Adrenal Fatigue

Coastal Medical Clinic - Myrtle Beach, SC.

The hormone cortisol is produced in the adrenal cortex in response to adrenal cortical stimulating hormone (ACTH) produced in the pituitary gland. Cortisol plays an important role in regulating blood sugar, energy production, inflammation, the immune system and healing.

If you have too little cortisol, you may suffer from chronic fatigue, exhaustion and a disease of the endocrine system called Addison's disease. If your adrenal glands are producing too much cortisol, you may develop conditions such as weight gain, especially around the abdomen, depressed immune function with all of the consequences, accelerated aging and stomach ulcers.

Recently, a lot of attention has been directed to the effects of excess cortisol on weight gain and on the difficulty in losing weight. Collectively, the various diet plans being promoted by a long list of diet gurus have a failure rate of approximately 93 to 97 percent. There are several reasons for this. One is clearly the difficulty in achieving behavioral modification in the face of easy availability of the wrong kind of foods, inherently sedentary lifestyles, and intense media programming. Another reason is that your hormones work against you, in the weight loss perspective. High cortisol levels is one of the culprits.

Cortisol is elevated in response to stress. The adrenal glands are not particular, any kind of stress will do. The stress can be physical, environmental, chemical or imaginary. The human brain is hard wired with automatic responses to protect the body from harm. All forms of stress produce the same physiological consequences. This includes environmental stress (heat, cold and noise, etc.), chemical stress (pollution, drugs, etc.), physical stress (overexertion, trauma, infection, etc.), psychological stress (worry, fear, etc.) and biochemical stress (nutritional deficiencies, refined sugar consumption, etc.). All of these different sources of stress are additive and cumulative in their effects.

Stress reduction is an essential part of all efforts to normalize cortisol. Stress is the stimuli that caused the cortisol levels to get out of hand to begin with. Each individual should explore and find the stress reduction techniques that work best for themselves. Meditation, physical activities, attitude changes etc. are good paths to explore. Without stress reduction, all therapeutic and support measures will eventually fail.

This may sound obvious but rest must be managed and scheduled as a deliberate strategy, choice and course of action. Otherwise it gets forgotten in the busyness of life. A low glycemic diet is important. Sugar handling stress increases cortisol levels. Elevated cortisol, in turn, aggravates the sugar handling situation contributing to the development of high insulin levels and ultimately diabetes. Nutritional supplementation is very valuable in restoring normal cortisol levels.

We diagnose adrenal fatigue based on a careful history, physical exam and a 4 point diurnal salivary cortisol hormone test. Our treatment program incorporates lifestyle modifications, relaxation techniques and a few supplements and prescriptions to assist your adrenal recovery and alleviate your symptoms. For most people weight loss, exercise and supplements will improve their cortisol levels.