Addison’s disease is an autoimmune disease of the adrenal gland in which the immune system attacks and damages the outer layer of the adrenal gland (cortex) and it can no longer produce hormones such as cortisol and aldosterone, as well as some of the androgens.
This results in symptoms such as:
- Poor stress management/easy overwhelm
- Low blood pressure/dizziness and fainting spells
- Salt cravings
- Frequent urination
- Weight loss and low appetite
These symptoms can come on slowly over months and often go miss-diagnosed until an addisonian crisis occurs which can be a life-threatening event.
Diagnosis is typically through assessment of cortisol levels and treatment involves replacing the hormones that can no longer be produced.
Important functional considerations in treating Addison’s disease include managing the side effects of cortisol repletion and ensuring the appropriate timing and forms of corticosteroids are used. Cortisol is one of the key drivers of our circadian rhythms – the natural triggers for sleep and wakefulness, hunger and satiety, and many other biochemical cycles in the body. Ensuring that these cycles are supported and optimized are key to ensuring a healthy and vital life.
There are many factors that will influence the cortisol requirements a person has, and when your body can no longer alter the steroid levels itself it is important to work with a physician who can anticipate changes in the body’s need for these hormone levels.