Adrenal Function in Autoimmune Conditions

Adrenal function plays an important role in moderating the inflammatory processes characteristic of autoimmune reactions.*In autoimmune processes, the white blood cells of the immune system attack one or more parts of the body as if their tissue cells were intruders. This creates inflammation in those tissues, with effects that can range from mild to life-threatening autoimmune disease.

Your adrenal glands produce the hormone cortisol, which is the most powerful anti-inflammatory substance in your body. However, in autoimmune disease, cortisol levels are inadequate for the degree of reaction taking place in the tissues being attacked.* This is one of the reasons why strong corticosteroids (prednisone, prednisolone, etc.) are used with all diseases involving inflammatory processes, including autoimmune diseases. These drugs imitate the anti-inflammatory effects of cortisol.

Cortisol not only affects the redness and swelling of inflammation, but also influences the activity of the white blood cells that cause the inflammation and helps keep immune reactions in balance. It both activates existing immune defense mechanisms when they are needed and also damps them down to prevent them from overshooting and causing damage or cell death. Through this ‘damping down’ action, cortisol modulates the immune response to help reduce the amount of potentially toxic chemicals secreted by white blood cells that produce tissue inflammation. Healthy adrenal function and cortisol output is therefore essential for minimizing damage from uncontrolled inflammation brought about by autoimmune processes. During adrenal fatigue, it is less likely that your adrenal glands can produce enough cortisol to adequately counter these autoimmune inflammatory reactions.*