*Updated March 10, 2016*
This week has been my most challenging and difficult since starting this blog. It began with a visit to my doctor who is on top of MTHFR issues. I had many, many vials of blood drawn about three weeks ago and the lab results have just been trickling in. The big discovery of the week was that I have adrenal fatigue. I have been waffling back and forth over whether I had this problem since the beginning of the year when I was having problems sleeping and feeling the classic “wired and tired” during the day. I thought I was better but as it turns out I have low cortisol across the board.
Check out the results of my 24 hour saliva cortisol test:
8 am 0.115 ug/dL (reference range 0.025 – 0.600)
4 pm 0.044 ug/dL (reference range 0.010 – 0.200)
11 pm <0.010 ug/dL (reference range <0.010 – 0.090)
My serum cortisol was 8.1 ug/dL at around 10.30 am.
Now, like MTHFR, adrenal fatigue is one of those conditions that are kind of out there in the ether. It’s not typically accepted by mainstream medicine. There are no standard protocols or treatments. My endocrinologist, the one who ordered the test, dismissed these numbers as “normal” and turned her back on me. She is soon to be fired as she also thought my latest thyroid lab results were “fine” and sent me on my way (my free T3 and free T4 levels were lower than optimal). I just need to have my appointment with the next endocrinology candidate, who can’t see me until the end of October. “Fine” has become my alarm bell word for doctors who don’t really know what they are talking about and are eager to get out of the room and on to their next patient.
My *good* doctor, however, said I was spot on in my own diagnosis of low cortisol. Of course, most of us with adrenal fatigue have to kind of feel our way around in the dark. We might bump into other sufferers with advice for us but trusting that advice can be ill-advised. Why? Because there are different types of adrenal fatigue. People with high cortisol give advice to people with low cortisol and vice-versa. I’ve always taken my information about adrenal fatigue from Dr. Michael Lam’s website and he is very clear on the difference in treatment protocols for those with high cortisol vs. low cortisol. Whether there are actually stages of adrenal fatigue may be debatable, but this fact seems quite clear.
My doctor wants me to wait on ATP and DHEA test results before she advises me on what to take. In the meantime I’ve been scouring the Internet and talking to other people in the know, which is what I do when I’m anxious to solve my health problems. My sad realization for this week is that most of the health problems that I am afflicted with are strange ones that not many people know anything about. It is alienating on many levels because 1) your family and friends don’t know what the hell you are talking about and think you are making things up or being a hypochondriac; 2) you are bound to know more than most of your regular doctors about your problems and many doctors really resent that; and 3) the only people you can find who suffer from the same issues are strangers on the Internet. I have great affection for those strangers, but usually they can’t reach out and give you a hug or be able to correlate what is going on with your health to the other things that are going on in your life.
All that said, I feel extremely lucky at this point in time because there are people around me who are being tremendously supportive and, I believe, saving my life right now. So I’m not going to have a pity party for myself. Nope! My nature is to be optimistic, grab the proverbial bull by the horns and ride this thing until I am the picture of health. I find that a lot of the mental preparation and positive energy work that I do when I’m having a good, strong health day really gets me through the days where I feel like utter crap and just want to melt into the bed. For the first time in a long time I had multiple days like that this week. Tuesday onwards was hell. I found myself waking up in the wee hours of the morning and not being able to get back to sleep. I had the worst dysmenorrhea I think I have ever experienced. I felt tired and foggy, with random pains that I couldn’t figure out where they were coming from. And, of course, in the back of my mind is all the negative news I’m just constantly trying to push out of my brain. One issue after another after another…and I should really get back to that now.
So after reading and reading and reading some more about adrenal fatigue, I decided I just had to stop and pick some advice and stick with it. Someone in one of my MTHFR support groups posted a recipe for an “Adrenal Cocktail,” which led me to Dr. Larry Wilson’s website – and some information about adrenal fatigue. This seems to be the most accurate, considered information I have read yet. I had a tough decision to make: take adrenal glandular supplements or Isocort, or not. I chose not. As always, I want to improve things naturally. Stimulating my adrenals right now just doesn’t seem like the right thing to do and runs contrary to much of what is advised by both Dr. Wilson and Dr. Lam. Hopefully it’s the right decision. I cannot afford to make a misstep right now and end up worse off than I am. I’ll speak to my doctor about this when the other lab tests are in, but for now I am just trying to relax and improve my overall body balance.
Because the other issue I have at the moment is a functional B12 deficiency. Despite having high blood serum levels of B12, my methylmalonic acid (MMA) levels are high. This means that the B12 in my blood isn’t getting into my tissues. My doctor told me that she sees this in all her MTHFR patients. It’s caused a decline in my natural killer cells, meaning my immune system is weak. My SpectraCell micronutrient test came back showing deficiencies in Vitamins B2 (Riboflavin) and D3, along with Manganese and Calcium. I was borderline deficient in Pantothenate, Asparagine, Zinc, Copper, Magnesium and Chromium. So I have a lot of work to do. I’m going into week three of my homeopathic remedies for viruses and toxins so it’s too soon to tell how those are working. I’m reminded of one of my favorite sayings: “When you’re going through hell, keep going.” It is my belief that when the vitamin deficiencies, toxins and viral load issues are corrected, my adrenals will heal on their own.
I had to change up my vitamin supplements this week as a response to the above issues. I’ve added some supplements to help support my adrenals as follows:
Pantethine – the active form of Vitamin B5, which is required by the adrenal glands to create cortisol (this is tied to Riboflavin, which I am also lacking in and will supplement)
Proline – an amino acid recommended by Dr. Lam
Pregnenolone – called the “grandmother of hormones,” this neuro-steroid is a cortisol pre-cursor; this one needs to be used with care and I am only taking it for five days
I also have added in very, very small amounts of Lithium-Orotate to assist with B12 absorption. Again, Lithium needs to be added very slowly and only in small doses. More information on Lithium can be found in this Dr. Amy Yasko video.
Those dealing with B12 issues and chronic illnesses like ME/CFS will be interested in this excellent video of a presentation by Dr. Rich Van Konynenburg that I came across this week, which covers impaired detoxification capacity. Note that it is in three parts and the video is in English even though the website is in Swedish. If you have MTHFR, no doubt there is going to be something in here that is of interest to you. I am finding the B12 connection to be extremely interesting. It seems that so many aspects of chronic illness and impaired health are impacted by B12. With the prevalence of MTHFR mutations in the population, I think more people need to become aware of B vitamin deficiencies and how they are impacting their health, if not now, then in the future. Here is a post that helps you find out what type of B12 you should be using (very important!)
I will also continue to make healthy lifestyle adjustments that are essential for my recovery from adrenal fatigue. I’ll be creating posts about these in the coming weeks so that I may share some things that I’m doing that may help you on your own health journey.
If you have a comment that is related to your own health or have questions that require an answer, please leave these in the community discussion forums and not in the comments below. Thanks! =)