What Is Adrenal Insufficiency?
Adrenal insufficiency, if taken for granted as a medical condition, may cause severe health problems. This disease affects your body’s natural mechanism to respond to stress and maintain its other life functions. This disease is a condition wherein your body doesn't produce adequate amounts of hormones, primarily cortisol and aldosterone.
Adrenal insufficiency comes in three types that are based on its causes: primary, secondary, and tertiary. Primary adrenal insufficiency usually occurs upon the presence of pathology in the adrenal glands. Secondary adrenal insufficiency happens in the instance that the level of adrenocorticotrophin hormone (ACTH) is decreased. When corticotrophin-releasing hormone (CRH) which is released from the hyphothalamus is in abnormal levels, it will usually results to tertiary adrenal insufficiency.
Adrenal insufficiency can be a life-threatening disease without proper medication and intake of healthy supplements. Get to know more about this disease, its symptoms, and possible interventions. Since this condition is uncommon, this article is primarily written to answer your concerns regarding this disease. Let us start with its symptoms.
What are the symptoms of Adrenal Insufficiency?
As a rare type of disease, it doesn’t develop in an instant. Instead, it slowly develops within several months. As it progresses slowly, the person who is having the disease may not be aware of its existence; not until intense stress, illness, or injury will worsen the situation. The person suffering from adrenal insufficiency may experience the following:
A decreased appetite resulting to weight loss
Hyperpigmentation or the darkening of skin
Low blood pressure
Extreme craving of salty foods
Gastrointestinal symptoms such as diarrhea, nausea or vomiting
Suffering from abdominal pain
Join and muscle pains
Easily becomes irritable
Experience depression or other behavioral symptoms
Sexual dysfunction in women
Irregular periods or menstruation
Symptoms may instantly appear in acute adrenal failure. These symptoms may include confusion, severe abdominal pain, severe weakness, pain in the lower back of the legs, delirium, vomiting and diarrhea. The person who experiences acute adrenal failure may have low levels of sodium, high levels of potassium and a low blood pressure.
What causes adrenal insufficiency?
Having known its symptoms is not enough. It may only cause panic and false symptoms that will affect you psychologically and physically. Here, we will lay out the reasons why some people may experience adrenal insufficiency.
The most common cause of adrenal insufficiency is the sudden cessation of taking in corticosteroids after taking them for an extended time. Moreover, the different types of adrenal insufficiency have various reasons. Here, we are going to discuss it individually.
Primary adrenal insufficiency
As an autoimmune disease, it is caused by your immune system attacking your body cells and organs. It is a rare condition wherein your immune system will perceive other body cells and organs as foreign, which motivates it to initiate the attack. In several reported cases, this disease is also influenced by HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, spread of cancer in the adrenal glands and in some cases, bleeding within the adrenal gland.
Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency
The pituitary gland typically produces a hormone called adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). This hormone, in return, will stimulate the adrenal cortex, prompting it to produce hormones. But, in some cases, barriers in producing enough pituitary hormones may hinder its production such as benign pituitary tumors, prior surgery in the area and inflammation.
Eventually, this will lead to less production of glucocorticoids and androgens. Symptoms of this type of adrenal insufficiency may be similar to the first type. However, the person having secondary adrenal insufficiency may not have hyperpigmentation, may have less chance of being dehydrated and low blood pressure. Instead, the person may have low blood sugar levels.
Its possible cause would be the cessation of intake of corticosteroids, such as prednisone, among people with asthma and arthritis.
Tertiary Adrenal Insufficiency
Like the other types of this disease, it develops when someone suddenly stops the intake of corticosteroids. A long duration of drug intake may cause higher levels of cortisol in your blood than the regular cortisol production. As a result, it decreases CRH, which then reduces ACTH. This unusual process will make the adrenal glands stop producing cortisol.
Also, this type of adrenal insufficiency may occur if a person is recently cured of Cushing’s Syndrome.
Who is at Risk?
Now, you might be wondering what stage of life does this disease usually occur and who are the usual victims?
On a serious note, this disease hits a number out of a million people in every developed country. Addison's disease mostly affects 100-140 people out of every million people in developed countries, while the second type of this disease affects 150 – 280 people per billion.
Often, women develop this kind of disease rather than men. If you are a woman reading this, you might be a bit scared, but yes, women usually develop this disease, and we should deal with it. The disease may affect women between the ages 30 to 50, and even children may be susceptible.
If not treated, what are the complications?
Complications of this disease may lead to death. The most common complication is known as adrenal crisis. This condition is due to the very less production of cortisol in your body, which is necessary in times of stress, severe injury, or surgery. The minimal production of cortisol will lead to low blood pressure, low blood glucose, low blood sodium, and high blood potassium. These may cause instantaneous death if left unresolved.
What are the tests used to diagnose this disease?
Blood and imaging tests may be done to diagnose this disease. These tests may be done according to the projected symptoms such as hyperpigmentation of the skin, cravings of salty food, and too much and long duration of stress. In some cases, a routine blood test may initially detect the occurrence of this disease.
Furthermore, here are the tests to be used in the diagnosis:
· Serum Cortisol Test
It is used to measure the cortisol levels of your blood.
· ACTH Stimulation Test
Tetracosactide or synthetic ACTH is used in this test. It compares the cortisol level before and after an ACTH injection is given.
· Autoantibody Studies
It is used to detect proteins that are associated with autoimmune adrenaline.
· Insulin-induced Hypoglycemia Test
This test is used to test secondary adrenal insufficiency. It checks if the pituitary gland responds well by comparing cortisol and blood glucose levels before and after insulin shots.
· Imaging Tests
It is done to check any abnormalities within the adrenal glands themselves. Tests that may be conducted are computed tomography, ultrasound and magnetic resonance imaging.
What are the conventional treatments for this disease?
Since this disease is characterized by the depletion of hormones, the most effective and most common remedy would be life-long hormone replacement therapies. Usually, it involves steroid intakes for two-three times a day. Check out the list below:
This drug used to replenish cortisol levels in the body. The prescription would be 15-25mg, usually in two to three divided doses with food and a glass of water to prevent stomach upset.
This drug is used as a replacement for aldosterone. It is administered in 50 – 200 microgram tablets. This will be taken twice a day with or without food.
This is prescribed most commonly in women suffering from chronic fatigue associated with Addison's disease. A daily dose of 25 – 50 milligrams once a day is recommended. This can be taken either during bedtime or upon waking up.
It can stimulate the production of cortisol and may be used if your body can’t tolerate hydrocortisone. Since this is a corticosteroid, the doctor may prescribe only a daily dose of 3-5 milligrams.
It can be used if your body can’t tolerate hydrocortisone. It is injected daily in a dose of 0.5 milligrams.
With the given medications, side effects may occur. The side effects may include headache, dizziness, nausea, stomach upset, acne, dry skin, easy bruising, insomnia, muscle weakness, slowed wound healing, and changes in the menstrual period.
Long-term use may cause the thinning of bones (osteoporosis) or lipodystrophy. However, these are results of over-medication. In soothing your body from side effects, grapefruit and licorice may help. However, if the side effects are just hard to bear, you may consult your doctor again. Dosage may be lowered, and drugs may be changed to suit your body's mechanism.
How do you cope with the burden of this disease?
Everyone dreams of becoming bulletproof. You also aim to be bulletproof, don’t you? To be free from fatigue also means to have healthier adrenal glands. And, healthier glands will prevent you from acquiring the disease.
Now, we are going to share with you simple life-hacks to stay away from fatigue. Since adrenal stress is caused by poor diet, lack of sleep, working too hard, emotional trauma, lack or too much exercise and mold exposure, it is essential that you should stay on top of these stress-causing activities.
Clean up your diet. Replace sugar, alcohol, and other inflammatory foods with veggies rich in antioxidants, good fats, and grass-feed or wild-caught meat.
Have good sleep. Venture into sleep-hacking methods. It is not about the duration of sleep, but how deep you go when you are sleeping. After all, it is the quality, not the quantity.
Regulate your coffee intake. Coffee spikes cortisol. To prevent yourself from having a spike on your cortisol level, you have to choose between just drinking coffee in the morning or not having coffee at all. It's your most important choice. Of course, you should make a healthy choice.
Intake of anti-stress supplements. Supplements rich in magnesium are a good investment. 400mg a day works well. Other than that, you might have gastrointestinal trouble.
Do mindfulness activities, relax, do yoga or meditate. These calming activities soothe the stress away. Have a stress-free mind, a stress-free body, and of course, stress-free adrenal glands.
If it is hard to do all the classic activities mentioned above, you can help ease adrenal fatigue by taking these supplements. Remember, healthy adrenal glands will pull you away from adrenal insufficiency. It is just a matter of choice. Be healthy, or you'll spend more on medication. Anyway, you may take any of these products, but make sure to purchase supplements from a trusted store.
It has anti-inflammatory properties and is known to have relaxing effects on the central nervous system. It helps boost the immune system and kills cancer cells.
If you are feeling sluggish or fatigued, these vitamins are right for you. It helps in the production of red blood cells and is reported to have benefits in depression.
A good dose of magnesium will help you regulate your blood pressure, glucose level, and normalize the muscle and nerve function.
This is to boost your energy. Collagen-producing and immune-boosting vitamin C is known to affect your body's tissues and organs, including your adrenal gland.
This is an ideal supplement if your cortisol levels are getting high, and if you've been stressed lately.
It helps you stay away from fatigue as this boosts your energy.
This supplement helps promote healthy cortisol levels, which are necessary for your adrenal glands.
It supports adrenal stress hormone production when the level gets too low.
Surely, diseases are always available and they target our immune system and cause damage to our organs. Without a proper diet, diseases can develop anytime. Therefore, we must be cautious enough in our activities and lifestyle.
As we grow older, we’ll learn to realize that health is wealth. Every disease that may develop in us is our liability. The sad part is that it doesn't only affect us but also affects the people around us. If it is a burden to us, it is also a burden to our family and the rest of the people around us.
Say no to stress.
Save yourself adrenal glands and start fighting adrenal insufficiency. With the right food supplements and a healthy diet, we can make it WORK!