Rheumatoid Arthritis as a Cause of Adrenal Fatigue

Rheumatoid arthritis (RA) is a debilitating inflammatory arthritis that can cause adrenal fatigue and typically occurs in middle-aged individuals, but it can occur in people as young as their 20s and 30s. This deforming type of arthritis needs to be actively treated because, when full blown, it causes erosion of the joints.

An article published in 2008 in the medical journal Best Practice and Research: Clinical Rheumatology reviewed the interactions of the endocrine system, the nervous system, and inflammation with respect to the development of arthritis. With respect to the adrenal glands, the article noted two important points:

  • Rheumatoid arthritis is associated with a significant amount of chronic inflammation, which should lead to high levels of cortisol. However, the authors noted decreased production of cortisol, given the significant amount of inflammation present.

  • The authors also noted that the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, both of which produce hormones that affect adrenal glands, also demonstrated reduced levels of functioning.

If you've been diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis or you strongly suspect that you have it, you may have experienced one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Morning stiffness lasting for more than one hour: This stiffness is dramatically different from just being a little stiff in the morning. This is a prolonged stiffness in many joints that can take over an hour to loosen up.

  • Arthritis that is bilateral and symmetric (affecting both sides of the body equally): Common areas affected include the hands, especially the fingers.

  • Characteristic findings on X-rays: Your healthcare provider can order X-rays to confirm the presence of rheumatoid arthritis. Examples of typical radiographic findings include narrowing of the joint spaces and erosion of the joints themselves.

  • Characteristic lab findings: Your healthcare provider can order certain blood tests to aid in the diagnosis of rheumatoid arthritis. In rheumatoid arthritis, you may see an elevated sed rate. Other labs that can be elevated include a rheumatoid factor as well as a specific antibody for rheumatoid arthritis alone called the anti-cyclic citrullinated peptide (or anti-CCP ) antibody.

The traditional treatment for rheumatoid arthritis involves medications that suppress the immune system as a means of stopping the inflammation and joint swelling. These medications can include prednisone, methotrexate, and/or biologic agents, such as adalimumab (Humira). Alternative options for the treatment of rheumatoid arthritis include tart cherry extract (cherries are a potent natural inflammatory) and natural anti-inflammatory agents such as turmeric and bromelain.

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