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Cushings syndrome

General characteristics

General characteristics

Cushing's syndrome is a condition caused by an excess of the hormone cortisol which is produced in the body by the adrenal glands. Cortisol has several vital functions in the body including regulating blood pressure, regulating the immune response, helps balance blood sugar levels and helps the body cope with the effects of stress. The amount of cortisol in the blood is normally regulated by a feedback system...when levels are too high a signal is sent to the pituitary gland to stop its release and allow levels to normalise. When this feedback system is interrupted then Cushing's syndrome can result.
In the majority of cases it occurs as a result of prolonged steroid medications which mimic the action of natural cortisol but it can also occur as an effect of prolonged stress, depression or anxiety, excessive alcohol consumption, often benign tumours of the pituitary or adrenal glands, diabetes or from other conditions that cause the excessive secretion of cortisol such as certain malignant cancers.
Symptoms usually develop gradually and include sudden weight gain (especially around the trunk), fatigue, joint pains, low immunity, stretch marks suddenly appearing, high blood pressure, excessive hair growth on the face and chest in women, irregular periods, water retention, excessive thirst, diabetes, mood swings, acne, poorly healing wounds, erectile dysfunction, developing a 'moon' shaped face, a fatty hump developing at the back of the neck and thinning of the skin with bruising.
Tumours of the pituitary are generally benign and after removal the cushing's syndrome usually resolves. Tumours in the adrenals can be more complex and result in removal of the entire glands which results in the opposite condition... adrenal insufficiency or low adrenal output. Often the person is then prescribed artificial adrenal hormones for life. If the cushing's is caused from excessive steroid use then the steroids should be gradually stopped and adrenal output should eventually return to normal after a brief dip in output.

Diet and lifestyle

Diet and lifestyle

Eat a well balanced diet based around fresh organic fruit, vegetables, grains, nuts, seeds and the like.

Limit fat intake and increase protein in your diet to combat the effects of high cortisol levels on bone and muscle.

Eat foods rich in calcium and B vitamins.

See the section on 'blood sugar' in the 'common ailments' part of the site and read the dietary guidelines for ideas on how and what to eat. For instance it is important to eat regular meals and not allow yourself to become hungry as blood sugar levels will fluctuate wildly, exacerbating the adrenal problem.

Limit salt as this will lead to even higher blood pressure.


Useful herbs

Useful herbs

A formula created by the American herbalist Dr Christopher consists of mullein leaf, lobelia, siberian ginseng, gotu kola, hawthorn berries, ginger and cayenne is said to correct imbalances relating to the adrenal glands.
If stress is the main cause then Siberian ginseng, borage and astragalus are all valuable herbs for helping the body adapt to and deal more effectively with stress and its physical manifestations. A teaspoon of the tincture (equal parts of each) up to 4 times daily for a few months can help to bring adrenal function back into balance.
If the pituitary gland secretions are unbalanced then consider using agnus castus tincture, half a teaspoon 3 times daily to help to restore health and balance to the pituitary gland and therefore regulate adrenal hormone output.
For other symptoms such as high blood pressure, acne or water retention see the individual entries in the 'common ailments' section of this site.

Natural healing

Natural healing

Engage in regular moderate exercise such as walking, swimming, yoga, dancing etc.

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