Addison’s Disease and Cortisol

My daughter Amanda with her two sons Gavin and Trenton has Addison's Disease

This may seem like a far-out post and some of you may never have heard of this disease, but it is something that has hit close to home lately, as my eldest daughter has recently been diagnosed with the condition (hence the curiosity with it). Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disorder, where the body produces insufficient amounts of hormones produced by the adrenal glands. These hormones include too little cortisol, and insufficient levels of aldosterone. We’ve covered cortisol before, but it is your ‘fight or flight’ hormone that:

  • helps the body respond to stress
  • regulate the body’s protein, carbohydrates, and fat
  • maintain blood pressure and cardiovascular function
  • control inflammation

Aldosterone on the other hand is responsible for maintaining blood pressure and salt and water balance in the body by helping the kidneys retain sodium and excrete potassium. Approximately 1 of 4 in every 100,000 people have Addison’s. She started to notice a change this past winter when her weight just continued to drop, until eventually it got to a frightening 108 pounds! After testing and MRI (because the pituitary gland in the brain works with the adrenal system, which is based above your kidneys). Symptoms for Addison’s include:

  • muscle weakness and fatigue (check- her initial body analysis had a mere 78 pounds of lean body mass)
  • weight loss and decreased appetite (check again)
  • darkening skin
  • low blood pressure
  • nausea or vomiting
  • muscle or joint pains
  • depression

Because cortisol is part of your stress management, it’s no wonder that this winter (which is basketball season in the Woelfle household- which her husband coaches, so there is added stress and their 2 kids to watch by herself) she started to show signs. Today most live stressful lives. This accompanied with a lack of sleep (sleep restores cortisol levels so that you’re ready to take on the stresses of ‘daily’ life), chronic exercise, constant work schedules of both work and family cause for people to need more cortisol. It’s no wonder that the body starts attacking itself because of these chronically high levels of cortisol that it is needing to pump out to deal with stress. In paleo time, cortisol was only needed to escape that occasional saber tooth tiger. Since Amanda’s body was no longer able to produce enough cortisol her body responded first with weight loss, she had trouble standing and breathing. It was scary. Now that its been found what she has she will have to undergo hormone replacement and steroids to try to restore the insufficient production by her adrenal system. Further more myself and Dr. Sharifi have encouraged her to develop a fat-burner eating style, so she’ll control her insulin levels (she was previously a sugar-addict) and cycle protein and fat in an effort to increase her muscle mass. In addition she also began a resistance training regime with us to strengthen the little muscle tissue that she has and to encourage hypertrophy. I’m thrilled to say that after her measurements that she has gained over five pounds of muscle! I think that this condition is relevent for people to learn about though because stress is something that affects most people and chronic cortisol levels wreak havoc on your body. What would I recommend for decreasing stress in your life:

  • meditation/yoga
  • better time/stress management
  • no chronic cardio (this leaves you in a constant ‘fight or flight’ state)
  • SLEEP (I’ve done sleep so many times but it is that important, especially for restoring hormones like cortisol. So instead of setting that alarm clock that spikes your cortisol to go to the gym for a morning run, which spikes your cortisol, sleep in!)
  • read Dr. Dyer (Change Your Thoughts Change your Life or Excuses Be Gone). He is one of my personal favorites and you’ll see that a lot of the ‘stress’ we have is self-inflicted and of the mind. Clear your mind so that you can use your cortisol for when you need it- when the lion is after you!

I know that my daughter is on the way to a healthier future and she has the support of her whole family with her. We love you and keep it up (and your muscle)!

This entry was posted in Body/Spiritual, Physiology, Stress and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Addison’s Disease and Cortisol

  1. lung mass says:

    Its like you read my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, like you wrote the book in it
    or something. I think that you could do with some pics to drive
    the message home a little bit, but other than that, this is excellent blog.

    A fantastic read. I will certainly be back.

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