Monday, November 13, 2017

Approaching Your Doctor About Testing for Addison's Disease

A woman wrote me listing how many of the Addison's symptoms she has. This is what she asked, "My question is, how do I approach my doctor to be tested for Addison's without sounding like I self diagnosed via the internet? I need answers... I'm going insane! "

Actually, my doctor approached me, but he was a most unusual doctor. He tested for everything possible and when that didn't work, he gave me a small amount of hydrocortisone. Nothing else had ever helped, and suddenly I perked up.  He then tried the testing for low adrenal function.  After viewing the results of the blood test, he knew that I was not producing enough cortisone and put me on a maintenance dose of hydrocortisone.

I think if I had to approach a doctor, I would keep careful records in a Health Journal (I used a spiral notebook and just made notes.) I would list what I was doing, circumstances (was I exercising, what I was eating, what I was near such as putting gas in my car, emotional stress, etc), the time of day, and what happened to me (how I was feeling, symptoms). After I had done that for at least a couple of weeks I would show my records to my doctor and ask him for suggestions on what he thinks could be done or what tests are needed. I would also highlight any info in my journal that is significant or type a summary for the doctor. Remember that they don't have much time. 

Saturday, October 28, 2017

What did I do about Chemical Sensitivities

A man said that he has had problems with chemical sensitivity. He is also very sensitive to strong smells. He asked what advice I could give him. This is my response:

Yes, I have had a lot of trouble with chemical sensitivity. Now that my adrenal glands are healing, I can tolerate a few more chemicals such as polyester chair cushions covered in heavy cotton. I still do not have the ability to go in stores ,or other buildings much, but I can now go to church each Sunday and into homes which have few chemicals. 

When your adrenal glands are not functioning well, they will affect your immune system. If cortisol (produced by the adrenal glands) levels are high they will suppress your immune response. If your adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisol, then your immune systems begins reacting to everything! This is when you develop chemical sensitivities. I also became sensitive to foods, materials, dusts, molds, and pollens. I will never forget the year that all I could eat was beans and squash!

Monday, October 16, 2017

My gray hair is getting more brown hair!

My adrenal glands are healing! They aren't healed, but I am seeing improvements.

I thought it was just my imagination, but it really has happened-- my hair is starting to get more brown hairs in it. When I had Addison's Disease, it was getting pretty white.

I have lost weight! I have lost 34 pound! I am thrilled. I just kept putting on weight when I was on adrenal medication.

I can putter around the house and yard and be recovered the next day!

I can think and write in the evenings instead of just for an hour early in the day.

I can walk two miles without a rest. Before I could barely make it across the living room.

I feel peaceful and not shaky and anxious like I did with Addison's Disease.

I feel happy and look forward to life.

Things are looking up!

What is the difference between Adrenal Fatigue and Addison's Disease?

Two years ago, I had Addison's Disease and now I only have Adrenal Fatigue. Adrenal Fatigue is low adrenal function (production of adrenal hormones) and Addison's Disease is very, very low adrenal function. It is just a matter of degree. The symptoms are the same, but much milder in adrenal fatigue.

Here is the differences I experienced.

Addison's Disease (AD) - extremely nauseous, gagging, no appetite, throw up food, lasts for months
Adrenal Fatigue (AF) - slightly nauseous when over tired and no appetite, lasts for a few hours to a few days

Addison's Disease- exhaustion to the point that I can't move or even blink (really!)
Adrenal Fatigue- tired for a day or so

Sunday, October 15, 2017

Cataract Surgery with Low Adrenal Function

After having Addison's Disease for 15 years and being on a full replacement dose of hydrocortisone, my adrenal glands healed to the point where I no longer needed to take adrenal medication. Doctors advise that you wait at least a year after stopping adrenal medicine before you have surgery. This gives your adrenal glands some time to become stable in producing hormones. Since adrenal glands produce the hormones which help us cope with stress, this sounded like a good idea to me.

After waiting two years after stopping taking hydrocortisone, my eyesight was deteriorating so much that I was having severe eye strain when I tried to focus on things. Not only that, even with glasses it was getting very blurry and everything looked dark. I was afraid to have surgery. Would my adrenal be strong enough to give me the support I would need? I prayed about it-- a lot, and felt peaceful that it all would go well; and it did. I am now enjoying good eyesight. It is wonderful, but it wasn't easy.

Have my Adrenal Glands "Healed"?

After having Addison's Disease for 15 years, two years ago my adrenal glands healed enough that I no longer needed to take replacement hydrocortisone. Does this mean that my adrenal glands are totally healed and I can do whatever I want? No.

It is wonderful not to feel that I am walking a tightrope, always aware that I could fall off into an Addison's Crisis. I don't have to always be worrying if I need to increase my medication to cover additional stress. I do feel much better and recover faster than I did before, but am I far from a point where my adrenal glands function normally.

I inherited weak adrenal glands and stressful lifestyle patterns from my family. I've changed my lifestyle which has helped a lot. We moved to a climate which was milder, has a lower elevation, and little air pollution. This has helped, as has being outside almost everyday and going on daily walks.

Friday, October 13, 2017

The Influence of My Lifestyle

Some young women from the Netherlands asked me about the influence my lifestyle has had on me. This is my answer.

I have a very positive lifestyle. I believe that personal growth is possible through the power of Jesus Christ and can continue forever. I believe in sensitive communication, and loving service to others which builds positive relationships that will always continue. I believe in eating healthy foods, adequate rest, and exercise. Of course, this means that I do not think that alcohol, drugs, and smoking are good for anyone and especially those with Addison's Disease who have bodies which are already stressed and in need of nurturing. I believe in marriage and the family. My 45 year marriage has brought me so much joy as has my four children and six grandchildren. I believe in everything that is beautiful and good and try to avoid any entertainment, magazine, talk, and relationships which are negative and draining. I find that evil drains my soul, but light and love fills me hope and peace.

Through the support of my loving husband and friends, and by relying on prayer and inspiration from my Heavenly Father, I have been able to cope with the chemical sensitivities, severe allergies, fatigue, and other problems from Addison's Disease which restricted me to my home for fifteen years. Not only did I cope, but I became a stronger, more compassionate person. My beliefs enabled me to change my life from what I grew up with and become a more assertive person. They also helped me to relax more, delegate, care for my physical injuries, keep perspective, set limits, and discontinue negative relationships. My beliefs helped me continue in hope until I no longer needed cortisone medication.

Also see some of my other blogs - I express a lot of my experiences and emotions here: see adversity and faith see adversity

Can Addison's patients have increased levels of Progesterone?

A man asks, "There is a question about Addison's disease that I have been thinking about for a while. That question is whether Addison's patients have increased levels of Pregnenolone and/or Progesterone in their blood? Have you ever heard anything about that or read anything relevant to this?"

Here is an interesting article on the topic.

Remember that the entire endocrine system (pineal gland, pituitary gland, pancreas, ovaries, testes, thyroid gland, parathyroid gland, and adrenal glands) all affect each other. You can not have low adrenal function without it affecting the other parts of the endocrine system. All hormones affect each other.

Can you have low cortisol level and gain weight?

A woman says, "What really has me frustrated is trying to understand how having a LOW cortisol level can contribute to weight GAIN?! I have gained over 125+ lbs in the last year or so and I have been saying "something is wrong" almost the entire time."

This is my answer.
Gaining weight when you take adrenal medication (cortisone, hydrocortisone) is common and a real struggle, but if you are not yet on medication, most people lose weight. You can gain weight if your adrenal glands are producing a lot of cortisol. If your thyroid is low, that can slow your metabolism and cause you to gain weight. Adrenal glands and the thyroid gland are both part of the Endocrine system and affect each other.

What does you doctor say about the weight gain? Has he checked your thyroid? You may have something else going on besides the low adrenal function.

Can things in the environment cause Addison's?

A woman says " Do you think anything environmental can cause Addison's? Like mold exposure? I just cannot figure out how I could go from being totally healthy, to super sick? We moved into a new home around the same time everything started happening? I guess I'm just trying to find a reason. It seriously came out of no where. "

Here is my answer I gave to her.

You are following a common pattern. You feel fine and think that all is well, when suddenly you collapse. Actually, you weren't fine. You were becoming more and more tied. Finally, you reach a point where your body can't cope any more and you are extremely sick. All stresses on your body add up- mold, new home chemicals, pollution, moving, accidents, relationship stress, job stress - anything and everything. Mold was one of my big sources of stress. When we tore out all the downstairs wall and removed the mold from our home, I began to improve
. see

It takes time to heal from being over stressed and time to heal your environment etc., but I know it can be done- I did it.

Treatment of Addison's Disease

Treatment of Addison's Disease has not changed much in the last twenty years. When your body quits producing adrenal hormones, all they can do is replace those hormones.

Usually, the two major adrenal hormones are replaced.  Oral medication: Hydrocortisone (Cortef), prednisone or cortisone acetate, may be used to replace cortisol which mainly controls blood sugar. In emergency situations you can be given an injection which is faster acting instead of taking the pill. Fludrocortisone in pill form is used to replace aldosterone which mainly controls the mineral balance in your body and therefore your blood pressure. Most people with Addison's Disease find that they feel better when they also take Fludrocortisone once a day.

Normal dose for Addison's Disease (very low adrenal function) is 15 - 20 mg for hydrocortisone or 20 - 30 mg for cortisone acetate a day.  Medicine is taken every few hours since hydrocortisone has a very short half life and will be out of your system in a few hours. Normal dose of Fludrocortisone is  0.05 mg to 0.1 taken each morning. These are just replacement hormones and should not have any side effects unless your dose is too high. 

Also it is suggested that you don't skimp on salt. Use as much salt as you crave. You may especially need more salt when it is hot, when having diarrhea, and when you exercise heavily.

That is about all they tell you about treating Addison's Disease.

This wasn't enough for me. I wanted to know what I could do to feel better besides taking a pill. I wanted to know how to live with Addison's Disease. This was a long road for me, but I learned a lot and eventually healed to the point that I no longer have to take medication. (remember my adrenal problems were caused by exhaustion, not adrenal damage)

For my ideas and experiences on living with Addison's Disease see my articles on:
 Adrenal Glands and Stress

Coping with Addison's Disease

Adrenal Medication

My Experiences

Tests for Addison Disease from the Mayo Clinic

  • I saw this information and thought you might find it helpful. These are the latest tests used to help diagnose Addison's Disease. Suggested tests for Addison's Disease from the Mayo Clinic:
  • Blood test. Measuring your blood levels of sodium, potassium, cortisol and ACTH gives your doctor an initial indication of whether adrenal insufficiency may be causing your signs and symptoms. A blood test can also measure antibodies associated with autoimmune Addison's disease.
  • ACTH stimulation test. This test involves measuring the level of cortisol in your blood before and after an injection of synthetic ACTH. ACTH signals your adrenal glands to produce cortisol. If your adrenal glands are damaged, the ACTH stimulation test shows that your output of cortisol in response to synthetic ACTH is limited or nonexistent.
  • Insulin-induced hypoglycemia test. Occasionally, doctors suggest this test if pituitary disease is a possible cause of adrenal insufficiency (secondary adrenal insufficiency). The test involves checking your blood sugar (blood glucose) and cortisol levels at various intervals after an injection of insulin. In healthy people, glucose levels fall and cortisol levels increase.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may have you undergo a computerized tomography (CT) scan of your abdomen to check the size of your adrenal glands and look for other abnormalities that may give insight to the cause of the adrenal insufficiency. Your doctor may also suggest an MRI scan of your pituitary gland if testing indicates you might have secondary adrenal insufficiency.

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Healing from Adrenal Exhaustion

A person said to me, "You don't need to take hydrocortisone and fludrocortisone anymore? Wow! "

Yes, I feel very blessed that I can now live without medication. Apparently, I was born with weak adrenal glands. In fact, my mom's side of the family has lots of problems with their endocrine system which adrenal glands are a part of, so it isn't surprising that I had adrenal problems.

After many years of both physical (injuries, illnesses, and surgery) and emotional stress, my adrenal glands failed to produce cortisone anymore. After resolving problems, rest, good diet, and by eliminating all possible stress, my adrenal glands began working again. My adrenal glands were simply exhausted by excessive stress. With lots of prayer and loving care, my adrenal glands were able to heal.

If my adrenal glands had been attacked by Tuberculous bacteria or my immune system, or damaged in an accident, or had some other physical damage, I might not have healed. Apparently my adrenal glands were not damaged, but simply exhausted. Eliminating all the stresses I could, gave my adrenal glands the time they needed to heal.

Many people today are living "high powered" lives. Eventually, all the late nights, junk food, relationship struggles, job stress, financial worries, competition, and rushing, exhaust them and they begin to experience the consequences of their life choices. Simply put, excessive stress wears out the adrenal glands and the person ends up experiencing low adrenal symptoms. I've been there and don't recommend it!

The good thing is that you can turn your life around. Be kind to yourself. Accept that you are not indestructible. Delegate, eliminate, and rest. Ask yourself questions. Does it really have to be done? Do you have to do it?

Change is hard, but possible, and so worth it!

Monday, June 5, 2017

What should I Do If I have been Diagnosed with Addison's Disease?

Many people who have just been diagnosed with Addison's Disease, or someone they love has been diagnosed with it, ask me what should they do? Can I give them some tips?

I think the most important thing is to take charge of your own health. Study about how your adrenal glands work and what they should do. Read about adrenal exhaustion and Addison's disease. (check out my articles)

Next, I would find a doctor who knows about Addison's Disease. These are usually endocrinologists. Find a doctor who you feel comfortable with and who you can ask questions and share your observations about your health.

Have the tests done so that you know what your adrenal level is in your body. There are blood tests and saliva tests which tell your cortisone level. Check with your doctor for other tests. see

Work carefully with your doctor to to determine the correct dosage of Hydrocortisone  and Fludrocort. Remember that your dose may changes depending upon the amount of stress you are under.

Eat a good diet. Drink plenty of pure water. 

Get as much exercise as possible, but do not become over-tired. You should always be able to carry on a conversation while moving. Start where you are and don't push yourself.

Get lots of rest and relaxation. Get plenty of sleep at night and nap as needed.

Cut out all stressors possible. Simply your life.

Fill your life with positive people and eliminate all all negative relationships and activities. Have some fun!

The biggest help for me has been to pray. The Lord has given me a great deal of inspiration, comfort, and healing.

Remember that it has taken you a long time to get to the point where you Adrenal gland do not work. It will take a long time for you to heal, if that is possible for you. It will take a long time to get your medication right and learn how to live with Addison's disease. Be patient and kind to yourself.

My prayers and heart are with you. Do not give up.

Finding a Doctor Who Will Help You

A woman recently competed that she has had a rough time finding a doctor who could help her feel better with her Addison's Disease.

Some doctors brush you off as just another person who can't handle life and needs tranquilizers. This happened to me and I wouldn't take them. I knew that something was wrong. We know our bodies best. A health journal where we write down all our observation and share them with our doctor can be a great help. It took me many years to find a doctor who would listen to me and work with me to help me feel better. Don't give up. Keep trying doctors until you find the right person for you. They are out there!

Friday, May 12, 2017

Addison's Disease and Adrenal Exhaustion

Addison's Disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency, is the point where you have lost most of the function of your adrenal glands. Though reaching this point is extremely rare, living at a high stress level is sadly taken as "normal" in our modern society which is why many of us suffer from adrenal exhaustion.

There are several physical conditions which can severely damage the adrenal glands. Few people will ever reach the point where their adrenal glands no longer function, but these possibilities should be discussed with your doctor and the required tests given, so that they can be eliminated as causes for your adrenal problems. About 70% of the time when adrenal glands are destroyed, it is because the immune system has attacked and destroyed at least 90% of the adrenal glands. Also, infections such as tuberculosis, HIV, or fungal infections can damage the adrenal glands, so that there is little function left. Direct blows to the adrenal glands (lower back) which cause hemorrhage can cause the adrenal glands to be come so damaged that they lose the ability to produce adrenal hormones. Adrenal tumors also can cause severe adrenal gland damage.  If you have problems with other glands in your endocrine system it will affect the adrenal glands. If the pituitary gland is not sending out it's hormonal messages to the adrenal glands (Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency), the adrenal glands will not function well.  Some of these conditions can be treated and some may not. Your doctor can help to determine what can be done, or if your adrenal glands have been too severely damaged.

As I've said, such physical damage of our adrenal glands is rare. For most of us who suffer low adrenal symptoms, we are simply experiencing the effects of over-stress.

Wednesday, February 8, 2017

Medication and Stresses

A woman asked me about adjusting her adrenal medication.

The thing to remember is you are trying to get your cortisone level to be at a point where you can function fairly well. You need to keep your blood sugar, respiration, blood pressure and other things at a good level. Your body does this automatically if it is working well. If it is not working well, then you have to supply the necessary cortisone in a pill (or even a shot).

Stresses compound. If you have stress of dental work, then you will need a certain amount of cortisone to handle it. If you also have an infection, you need a certain amount of cortisone. This will be more cortisone. Taking a small increase in your cortisone medication does not enable you to handle any amount of stress. You can only handle the amount of stress you have medication to cover. If you have more stress, you need to increase your cortisone medication.

Since you want to keep your cortisone medication as low as possible, it is best not to do schedule several things at the same time. If you get an infection, then wait for the dental work.

If you are in an accident or some other major stress, then you may need to take larger doses of cortisone for a short time, usually in shot form. This should only be done under your doctor's supervision.

Why is my hair thinning and going white?

When your adrenal glands are not working well, it might affect your hair.  We have all heard of people under extreme stress, such as a military general during a war, who's hair goes white in a few months. This has not been confirmed by medical evidence.

A very rare symptom of low adrenal function is for your hair to thin. Hopefully, when your cortisone levels increase, your hair should also. Sometimes thinning hair is simply genetic. About one third of all women eventually have thinning hair.

I wonder if when your adrenal gland function is low, then you are under a lot of stress, that your hair might be triggered to go white or thin sooner than it would normally. This is just a guess on my part.

How do I avoid becoming a Diabetic if I take cortisone?

A woman asked how I avoided becoming diabetic when I took hydrocortisone. If you are taking the right dose of cortisone, they you should not gain much weight or become a diabetic. If you are gaining weight, have your adrenal production of cortisone checked (blood or saliva tests). If it is too high, then your doctor may advise you to cut back on your cortisone. Do not cut back without consulting a doctor, since quickly dropping your cortisone dose could cause you to go into shock and possible die.

Remember that there can be other reasons that you gain weight quickly such as low thyroid. Your doctor can test and see what is happening, then help you know what to do.

I monitored my hydrocortisone dose under my doctors direction. I used a blood sugar and a blood pressure monitor. When they began to steadily rise, getting a little higher each day and rising more as my hydrocortisone level increased during the day, I knew it was time to slowly cut my dose of hydrocortisone.

Friday, February 3, 2017

Dropping Your Cortisone Dose

A woman wrote in who is eating little and gaining a lot of weight while taking hydrocortisone and prednisone. She wants to cut back on her medication dose. This is my response to her.

It takes months to slowly drop a hydrocortisone dose. This should only be done under a doctor's supervision. You cut just a few mgs (milligrams) every couple of weeks or a month.

If you are gaining a lot of weight while eating little, then your cortisone medication may be too high. I always monitored my blood sugar and blood pressure. When they started rising, I knew it was time to cut back on my dose. Your adrenal production of cortisone can be measured by blood and salvia tests. Also, weight gain can be caused by other problems such as a low thyroid, so check with your doctor.

15 - 20 mg for hydrocortisone or 20 - 30 mg for cortisone acetate a day is the normal starting dose for Addison's Disease (very low adrenal function). You can die if you suddenly quit taking cortisone medication. Cutting your cortisone dose should only be done under a doctor's supervision. Slowly tapering allows your adrenal glands to begin producing cortisone. If they do not respond, you may need to continue taking cortisone until your body is not as stressed. Your body may need more time to heal and may still need the continued adrenal support of adrenal medication such as hydrocortisone. If your adrenal glands are not producing enough cortisone, then you need to take cortisone medication. If you adrenal glands are just a little low, you can take adrenal supplements to boost their function.

Praying for you. Don't give up. Make notes on what helps and what makes you worse and take this health journal with you to talk with your doctor. It may help to make your doctor visits more productive.

(see my posts on adrenal medication)