I was recently diagnosed with a cortisol problem. According to my physician, the level of cortisol in my blood is too low, which explains why I have so little energy. What exactly is cortisol? Where does it come from and what are its properties? Why are some people with cystic fibrosis more likely than others to have a problem with the production or distribution of cortisol? Is it easy to solve this type of problem?
Cortisol, or cortisone, is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands, which are also called suprarenal glands. They are located on top of the two kidneys. The hormone, which is secreted in large quantities during periods of stress, has multiple functions too numerous to list completely in this text. Among other things, it helps maintain proper energy levels and keeps blood pressure stable. When it is secreted in high doses, it has an anti-inflammatory effect, but it can also weaken the body’s defences and raise blood sugar levels.
People with cystic fibrosis do not have more problems with cortisol production or distribution than the general population because the cystic fibrosis gene does not affect the adrenal glands. However, people with cystic fibrosis are likely to take cortisone, or similar products such as prednisone, in pill form or by injection, to treat asthma or allergic bronchopulmonary aspergillosis.
When cortisone is taken for more than two weeks in quantities greater than what the body produces daily, the adrenal glands secrete less of their own cortisone. When oral cortisone treatments are stopped, the adrenal glands may be temporarily too “lazy” to produce sufficient quantities of cortisone, especially in periods of physical stress (such as infection or surgery). This results in adrenal insufficiency, the symptoms of which are fatigue, weakness, nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and a drop in blood pressure that could lead to shock. Treatment consists of putting the patient back on cortisone, in pill or injected form, according to the severity of the case.