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Adrenal Disorders
(Addison’s Disease & Cushing’s Syndrome)

The adrenal glands are a pair of triangular-shaped, hormone-producing glands; one is located on top of each kidney. They regulate several fundamental aspects of human physiology via secretion of specific hormones including glucocorticoids (eg, cortisol), mineralocorticoids (eg, aldosterone), catecholamines (eg, epinephrine), and adrenal androgens (eg, dehydroepiandrosterone [DHEA]) (Rakel 2012; Brender 2005; PubMed Health 2011a; NICHD 2010; Charmandari 2011; Gurnell 2008 ).

  • Glucocorticoids help regulate blood sugar, blood pressure, fat and protein metabolism, and immunity (Charmandari 2010).
  • Mineralocorticoids help regulate kidney and cardiovascular function (via maintenance of salt and water balance within the body) (Farman 2001).
  • Catecholamines help regulate the “fight or flight” response to stress (Arun 2004; PubMed Health 2011a).
  • Adrenal androgens are precursors to sex hormones such as testosterone and estrogen (Gurnell 2008).

Disordered adrenal function can lead to a barrage of significant complications, including diabetes, high blood pressure, prolonged fatigue, and depression (Ten 2001; Pozza 2012). Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome are two major adrenal gland disorders, and they can be deadly if left untreated (Ten 2001; Lovås 2002; Pivonello 2008).

Typical conventional treatment strategies for Addison’s and Cushing’s comprise side-effect-laden drugs that may require regular clinical monitoring, or invasive surgical procedures (van der Pas 2012, Tritos 2012). However, emergent treatment strategies such as stimulation of adrenal stem cells for Addison’s disease and the novel drug pasireotide for Cushing’s syndrome represent the potential next generation of minimally invasive treatment strategies for these debilitating conditions (Colao 2012; ClincalTrials.gov NCT01371526).

This protocol will provide an overview of adrenal function and examine the development and consequences of the two primary adrenal disorders – Addison’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome. Conventional strategies for managing adrenal disorders will be discussed, as well as emerging medical approaches and scientifically studied natural therapies.