Adrenal function plays a complex role in rheumatoid arthritis (RA), an inflammatory autoimmune disease affecting the connective tissue around the joints. Adrenal hormones and their interactions with the immune system may influence the development and progression of its symptoms. RA, in turn, acts as a chronic stress on the adrenals, and may contribute to adrenal fatigue.
The adrenal hormone, cortisol, is necessary for quelling inflammatory immune processes in the body. When adrenal function is low, as it is during adrenal fatigue, cortisol levels may not be sufficient to effectively keep these inflammatory processes in check.* In addition, arthritic pain may seem more intense during adrenal fatigue.
This negative relationship between RA and adrenal fatigue is aggravated by the routine treatment of RA with corticosteroids (synthetic cortisol). Although corticosteroids may be helpful in temporarily reducing some of the inflammation and pain of RA, they also tend to suppress natural cortisol production, and dampen overall adrenal and immune function.
It is difficult to retain optimal adrenal function while taking strong corticosteroids, and it can take a long time for adrenal function to fully rebound after a prolonged course on these drugs. It requires patience and the careful guidance of a skilled physician to successfully come off corticosteroids and optimize adrenal function. Full adrenal support can be a crucial aid to health for people with RA.