Adrenal fatigue occurs when the adrenal glands (perched on top of the kidney’s) become exhausted and fail to produce enough of the hormone cortisol. Cortisol is produced in response to day to day stresses, and is one of our key stress hormones. It regulates our immune system, energy production, protein breakdown for glucose, carbohydrate metabolism and insulin response and also regulates inflammation within our body.
In excess it is linked with many chronic illness such as heart disease, diabetes and cancers – but in some people, after a prolonged or traumatic stress, cortisol production becomes limited.
The symptoms of this can include low blood pressure, dizziness (especially on standing up quickly), anxiety, overwhelm, chronic fatigue, depression, salt cravings and immune issues.
When someone is suffering the symptoms of severe adrenal fatigue, shows very low cortisol results on a Saliva Hormone Test, and seems to be unresponsive to food, herbs and supplements – I have found that low dose hydrocortisone (cortisol replacement) can be a very effective remedy.
Yes, we are moving into the medical world here – but hydrocortisone is pretty much identical to the body’s own natural hormone – and for many people they are just not able to rest the way they need to for their adrenals to recover naturally. There still may be financial pressures and the need to work full time, the stress that caused the fatigue still may not be resolved etc and this is where in my experience, I have found hydrocortisone to be life-saving.
It appears that used in low dose (20mg or less), it allows the adrenal glands to rest and recover. When slowly weaned off after a period of months, if good food, herbs and supplements have been used during this time to support the healing process, then the adrenals can recover and function without support, and the patient can make a full recovery.
This was my experience, and I wholeheartedly support the use of low dose hydrocortisone when it is necessary.
However, I have also found that very, very few doctors understand using this medication in low dose amounts for the purposes of adrenal support and recovery. Most know nothing about adrenal fatigue to start with and don’t recognise it as an illness at all, and certainly very few have studied the use of low dose hydrocortisone.
Just this week I have had two patients who clearly have severe adrenal fatigue, discuss with their doctors the possibility of using this treatment. Both doctors were horrified and expounded the dangerous side effects of this medication. One even going so far as to predict my patient would develop “osteoporosis within a month”. How ridiculous.
It amazes me how ignorant the medical profession is at times, and that they continue to spout the party line without doing any of their own investigations.
Like everything, there is a safe dose and an unsafe dose and hydrocortisone is one of those medications that in high doses does have many undesirable side effects. But replacing a deficient hormone in amounts that the body would naturally produce were it functioning properly – is entirely safe, and was proven so in extensive research done by Dr. William McK Jefferies in the 1950’s.
He used low dose hydrocortisone to help hundreds of patients recover their health, and wrote a book discussing this very topic, called “The Safe Uses of Cortisol“. In this book he laments the fact that so many doctors dismiss this treatment out of hand, citing the side effects associated with high dose treatment. And it looks as though nothing has changed in the 50 years since.
All we can do is arm ourselves with knowledge and try to encourage our medical practitioners to research this controversial topic. Then we may see more people who are suffering with adrenal fatigue, have this issue recognised, and treated appropriately.