The adrenal glands are a pair of small glands located just above the kidneys. They secrete many important hormones including adrenaline, but the most important adrenal hormone is cortisol. This natural form of cortisone is so important that we must produce it on a daily basis in order to stay alive. It is a stress hormone that helps our bodies adapt to every type of stress, including emotional and physical stress. Cortisol functions in many important ways including: reducing inflammation, maintaining normal blood sugar, maintaining a normal blood pressure, and enabling normal thyroid metabolism. Cortisol is also necessary for a normal immune response. Failure of the body to produce enough cortisol is called Addison’s disease, hypocortisolism or adrenal insufficiency. Typically, this diagnosis is only made when severe or life threatening adrenal failure occurs. Fortunately, a brilliant Harvard endocrinologist named William McK. Jefferies recognized that health was impaired even by low-grade deficiencies of cortisol that were not immediately life threatening. Some common symptoms of adrenal insufficiency include:

  • Fatigue
  • Poor appetite
  • Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, and abdominal pain
  • Muscle weakness
  • Low blood pressure, dizziness and palpitations
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Darkening of the skin
  • Decreased tolerance to cold
  • Reduced ability to fight infections
  • Loss of pubic and underarm hair

Dr. Jefferies also wrote that conditions such as allergies and autoimmiune disorders reflected adrenal insufficiency.

The links below will redirect you the personal web pages of Dr. William McK. Jefferies. The copyright of the contents on these pages are owned by Dr. Jefferies and his heirs.

1. Homepage of Dr. William McK. Jefferies
2. Research Focus: “Cortisone: A Problem in Pharmaceutical Marketing
3. Safe Uses of Cortisol
4. A Continuation of the Cortisone Story: “Mild Adrenocortical Deficiency, Chronic Allergies, Autoimmune Disorders and the Chronic Fatigue Syndrome”
5. Low Dosage Glucocorticoid Therapy (Excerpts)
6. Reproduction of Dr. Jefferies Hydrocortisone Handout
7. Dr. Jefferies’ Reference Ranges for Serum Cortisol