Friday, November 13, 2015

How do I recover from Addison's Disease?

A woman wrote to me who has had Addison's disease for 17 years. She is tired and frustrated because she can't seem to get better. I really do understand. I spent much of the last 40 years in my home unable to do much of anything. It took weeks and even months to get back on my feet after doing a small thing such as going out to dinner. I have even had to be wheeled around in a wheelchair because I couldn't walk. I always felt rotten like I had a flu - achy, nauseous, headache, dopey, confused, depressed, and exhausted.

That is the key - exhausted. I finally realized that I was simply exhausted. In the old days they might have said, "You broke your health", or "You had a nervous breakdown". Addison's disease caused by exhaustion (not caused by illness or injury) is when the adrenal glands are worn out by too much stress and just can't keep up the high level of production of cortisone needed to cope with all the stress you are experiencing. Eventually, the glands quit, and then they say you have Addison's disease. It isn't something that just happens to you, or you catch; it is the consequence of being constantly over-stressed.

Many diabetics experience the same thing. They eat too many refined carbohydrates causing their pancreas to increase its production of insulin. Eventually, the pancreas becomes exhausted and can't produce enough insulin which is called Diabetes.

It isn't something most people are born with, it takes years of abusing your body to reach a point of where you exhaust your adrenal glands. You might rest a little and go back to your normal life, but if you become sick easily, recover slowly, tire quickly, sleep poorly, become upset easily, and enjoy little, you are headed for exhaustion.

As your adrenal glands become over stressed and fail, they are no longer able to adequately support your immune system so you get sick easily and heal slowly, and you may develop multiple allergies and chemical sensitivities. Which will stress you more and tire you. You may experience your blood pressure, blood sugar, and temperature fluctuating. In short, you feel sick.

I have found that most people I've known that have Addison's Disease have had many stresses within a short period of time, or maybe constant stress year after year. They try to bravely keep going, until they finally collapse. I did. (I'm not referring to those who are born with non-functioning glands or have had damage to their adrenal glands by a tumor or accident, but those who slowly go downhill. )

Healing your adrenal glands can be done. You have been in a downward spiral. Your failing adrenal glands, cause immune, blood sugar and blood pressure problems, which increases emotional stress which further stresses the adrenal glands. It takes work to turn things around, but it is worth it. I am still healing, but not longer need any medication. I am dancing and hiking again. It is wonderful!

Eliminate all the stress you can:

  1. Eat nutritious food; drink plenty or water; and get at least 8 hours sleep a night
  2. Eliminate any foods from your diet that you are allergic to - I started out with two natural food allergies and ended up only able to eat two foods - beans and squash! - be tested
  3. Eliminate any chemicals that bother you from your environment - common irritants - perfumes (and air fresheners), petrochemicals - plastics, gasoline, etc; paints, cleaning supplies; use no VOC paints, and get cleaning products from a health food store
  4. Check your clothes - try pure cotton; see if you feel more relaxed
  5. Check your schedule- are you trying to do more than you feel up to? Cut out all you can. Set priorities and goals; Delegate; Eliminate; Simplify
  6. Check your relationships - try to eliminate those that exhaust or depress you (I had several negative relationships which were draining me)
  7. Allow yourself time to do things you enjoy; I gave us doing things I enjoyed because I felt "too sick" ; It didn't help; Remember, slow down now while you can, or later your body will make you slow down or simply stop. I know. I did it.
  8. Do exercise you enjoy - something that is a chore will just make things worse; start small and slowly increase; this will help to use up the excess cortisone and adrenalin you are producing before it damages your insides
  9. Resolve emotional problems: let the anger go ( I found out that depression is anger turned inward. If I was depressed, frustrated, upset - that is anger); forgive; work out solutions; I dramatically perked up when I finally accepted that I was angry. Just recognizing and accepting my feelings helped tremendously.
  10. Relax - most things don't really need to be done this moment.  I was amazed to find that the world went on when I was down. I didn't think it could, but it did!  Being ill sure helps you realize what is really important in life. Relaxation can help you cope with the stresses you can't change such family illnesses. 
  11. Have faith that you can get better. Having faith in God helped me heal. 
  12. Work at it! Don't give up! It can be done. I did it!

Caution: Never drop your dose of Adrenal medication unless you are carefully being monitored by your doctor.  I carefully cut my dose over a two month period under my doctors supervision.

Remember that if your adrenal glands have been severely over-stressed, they may not return to full functioning, but you should improve your quality of life if you cut the stress in your life. 


  1. I am sorry to hear you were so debilitated. This is a great list to work from. Thank you. Actually this year I have been making some inroads on some of these things so hopefully this is a just a setback that I can work through

    1. Don't get discouraged. Setbacks are common. Anytime you get stressed in anyway, you can have a setback. If you get upset, then that will increase the stress and make you feel worse. Slowly as you cut down on stress, you may have fewer and less severe setbacks.

  2. Did you do some exercise even when you rely too ill? I have been trying to gauge how I feel and I thought that on the days I have done a bit more doing, I felt a bit better.

    1. Generally moderate exercise made me feel better. When I reached the point where everything was blurry, I was dizzy, hurt all over, and nauseous, I rested. It would be wise to stop exercising whenever start to have any of these symptoms. If I didn't, I was down for days and felt horrible. Careful, fun exercise can help you feel much better. (I like to dance)

  3. Hello - I have just returned from my doctor who for the 2nd time in recent months is very puzzled by my blood work and thinks it's highly possible that my adrenal glands are working again, after 25 years. She says that someone with true addisons would have ACTH levels in the 100's and mine level is currently 2. At the time I was diagnosed I had a very stressful life and was abusing my body. Three years ago I changed my life and began to exercise and eat very well. My faith in God has also deepened greatly and I am living a much more spiritual life. I must be honest to say that when I read that Cheryl had recovered I really didn't believe it. My endo says that it does happen. I will have my levels checked again in two weeks and if they are still low, I will begin to taper off steroids. She also said that this could be the cause of my night sweats as well. I am choosing to believe that I a recovered and that God has graced me with this miracle. I wish you well and pray that my this gives you hope. I'll post in two weeks when I know for sure. Whatever the result I have no worries as I know that God always has the best plans for me. Thank you and God bless you all!

  4. Faith is the key to recovery. Remember that adrenal glands can become exhausted in times of stress and can recover when the stress is reduced. Follow your doctor's advice. It took me two months to slowly drop my hydrocortisone medication. My prayers are with you.

  5. Hi all! My sister has just been diagnosed with Addisons and I can't bare to hear her so upset anymore! I feel as though maybe her doctors are not too familiar with the disease and aren't taking it quite as serious as we'd like. I noticed it said eat nutritious foods; does anyone suggest a vegetarian diet? I feel so helpless for her any I'm willing to take any advice at this point! Thank you and God bless

  6. I needed to have small amounts, 3oz, of meat with meals to help rebuild my body and to help balance my blood sugar. Excessive meat isn't healthy, but a little helped me to heal. Organic foods and purified water help to take some of the physical stress off your body and really helped me feel better. Look particularly at my Recovery information, stress management, and a safe environment. Addisons disease is serious. You can die from shock. She is suffering from exhaustion. Removing all the stresses that are possible from her life will help her heal. Start the new year by listing what causes her stress and then try to minimize it. It takes time. She will also need to carefully monitor her medication (see medication posts)and work with her doctor. It takes a lot of time, patience, and effort to heal, but I know it can be done. I've done it! My immune system is slowly healing, but I not longer have to take medication.

  7. Hi,

    My name is Monica and I was diagnosed with Addison's disease 5 years ago and on hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone ever since. I have a question: How is it possible to know that your glands are healed and start to work again while on medication? How can they start functioning while on cortisone? This puzzles me...
    Thank you for posting your experience, it is very helpful and gives me hope,


  8. Monica, when you are on hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone you need to monitor your medication. I used blood pressure and blood sugar monitors. (see my posts on monitoring adrenal medications) My doctor had told me that if I could find what was stressing me and removed that stress, then my adrenal glands should heal. I did, and they healed. I feel that I was very blessed.

  9. Keep hoping and praying. It is amazing how much your body can heal if we just give it the chance.