Fatigue, loss of weight, weakness, skin discoloration, and low blood pressure could indicate that a person has Addisons disease. Also known as hypocortisolism or adrenal insufficiency, Addisons disease is a hormonal or endocrine disorder indicating that adrenal glands arent producing enough cortisol or enough of the aldosterone hormone.
Found above the kidneys, adrenal glands produce the hormone cortisol that helps the body:
- Counter stress
- Regulate carbohydrate, protein, and fat metabolism
- Reduce the inflammatory response of the immune system
- Sustain cardiovascular function
- Keep optimal blood pressure levels
- Balance insulin
- Maintain feelings of comfort
The aldosterone hormone is also fashioned in the adrenal glands as it helps balance water and salt as well as helps to steady blood pressure. Without proper levels of aldosterone, kidneys cease proper functioning causing a reduction in blood pressure and volume.
Addisons disease can affect anyone at any age, but is most common in middle-aged adults. Aside from the above-mentioned symptoms, people with Addisons disease may experience:
- Salt cravings
- Nausea (including vomiting and diarrhea)
- Pain in joints
- Pain in muscles
- Hypoglycemia (low blood sugar)
A sudden onset of Addisons disease is known as addisonian crisis and is the cause of acute adrenal failure. In these cases, patients may experience:
- Dehydration (caused by diarrhea and vomiting)
- Lower back pain
- Abdominal pain
- Pain in legs
- Low blood pressure
- Higher than normal potassium levels
Autoimmune diseases are the most common contributors to adrenal failure as the body suspects the adrenal cortex as a threat it seeks to destroy. Tuberculosis, cancer of the adrenals, surgical adrenal gland removal, bleeding, and other infections in the adrenal glands also contribute to adrenal failure.
Patients being treated for arthritis or asthma who suddenly stop taking prescribed corticosteroids sometimes suffer secondary adrenal insufficiency. And those who consume large amounts of coffee and other caffeinated foods over a period of years are prone to adrenal exhaustion that can leave the adrenal glands in a weakened, more susceptible state. While the daily consumption of one or two cups of coffee arent likely to cause immediate harm, regular caffeine consumers are advised to keep daily consumption to a minimum and, whenever possible, take a break from consumption in order to give the adrenal glands time to rest.
Left untreated, Addisons disease can result in addisonian crisis if triggered by stress, illness, infection or injury.
In order to treat Addisons disease, doctors seek to substitute cortisol or aldosterone, according to which one is not being properly produced. In the case of aldosterone substitution, or replacement, patients are also encouraged to increase salt consumption. In more chronic cases, surgery is often prescribed. Also, if a patient is in addisonian crisis, intravenous doses of saline, dextrose and hydrocortisone are administered, as low levels of these are life threatening.
Holistic health approaches to Addisons disease are effective in preventing conditions that lead to adrenal failure and are useful in treating patients already diagnosed with Addisons disease. Through healthy living, which includes a healthy diet and exercise, the human body is able to ward off many of the culprits that contribute to adrenal failure, such as cancer and infections.
Alternative therapies for those already living with Addisons disease include herbal blends such as Huang Qi, Borago, and Siberian ginseng, which help to balance the effects of stress as well as help maintain the optimal functioning of the adrenal glands. Ginger also helps in digestion and can help alleviate nausea, including vomiting. Acupuncture, Yoga, prayer, and meditation also help to reduce stress levels that can be threatening to the adrenals and which lower the immune system in general.
Anyone with symptoms of Addisons disease is advised to consult with a medical professional for a proper diagnosis. However, everyone seeking to avoid adrenal failure is advised to incorporate healthy living practices into their daily life. Waiting for a diagnosis before changing ones lifestyle not only leaves one susceptible to Addisons, but to a host of other life-threatening ailments as well. The wisdom to prevent disease by balancing healthy diet and physical exercise with holistic health strategies that strengthen the mind and the spirit is always the best approach in combating disease and is available to everyone on a daily basis.