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Chronic Diseases and Adrenal Function


September 3, 2014 | Published by

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Because the adrenals are the glands of stress, they are a big factor in the process of and recovery from most chronic diseases. The reason for this is simple: most chronic disease is stressful. The processes that take place in chronic diseases, from arthritis to cancer, pull on the adrenals as more and more demand is made upon the body by the disease. Therefore, if someone is suffering from a chronic disease and morning fatigue is one of their symptoms, the adrenals are likely involved.

In any disease or disease process in which treatment includes the use of corticosteroids, diminished adrenal function is most likely a component of that disease process. All corticosteroids are designed to imitate the actions of cortisol, a hormone secreted by the adrenals, and so the need for them arises primarily when the adrenals are not providing the required amounts of cortisol. If the cortisol response is appropriate, there is little need for the external synthetic drugs that imitate its action, except in extreme instances.

With that said, there are a few diseases that particularly stand out as having an adrenal component: chronic fatigue syndrome, fibromyalgia, alcoholism, ischemic heart disease, hypoglycemia, rheumatoid arthritis and chronic and recurrent respiratory infections. In the cases of chronic fatigue syndrome and fibromyalgia, substantial evidence is now emerging that these syndromes may result from unusual infectious microorganisms that are not detected by the typical laboratory tests. A growing number of peer reviewed papers are now confirming the presence of these microorganisms in these particular illnesses. These pathogenic microorganisms act as a tremendous body burden, draining adrenal resources.

Adrenal fatigue often precedes a syndrome such as chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia and some cases of alcoholism. The immune weakness that results from altered adrenal function sets the stage for easier infection or greater debilitation. In many alcoholics, adrenal fatigue and the resulting hypoglycemia predispose the person to a compulsive desire for alcohol. In other cases of alcoholism, the adrenals become fatigued by the continual use of alcohol. In either case, adrenal fatigue is an intimate component of most alcoholism. Adrenal support greatly enhances the treatment protocol for alcoholism.

Chronic and recurrent bronchitis, pneumonia and other chronic lung and bronchial diseases typically have an adrenal fatigue component. This includes many cases of asthma, influenza and allergies. This relationship appears to be both causal and resultant, meaning frequent respiratory ailments can lead to adrenal fatigue and adrenal fatigue can leave a predilection toward developing respiratory problems. The association between adrenal function and respiratory infection was first written about in 1898, but by the mid 1930’s physicians apprised of the importance of the adrenals in resistance to infection and to overall health were also aware of the relationship of the adrenals to chronic and recurrent respiratory problems.

Later it became known that even the proper development of the lungs in the fetus is dependent upon an adequate amount of adrenal hormones, especially cortisol. If there is a lack of cortisol from the adrenals in the fetus during development, the lungs don’t develop properly and early problems in the lungs are more frequent and more serious. The tip-off that there is a low adrenal component to any of these illnesses is a longer than normal recovery period with decreased stamina and excess fatigue. When these symptoms are present, adrenal fatigue is likely a component of the symptom picture, no matter the cause.

Dr. James L. WilsonAbout the Author: With a researcher’s grasp of science and a clinician’s understanding of its human impact, Dr. Wilson has helped many physicians understand the physiology behind and treatment of various health conditions. He is acknowledged as an expert on alternative medicine, especially in the area of stress and adrenal function. Dr. Wilson is a respected and sought after lecturer and consultant in the medical and alternative healthcare communities in the United States and abroad. His popular book Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome has been received enthusiastically by physicians and the public alike, and has sold over 400,000 copies. Dr. Wilson resides with his family in sunny Tucson, Arizona.



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