Cortisol, COVID and Adrenal Fatigue
As everyone is well aware, we are still in the midst of the newest Omicron variant, BA5. Many of us have had COVID by now as well. The research and observations of post COVID infections are still developing and depending on the variant, the person infection and many other factors, there may or may not be lingering issues.
Common lingering issues that we are seeing as health care providers include (but are not exclusively)
lack of concentration,
shortness of breath,
headaches and cardiovascular issues.
Interestingly, many of these symptoms are ones that we have found for years in patients with low cortisol (or the other adrenal hormones DHEA and pregnenalone) which we often label as ‘adrenal fatigue’.
Adrenal fatigue is often overlooked in medicine as it’s not usually life threatening. It’s believed that the condition often begins when many different life stresses become too much for the body (and mind) to handle. Our adrenal glands, which are two small organs located above the kidneys, usually deal with stress by producing hormones such as cortisol, DHEA and pregnenalone. According to the theory of adrenal fatigue, when people are faced with long-term stress, their adrenal glands cannot keep up with the body’s need for these hormones. It is when this happens that supporters of adrenal fatigue believe that symptoms may appear.
Now that we have over two years of COVID behind us as it continues to change, research is emerging that COVID infection is one of the stressors that adversely affects the adrenal glands.
This recent study in Science demonstrates “The Long Covid patients, most of them struggling with intense fatigue, brain fog, and other symptoms, had low levels of cortisol, a stress hormone that helps the body control inflammation, glucose, sleep cycles, and more. Features of their T cells indicated their immune system was battling unidentified invaders, perhaps a reservoir of SARS-CoV-2 or a reactivated pathogen such as Epstein-Barr virus. Other groups studying Long Covid patients have reported similar results this year, including in a January Cell paper that documented low cortisol in those with long-lived respiratory symptoms, and reactivation of viruses in patients with neurological issues.
If you believe you have lingering effects of COVID, and possibly adrenal fatigue, we have various ways of testing and treating. Please make an appointment with your health care provider to assess.