|A Favorite Family Dinner|
(Grilled chicken sadly not present for picture.)
No one knew, as I became very ill, that an unknown auto-immune disease was attacking the cortex of my adrenal glands and wreaking havoc on my body.
In the weeks before my official diagnosis, I had gotten to the point of craving V8's. I'm not talking about a "that sure sounds good" craving, I'm talking about a "I need a V8 moment from out of this world and can't focus on anything else around me until I get that V8" intense kind of craving satisfied. My mother watched me down multiple V8's over a long period of time and she was perplexed. My mother actually questioned me, "Do you think you might have some sort of mineral deficiency?" I told her that I'd had all kinds of blood work done at so many of those doctor appointments and all that could be found, as far as a mineral deficiency goes...was the need for more sodium. Perhaps that was the reason I craved V8's so desperately, for the high sodium content. I began to think it made sense.
Looking back, I realize that those cans of V8 helped to maintain my body functions. With aldosterone levels disappearing, these V8's were helping to somewhat replenish the sodium in my body, but that wasn't going to be enough. Soon, things would progress far beyond a V8's ability to give me a mysterious energy "fix." Eventually, I would not be able to even sit up to drink anything.
After my diagnosis with Addison's disease, I began taking Hydrocortisone and Florinef. This meant I no longer had the severe cravings for V8's. However, in talking with other Addison's patients from around the world, I have found sodium levels to be another area of fluctuations we must confront on a serious level. Of course, it makes sense that people living in the South or in parts of the world with higher temperatures would have more trouble with dehydration and sodium regulation; it comes with the territory and is our "normal" part of life. For friends with Addison's who live in milder climates, they may still have to manage their sodium levels. I have an Addison's friend who is an avid tennis player and he needs salt replacement on a regular basis. Then, there are others who live in cold climates, but they sometimes travel to harsh, hotter climates which can throw their sodium levels out of whack. Regardless, if you have Addison's disease or any adrenal insufficiency, you need to make sure your sodium level is as normal as possible and that you remain hydrated.
Most salt substitutes also contain potassium. To meet my personal health needs, my Dr. regularly checks my blood levels and this includes my potassium levels. Since my life here in Texas is very active, I'm often outdoors. We have acreage in the Piney Woods where I love to hike, and I have a beach just down the road, so I must sometimes replenish my sodium and potassium levels. Klor Con is also used as a salt substitute for some people because it is mixed with salt. My Endocrinologist prescribes this medicine to me. Klor Con is a form of potassium chloride that helps replace lost electrolytes. However, in high levels, this can be toxic. You must show a need for this medication before a Dr. will consider prescribing this supplement. For me, it is a tremendous help. But, it is not a pill that is a part of my daily Addison's maintenance program; I have learned to be wise about when I need to take Klor Con and when I need to leave it in the bottle.
The past ten years has taught me to be finely in-tune with my body. Changing conditions, externally and internally, require diligent attention and action. If you have Primary or Secondary Addison's disease, this is something that is learned over time, like anything else. The thing that is so unique about this disease is how one person's treatment may be different from another person's. You must find what works for your body, especially knowing when you need to increase particular meds or taper. Keeping a journal might help. Sometimes, the process of looking back can be a powerful tool in managing your disease.
If you are struggling, please consider (for at least for a month) recording your activities, your dosages and times (which should be on a regular schedule), the climate (hot days and cold days can impact a person with Addison's - it can cause physiological stress, depending on exposure), your fluid intake, diet and sleep schedule...you can help increase your chances of having lots of good days by reviewing this health journal. I did this, off and on, for years before I developed a keen sixth sense via lots of homework and experiences. Just keep in mind that your regiment might require additional attention for changing circumstances. That's the part of having Addison's disease that can be most challenging...knowing when to take additional action. However, even with the best plan and the most diligent action, Addison's disease can still throw cheap daggers your direction. We are not machines. If it were that easy, we could plug in codes and commands and we would run perfectly. If we were machines, we would not have developed Addison's disease in the first place. Unfortunately, we are not mechanical, so there will always be unknown variables as obstacles. So, do your best. Part of my personal plan is to also say my prayers; God has seen me through times of health troubles after medical intervention sputtered. Develop a strategy, but don't beat yourself up when things go wrong or when you have bad days. Many people with adrenal insufficiency experience difficult struggles, physically and emotionally, remember that you are not alone.