Cushing’s disease is a rare condition in which body produces an excess amount of cortisol. Cushing’s disease causes include medication or a tumor. The disease effects between 10-15 million people each year, and diagnosis is often delayed. (1) Cushing’s disease symptoms include weight gain, fatigue, hypertension, insomnia and excess hair growth. If the Cushing’s disease cause is a tumor, a patient may require surgery. If Cushing’s disease symptoms are being caused by medication, there are several natural Cushing’s disease treatment options.
Cushing’s Disease vs Syndrome
While the terms Cushing’s disease and Cushing’s syndrome are often used interchangeably, they are slightly different. Cushing’s disease refers to the condition caused by a pituitary tumor that increases the production of the ACTH hormone, which in turn increases cortisol levels. The term Cushing’s syndrome is more commonly used to describe elevated cortisol levels in the blood, often caused by medications. (2)
Cushing’s Disease Symptoms
- Weight gain
- A puffy, rounded face
- Skin problems such as dryness, acne, stretch marks and slow healing
- Muscle weakness
- High blood pressure
- High blood glucose
- Changes in mood, including depression and anxiety
- Irregular periods and fertility problems
- Low sex drive
- Abnormal hair growth on the body and face
- Weakened bones and higher risk for fractures or osteoporosis
- Digestive problems including bloating, kidney stones and constipation
- Trouble Sleeping
- Weight gain and developmental problems
Cushing’s Disease Treatment
1. Consume an Anti-Inflammatory Diet
People who have Cushing’s disease are at a higher risk for other health problems, including bone loss, high blood pressure, diabetes and high cholesterol. Part of Cushing’s disease treatment includes eating a nutrient-dense, anti-inflammatory diet to ensure that the body is getting the nutrients it needs to stay healthy and strong. Some of the best foods to fight high cortisol levels include:
- Healthy Fats – Healthy fats support brain health as well as hormone production. Add plenty of nuts, seeds, avocados and olive oil to your diet for healthy fats.
- B Vitamins – B vitamins hep convert nutrients to energy and support brain function. Foods that contain B vitamins include seeds, nuts, cruciferous vegetables, sweet potatoes, avocados and chickpeas. (3)
- Calcium, Potassium and Magnesium – Electrolytes can help reduce symptoms of Cushing’s disease such as headaches, trouble sleeping and high blood pressure. Add beans, leafy green vegetables, avocados and nuts to your diet to prevent an electrolyte imbalance.
Excess cortisol levels can cause a hormone imbalance. Exercise is a healthy way to lower stress levels, balance cortisol levels and maintain a healthy weight. Focus on enjoyable activities, such as swimming, walking outdoors, biking, yoga or group classes. (3)
3. Get Support
Cushing’s disease can take a toll on the body, as well as the mind. Many people with the condition suffer from depression and anxiety. Joining a support group or seeing a therapist is often an effective Cushing’s disease treatment option.
Rest is an important factor in hormone balance. Lack of sleep can increase cortisol levels and lead to weight gain, chronic fatigue and other unwanted symptoms. Make it a priority to get 7-9 hours of sleep each night to reduce stress levels, balance hormones and lower inflammation. To help further fight stress, consider trying meditation, acupuncture, massage therapy and deep breathing exercises. (4)
5. Try Adaptogen Herbs and Essential Oils
Adaptogen herbs work as a Cushing’s disease treatment thanks to their ability to naturally help lower cortisol levels, by enhancing the body’s ability to deal with stress. Many adaptogen herbs also boast antioxidant and antidepressant effects, along with energizing qualities. (5) Adaptogen herbs that can help lower cortisol levels include:
- Licorice root
- Holy basil
- Medicinal mushrooms, including reishi and cordyceps
Many essential oils have the ability to lower cortisol levels, reduce inflammation, balance hormones and promote a better night’s sleep. Essential oils that can help reduce symptoms of Cushing’s disease include lavender, myrrh, frankincense and bergamot. (6)
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