Acupuncture for Addison’s Disease

Acupuncture for Addison’s Disease

A friend of mine, May, was recently diagnosed with Addison’s disease, also known as primary adrenal insufficiency. It is a rare disorder that occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough cortisol and sometimes aldosterone. The figures in the US put the number of people with Addison’s at only between 40 to 60 per million, and she was one of those few. Together we researched Addison’s disease and discovered she was bang in the middle of the demographic most likely to get Addison’s – a female aged between 30 and 50.

Her doctor had told her that the adrenal glands produce hormones essential for regulating various bodily functions such as metabolism, blood pressure, and stress response. Without sufficient hormone production, he explained that she would experience a range of symptoms and complications as the disease disrupted normal functioning of the adrenal glands.

Symptoms of Addison’s disease can include fatigue, weakness, weight loss, low blood pressure, dizziness upon standing (orthostatic hypotension),  salt cravings, nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain, muscle or joint pain, irritability or depression, and darkening of the skin (hyperpigmentation). May had initially visited her doctor as she had some of the symptoms and needed answers.

Addison’s disease is usually caused by an autoimmune reaction where the body’s immune system mistakenly attacks the adrenal glands. Other causes can include infections, cancer, or certain medications.

Her doctor had mentioned that despite having been diagnosed with this rare disease the good news was that her life expectancy was normal if she received proper treatment. He went on to tell her that with appropriate management, most people with Addison’s disease can lead healthy and productive lives. That was reassuring!

Her doctor did warn her that adrenal insufficiency can result in adrenal crisis – a serious complication that could cause death. When the body undergoes physical stress such as having an operation, suffering from a serious injury or an illness the body needs more cortisol than normal. Lack of cortisol could cause low blood glucose, low blood pressure, and low blood sodium, but high blood potassium.

The treatment prescribed for May involved hormone replacement therapy to correct the deficient cortisol and aldosterone levels. This involved taking oral corticosteroids such as hydrocortisone or prednisone and mineralocorticoids such as fludrocortisone. She had to resign herself to regular monitoring of her hormone levels and was warned that adjustments to the medication dosage might be necessary.

I immediately began hunting around for alternative therapies to help and discovered that acupuncture could be beneficial for managing some of the symptoms associated with the condition, such as fatigue, pain, and stress. The authors of the this study  mentioned that acupuncture had the ability to “regulate the immune system and correct pathological conditions”. We both knew that TCM and acupuncture for Addison’s disease could be used as a complementary therapy, so May went ahead and used an acupuncturist. Although the disease is still there her regular acupuncture sessions are balancing her system and reducing her stress levels, so she is coping much better. If you’re interested in how acupuncture for Addison’s disease could help you, give Zhou Wellness a call today!