Adrenal Insufficiency Community
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Right Treatment Plan? Terribly Confused!!


Hope someone can help or offer some advise!

I am suffering from adrenal issues. Typical symptoms are cannot fall asleep or stay asleep (up usually between 2 and 4 AM).  My cortisol is high in the morning, normal during the day and high at night.

The worse is this feeling of agitation in my stomach. Like nerves are literally eating my stomach.  I cannot handle stress. If a co-worker comes in to talk to me or if I have to stand in line at the supermarket, then that feeling of agitation in my stomach gets worse as if my body can't handle anything that looks like stress. I feel better when I am in a safe familiar environment and not moving around.

One dr suggested I had low cortisol as evidenced by high dhea values and that my body was now in stsge 1 and pumping out mass amounts of cortisol to keep me going. He suggested taking cortisol or licorce root. The theory being if my body perceives that if there is enough cortisol in the body, it will stop pumping out more. And it's true, my high cortisol/adrenal issues always seemed to follow a period when I had low energy.
Also taking licorce root enabled me to handle working out.  But it doesn't seen to be fixing things: cortisol made me very amped up and irritable. I only tried it one day so not sure if there is an adjustment period.

Another dr says I have to break the high cortisol loop I am in by taking cortisol lowering herbs like seriphos, ashwaganda, etc.  I've tried this before (this is not my first adrenal blowout), and seemed to have almost a paradoxical effect. It works for a day but then agitation returns.   But I am desperate to get well and try anything.

So my question is- for those who wake up in middle of the night..do you also experience that tummy agitated feeling in your stomach where it feels like nerves are eating your tummy.?  Or do you just wake up unable to go back to sleep?

I had read somewhere that if you wake up at 3am (which I do) that this indicates low cortisol and that your body starts pumping out mass quantities of cortisol and adrenal to compensate (which would explain the tummy agnst).,  

So I'm lost and not sure which treatment plan I should follow. Anyone else in the same boat?
Please let me know!
Thank you!
22 Responses
Avatar universal
High cortisol at night means you have a reversed diurnal rhythm - aka Cushing's syndrome.

You don't have low cortisol - it is high most likely.

I had elevated cortisol. I did try herbs. Yeah um, nothing really lowers cortisol. You have to find the source and remove it - be it meds, tumor or whatever.

Find a competent endo.
Avatar universal
thank you for getting back to me....

I had a CT on my adrenals back in Feb and they were normal so I don't think it's a tumor.

I had read on Dr. Lam's website that in stage 1 your body goes into the alarm stage and pumps out a lot of cortisol which my body seems to be doing at the moment but no real advice on how to treat this stage.

Anyone with any experience??
Avatar universal
Just FYI...

I have had my adrenals removed (due to Cushing's) and my CT scans still come back that my adrenals are normal. CTs are a little iffy with small things. I know others like me.

This just happened again last week.

It could also be pituitary or elsewhere.
Avatar universal
I hope you still read here OP. I have the very same sensation of stomach nervousness. And I also wake up every night around 3 am, wide awake. Usually in a panicky feeling state, so I have to get up and sit on the couch to calm down.

I'm tired during the day, feel lethargic. And depressed.
My problems started summer 2013. Last year I also got hot flashes, several times an hour. I could feel them coming on before the heat wave hit me and left me drenched, it was a feeling of unease, very unpleasant. But then the hot flashes just stopped after about 6 months just as suddenly as they appeared.

This spring I got hit with a very painful subacute thyroiditis that knocked me to my knees. I had fevers and severe pain for about 2 whole months. My thyroid swelled up and first I became very hyper, then very hypo. I'm now on levothyroxine to cope with the hypo period.

My understanding is that after the adrenals can't pump out enough cortisol after being exhausted they start to pump out adrenaline instead. And that's what's causing the very gut wrenching ill feelings. And the waking up in the middle of the night.

I have no clue how to deal with this. My endo I've been seeing for the thyroiditis isn't interested in anything else than the thyroiditis and she thinks my thyroid will repair itself with time. I had to beg for Levo when my thyroid hormones were at the very bottom and my face swelled up and I could barley get out of bed.

I heard sea salt, licorice root and rest, rest, rest is helpful with adrenal fatigue. And cut out stress. But, I couldn't rest more than if I were dead already and the stress is from this horrible state I'm in. And if the adrenals are constantly pumping out adrenaline, how can we combat that? And not being forced to be in a fight-or-flight mode at all times?

I used to be an avid runner, very fit, very healthy. And very efficient. Slept like a baby every night. Now I'm so out of shape, I have aged 10 years in the last year and I'm very, very unhappy.
Avatar universal
Adrenals do get diseased, but not tired. They are built, like all the glands and other parts of your body - to last your whole life unless something happens thru injury or disease. So it really does not make sense that they get tired.

Adrenaline vs cortisol - is not the same hormone. Adrenaline is "pumped" out when needed, say, when someone pulls a gun, you have to take a fast run, or you suddenly remember you forgot to study for that test... stuff like that. It is fight or flight. Cortisol is a hormone that wakes you up in the morning and puts you to bed at night aka the circadian or diurnal rhythm. There are also other functions with metabolism and lots of things they probably don't know.

Fatigue can be so many other things from vitamin D, B, to thyroid not being optimal (it sounds like your endo is a endodud frankly), to other disorders as well. I would find another endo - and get enough thyroid replacement, and get the hot flashes addressed as that can be a factor as well.
Avatar universal
Hi rumpled and thank you for replying.

I've been reading about this thyroid and adrenal thing and the information out there differ so much from one another. Some doctors treat adrenal fatigue, some say it doesn't exist. It's either Cushings, Addisons or normal function.

But all say that there's a connection between the thyroid and the adrenal glands. And when the thyroid isn't working properly, mainly when there's an underproduction of thyroid hormones, the adrenals produce more cortisol to try to compensate. And if this goes on for too long they become exhausted. And that's where the abnormal "squirts" of adrenaline at totally inappropriate times can start.

I'm not sure what to believe, but I'm desperate and have started taking sea salt a few times a day with lots of water. My fingertips are all wrinkly/pruned up most of the day, looks really weird and started over a year ago. And I've read that it can also have something to do with the adrenal glands and the salt/electrolyte balance. A lack of aldosterone hormone, which regulates the salt balance. It's also responsible for the libido or as in my case; the complete lack of it.

After starting the sea salt my fingertips are plumping up, but I still get the wrinkling several times during the day. Especially if I hold something for a longer time, like the steering wheel. It's just plain odd. It looks like mummy fingers.

I do take all vitamins, also omega 3 and 6 and also get B12 injections. I also started taking a half tablet of iron daily to see if it helps with my fatigue.

I'm going for a new thyroid panel end of next week, right before my next endo visit. I'm afraid i will have to quit the Levothyroxine very soon again to see if my thyroid picks up the production by itself. According to my endo my thyroid will heal but according a Mayo Clinic study 15% of all Subacute Thyroiditises end up permanently hypothyroid due to irreparable cell damage. The thing is I think I was hypo already beginning of summer of 2013, that's when my life changed and I became a zombie.

If I have to quit the thyroid meds soon, I'll find another endo. I'm scared to death of going severly hypo again.
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