ADRENALS, CORTISOL AND THE IMMUNE RESPONSE – PART 1
The adrenal glands are two little glands that sit on top of your kidneys. They are responsible for the release of many hormones including cortisol. Cortisol is a glucocorticoid steroid hormone that is released in response to decreased levels of blood sugar and increased levels of stress. However, cortisol is also released in response to inflammation thus providing an immune-suppressive response or, in other words, a decrease in inflammation. It is not a mystery that synthetic glucocorticoids are utilized in a variety of inflammatory and autoimmune conditions such as ulcerative colitis, multiple sclerosis and rheumatoid arthritis as a way of diminishing inflammation in the body and alleviating symptoms. This is also the reason why a synthetic glucocorticoid such as prednisone may be prescribed for a severe sinus infection or an exacerbation of asthma. Moreover, cortisol takes part in our natural circadian rhythm with higher levels peaking in the early morning around 7-8am and progressively dropping throughout the day. Since cortisol delivers a circadian dose of anti-inflammatory protection, it is natural to experience a slight worsening of allergies and/or sickness as the day progresses (and cortisol decreases). Interestingly, a suppressed circadian regulation of cortisol results in a compromised immune regulation and a pro-inflammatory response ensues. This pro-inflammatory state allows for the development and chronicity of multiple states of sickness i.e., EBV and CMV reactivation, severe allergies, multiple colds that don’t seem to resolve. In summary, at the root of the sickness one may find an adrenal problem. When was the last time you had your cortisol saliva tested?