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Autoimmune and the adrenal glands

From: Marla

Date: 11/10/2003

Time: 7:11:16 PM

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I’m currently looking through a basic endocrinology book written by J. Matthew Neil. On page 11 he states that,

"Autoimmune syndromes usually result in hormone deficiency, not endocrine excess. An exception to this is Graves’ disease, in which thyroid autoantibodies mimic the trophic hormone (TSH) and result in hyperthyroidism."

So, since AA is an autoimmune disease, I thought maybe some of us are dealing with adrenal insufficiency. Today I happened to receive my Wise Traditions Magazine which has an article written by Tom Cowan, M.D. He writes this in answer to a question posed by someone who is taking prednisone for a health condition but does not like the side effects. Here is Cowan’s reply:

". . . Interestingly, about 10-20 percent of the new patients who come to see me have this very concern. These can be people with a wide variety of complaints from asthma (steroid inhalers), rheumatoid arthritis (often maintained on long-term prednisone), colitis (usually they are using cortisone enemas), skin rashes (usually long-term topical cortisone preparations), polymyalgia rheumatica, lupus, many kidney diseases, and so on.

"The initial reaction of these patients to the use of these medicines was nothing short of miraculous-pains vanish, bloody diarrhea clears up, and difficult skin problems melt away. Unfortunately, for most people this is the classic Faustian bargain. For within a short time, not only do the original symptoms return, necessitating higher doses, but the side effects of cortisone begin to show up.

"The side effects of cortisone, prednisone, and similar drugs are legendary. They include diabetes, osteoporosis, edema of the face, mood swings, stomach ulcers and, very importantly, adrenal suppression. In other words, your own adrenal glands shut off their production of these valuable hormones. Why not, since they essentially have been "told" by the prednisone that the adrenals are no longer needed. This bargain, then, becomes a nightmare as the effectiveness of the drugs wears off, side effects become more serious and the patient is unable to stop taking the medication.

"Of all the tragic situations I have dealt with in my practice, this all-too-common occurrence stands at the top of the list. What are we to do? The first answer is to recognize that by definition, if a certain condition will improve with the use of cortisone, then somewhere in its etiology must be an adrenal weakness. That this fact is denied by the medical profession does not make it less true. Therefore, for any condition that is treated in normal medicine with steroid drugs like prednisone or cortisone we should instead be strengtheing the adrenal glands.

"To do this, we refer to some basic physiology. First, we are dealing with the adrenal cortex, not the medulla (which makes adrenaline). The hormones that the adrenal cortex makes are all derived from our best friend–cholesterol. Yes, cholesterol is the precursor to all the valuable adrenal hormones that help us deal with stress, inflamation and trauma, and that help our body to heal. Therefore adrenal insufficiency (lack of adrenal cortical hormones) is a fat deficiency. So the first step is simple and logical: eat more fat, especially cholesterol-rich animal fat. One of these fats should be cod liver oil to supply vitamin A. The adrenal cortex cannot make adrenal hormones out of cholesterol without vitamin A."

Dr. Cowan goes on to advise eliminating simple sugars and limit total daily carbohydrate consumption. Cut back on caffeine and caffeine-related substances because they stimulate the adrenal medulla to produce adrenaline. Then the adrenal cortex must work doubley hard to produce the "chill out" cortisoid hormones. The two major nutrients the adrenal cortex needs to do its job are vit B6 and vit C. These should be obtained from food sources of whole food supplements. Cowan writes that even with hard work on diet and supplements, it is still difficult to wean off the prednisone, especially the last 2-5 mg. In those cases he uses an adrenal cortex extract from American Biologics.

Hope this is helpful.


Last changed: September 24, 2006