My Treatment for Adrenal Fatigue
Here is the history of my treatment for adrenal fatigue. Each person is different so please consult a doctor you trust. This information is available for educational purposes. Please read about diagnosis and treatment options.
Diagnosing Adrenal Fatigue
First I did a 24-Hour Saliva Test to get a diagnosis for Adrenal Fatigue. Once Adrenal Fatigue was confirmed, initially for my treatment I was treated with a low dose of Hydrocortisone in pill form (20-30mg/day). The brand name is Cortef. My doctor gave me a prescription.
Treating Adrenal Fatigue with Hydrocortisone
Hydrocortisone is a steroid, I know, that sounds scary. But the body is already creating it naturally (or at least it was until it got burned out). According to my doctor and other experts like Dr. Wilson, there is really only concern about Hydrocortisone in high doses (say 80 + mg a day) and for long-term use. Hydrocortisone doses under 30mg a day is considered safe.
How Will I know if Hydrocortisone Works?
My doctor said I would know pretty quickly if the Hydrocortisone works. In fact, I would know within in a few hours. Prescription Hydrocorisone works right away, and only stays in the body for about 4-5 hours. He said if I took the Hydrocortisone and didn’t notice a difference right away then probably I didn’t need it.
In my case, within hours of starting the first dose of Hydrocortisone I felt amazing and had lots of energy. Over time my adrenal symptoms improved, specifically my ability to exercise and have energy throughout the day. My thinking became faster, and clearer. My word retrieval and humor were quicker. I felt motivated and energized. My life felt good!
Daily Medicine Dosing
For me personally, the dose of Hydrocortisone lasted about 3.5 hours in my body (everyone is different). This meant regular dosing throughout the day. I took more in the morning to mimic the natural rise in Cortisol and tapered accordingly through the day. First thing in the morning I would take 10mg, at lunch 7.5 mg, mid-afternoon 5mg, and 2.5 mg just after dinner.
In times of stress like sickness, holidays, travel, or work stress I would “stress dose” which means I would take an extra 10 mg when I felt adrenal stress signs of shaking hands, racing heart, low energy or foggy thinking.
Stress dosing helped me during those “fight the tiger” moments. Its important not to stay at the higher stress dose. And also to wean back slowly to the original dose, according to the Yahoo Adrenal Group. For example, if I stressed dosed from my normal 25 msg up to 35mgs, over the next two weeks I would slowly reduce back down to my normal 25mg dose.
Duration and Possible Risks of Hydrocortisone
In my personal experience, I believe I stayed on Hydrocortisone too long. The Yahoo group suggested about 3-4 months before weaning off but I stayed on for over two years. I was just too afraid of stopping the medicine and reverting back to my old low adrenal fatigued self.
Because of the extended use of Hydrocortisone, I believe my hair volume became quite thin. In many ways Hyodrocortisone was great for me. But the risk of thin hair is a concern. Low hair volume, and dry brittle hair are associated with Hypothyroidism so it is possible that the hair loss was not specifically Hydrocortisone. This was my experience treating Adrenal Fatigue. Each person is different.
Learn more about Adrenal Fatigue Treatment Options.
Mike Krauss - September 29, 2014
I’ve been reading about hydrocortisone side effects… Did you experience any? Despite my many symptoms, lightheadedness when standing up has become almost unbearable. I’d just about risk any side effect if I could get rid of just this.
Sheanna Brugh - April 10, 2016
Raw adrenal cortex bovine extract is a natural form of hydrocortisone. That’s what a naturopathic doctor prescribes. It has no risk on small to mid doses.
It’s what I’m on now and it saved my life. My adrenals were about to fail. Do not listen to warnings online about it. They are funded by pharmaceutical companies that don’t make money off of raw adrenal extract or pregnenalone, the natural alternative for cortisone; they can’t patent these supplements.
Miss Lizzy - December 29, 2014
Hi Mike, the main side effect I believe I experienced from hydrocortisone was hair damage and hair loss, which became especially bad when I added DHEA. Otherwise the hydrocortisone really helped me, especially the first few months. I stayed on it too long, and probably stressed dosed too much.
Christy Frisch - July 29, 2015
How were you able to continue to support your Adrenal after you stopped the hydrocortizone treatment? Or was it something that went away bc of the treatment?
Yomero Tedigo - August 31, 2015
Hello Lizzy, searching information about hypothyroidism and adrenal fatigue, your blog popped up. I have a tumor that is affecting my pituitary gland, this leads to adrenal fatigue due to a low production of cortisol and, as a side effect, hypothyroidism. I tried with levothyroxine -100 mcg, and prednisone 5 mg- every day. I was gaining weight fast! then later on I tried with T3, and lost weight but I was worried about my adrenal function. So now I am back only with prednisone, 5mg every morning, but I am wondering which would be the right treatment for my hypothyroidism. I am thinking of Novotiral (a 100 mcg of T4 and 20 mcg of t3 mix), while keeping the dose of prednisone. Not sure if is the right way, but as you describe, medical professionals only give T4 and they just don’t listen. I do not know where I can find natural thyroid hormones because I live in México. Thank you!
Kadambari Venkatraman - January 28, 2016
I tapered off my HC after a 5 month schedule in early December. I still find that I cannot tolerate more than half grain of NDT. I don’t even want to talk about the moon face and the pounds I have gained thanks to HC. How long did you take to bounce back to normal cortisol levels after your tryst with HC?
Miss Lizzy - February 26, 2016
Were you tested for Hashimotos? Hashimoto’s can cause the moon face you describe.
Susan Lawson - July 19, 2016
I feel hopeful about your experience with HC. I’ve had adrenal fatigue since 1987. Went out on disability in 1994 when the pain was just too much. I was 26.
I found out thru the internet about af. It was me to a t. I had been doing everything wron up til then. Thru all the research of possible treatments for af i had heard taking hc was not good for adrenals bc when u give the body a hormone it supposedly tells the body not to make any.
However, what if taking hc lets the adrenals heal?
Can you tell me how things were when you came off th hc, please?
After how long were you back to your self again?
You spoke of a yahoo support group, did they or many of them take hc as well? I would really like to find this support group. Please, what is the name?
I am at my 29th year of sufferering I need to try something other than all the things i have been trying since 2006 when i realized i had af.
You should write a book, i’m not kidding. There are so many people who are suffereing and so many that have tragically committed suicide that hearing about your story would be a ray of hope.
I look forward to your reply.
Chris Westerman - September 27, 2016
I would also like to know how things were coming off the HC. I hope Lizzy will answer!
Anne Venet - September 26, 2016
Hello dear Miss Lizzy
I’am writing from France. I’ve been treated for many years only with t4 medication, whithout results. On June I began with t3t4 médication. But I was worse, so I gave up for the moment. And my doctor gave me hydrocortisone. I feel much better at this time.
I’d just like to ask you when you began to take your thyroïd medication : at the same time with hc, or a little later, or after a few weeks, or…? What is your experience ?
And you seem to think one year under hc is too much. So When can someone stop hc if good and effective thyroid medication ? Are they any signs which say, ok I can now decrease and stop hc ?
I ask to you because m’y doctor don’t know, absolutely nothing. I had to ask myself for hc…
Thank you so much for you reply.