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The Basics in Layperson Terms

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This may have already been posted somewhere but i'll ask and hope to receive an answer.  


I'd like to know how cortisone works in the body in the simpliest terms.  What is cortisone? How does it cause the body to deal with stress , break up enzymes, and all its other functions?  Why does having an overproduction of it cause the body to gain so much weight? If anyone has answers to these questions, in very plain english, or knows where i can look to find the answer, please let me know.

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Just an overview:


The Adrenal Glands

Anatomy of the adrenal glands:

Adrenal glands, which are also called suprarenal glands, are small, triangular glands located on top of both kidneys. An adrenal gland is made of two parts: the outer region is called the adrenal cortex and the inner region is called the adrenal medulla.


Function of the adrenal glands:

The adrenal glands work interactively with the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in the following process:

the hypothalamus produces corticotropin-releasing hormones, which stimulate the pituitary gland.

the pituitary gland, in turn, produces corticotropin hormones, which stimulate the adrenal glands to produce corticosteroid hormones.


Both parts of the adrenal glands -- the adrenal cortex and the adrenal medulla -- perform very separate functions.


What is the adrenal cortex?

The adrenal cortex, the outer portion of the adrenal gland, ?secretes hormones that have an effect on the body's metabolism, on chemicals in the blood, and on certain body characteristics. The adrenal cortex secretes corticosteroids and other hormones directly into the bloodstream. The ?hormones produced by the adrenal cortex include:


corticosteroid hormones


hydrocortisone hormone - this hormone, also known as cortisol, controls the body's use of fats, proteins, and ?carbohydrates.


corticosterone - this hormone, together with hydrocortisone hormones, suppresses inflammatory reactions in the body and also affects the immune system.


aldosterone hormone - this hormone inhibits the level of sodium excreted into the urine, maintaining blood volume and blood pressure.


androgenic steroids (androgen hormones) - these hormones have minimal effect on the development of male ?characteristics.


What is the adrenal medulla?

The adrenal medulla, the inner part of the adrenal gland, is not essential to life, but helps a person in coping with physical and emotional stress. The adrenal medulla secretes the following hormones:


epinephrine (also called adrenaline) - this hormone increases the heart rate and force of heart contractions, facilitates blood flow to the muscles and brain, causes relaxation of smooth muscles, helps with conversion of glycogen to glucose in the liver, and other activities.


norepinephrine (also called noradrenaline) - this hormone has little effect on smooth muscle, metabolic processes, and cardiac output, but has strong vasoconstrictive effects, thus increasing blood pressure.


This is from the University of Maryland Medicine at http://www.umm.edu/endocrin/adrengl.htm


In simplist terms, if you have a pituitary tumor that is secreting ACTH, the receptors that are sensitive to ACTH react to the ACTH and respond. The cells are telling the body "we have done what you ask", but the tumor isn't listening. It still produces ACTH. The cells still listen as that is their genetic coding. In the case of fat, the cells still store fat because the pituitary is telling the cells (through ?cortisol)... store fat!


If you have an adrenal tumor that is secreting too many adrenal hormones, the receptors that react to the adrenal hormones respond. The cells are telling the body "we have done what you ask", but the tumor isn't listening. It still produces too many hormones. In the case of fat, the cells still store fat because the adrenal tumor is telling the cells (through cortisol).... store fat!


The feedback mechanism is disrupted, so the control mechanism isn't working.

(Have you ever had a hose spigot that had a broken valve and water kept on dripping out? - What happened over time if you didn't fix it?)


For this reason, Cushings is a system wide disease as it effects the entire body.


How's that?



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thanks kristy.  i appreciate both the technical and simply explanations.  Any books you can recommend?  I am going to summarize what you said using both tech and simple in another message.  I just want to be sure that i understand exactly what i have. This for me is the best way to do it.


thanks again.  Maybe we can talk on chat tonight if you are on.

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Books for general patient reading or medical sort technical reading?


Course...I followed some of your advice and I went to the bookstore a found a book on inspiration and working on my own internal health. I thought I was a nut doing so, but, I have actually enjoyed The Dark Side of the Light Chasers by Debbie Ford... and I have been working on daily devotionals and have been actually enjoying ?Until Today by Iyanla Vanzant.


I needed to do some peace of mind type stuff (this disease is emotionally tough!). I really appreciate you taking time in your own battles to pull us down to regroup.



When ever you are ready to hail the battle cry again we are here for you and have been...yesterday, today, and tomorrow. new_scatter.gif


Let me know... I may not get back with you until this weekend (work is crazy!).


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I have her follow-up book, Secrets of the Shadow, if you want one.  Lemme know.  Actually I have about ten of these books so if you want several, let me know.  :)


I'd read them but can't get into it.  My mind doesn't focus so hot lately.

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thanks all for responding.  Kristy im looking for medical books.  I too started reading the dark side of the light chaser.  a friend recommended it but i couldn't get into it at the time.  i'll try and pick it up again to read it.


Shauna, how about reading some good fiction.  Something light and humourous. can't recommend anything at the moment but when i do i i'lll let you know.  actaully one comes to mind.  A wak in the woods by bill byson. he is a great wrtier though it non-fiction. its about his experience walking part of the appalachian trial.  i was laughting so hard a lady on the subway sitting next to me said she wanted to read the book as well.  its very good except towards the end it starts to slow down becomes a little boring.

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Wilson: Williams Textbook of Endocrinology, 9th ed., Copyright ? 1998 W. B. Saunders Company ?

Most comprehensive endocrine manual


Goldman: Cecil Textbook of Medicine, 21st ed., Copyright ? 2000 W. B. Saunders Company

Good general medicine book


Ravel: Clinical Laboratory Medicine, 6th ed., Copyright ? 1995 Mosby-Year Book, Inc. ?

Guide for interpreting Lab Tests.




Shauna... yes, I'm interested. Let me know via msg what I need to send you to cover expenses. :)

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