Adrenal Alternatives – What We Are Doing


We are a patient empowerment organization that encourages, educates and advocates for sufferers of all adrenal diseases.

Our first mission is to align patients with the proper tools they need to live the best quality of life with this disease. We were founded to connect people in the United States to the resources needed to begin treatment with the cortisol pump. We also work to refer patients to all possible options to help manage adrenal disease. This includes naturopathic practitioners, mental health counseling services, fitness instructors, physical therapists, dieticians, medical professionals, caregivers, other adrenal patient networks and resources.

Secondly, we seek to educate the medical community on the truth of adrenal disease. We teach educational seminars to caregivers, EMTs, paramedics and nursing students through our Adrenal Awareness Initiative.

Thirdly, we seek to encourage the adrenal community with our care package program, where we provide adrenal patients with comforting products and supplies as well as encouraging and educational resources to improve their lives as they fight this devastating disease.

Fourthly, we are actively working to change legislation that all counties in the United States are authorized to administer the life-saving Solu-Cortef injection, which is not currently the case. Not all EMT’s are allowed to give this life saving medication and most ambulances do not have it on board. We are working to change this on a local, state and federal level. We have aligned with organizations such as CIAAG- Chronic Illness Advocacy and Awareness Group and Adrenal Insufficiency Protocols who actively work to legislate for patient rights. Our fifth project is our upcoming Pumps for Purpose program, where we take donated insulin pumps and supplies and repurpose them to adrenal disease patients actively working with endocrinologists to maintain a better quality of life via the cortisol infusion pump.

Lastly, we are working on creating clinical trials and research to create more technology to manage adrenal disease. Unlike diabetics, there is currently no meter to check our blood levels. Adrenal patients must be constantly vigilant of their cortisol levels, which can drop in an instant. Research and technology advances are desperately needed.


Ilena’s Fight With Adrenal Insufficiency

A personal post from foundation contributor, Ilena Bickley


March 25, 2019

Now that I am over that horrible sickness (minus the fact that my mouth still has a metallic taste and I can’t really taste food), I was able to get back into my workout routine. I am really trying hard to listen to my body, not over do it, and to be ok with having to take it slow. It’s not easy, but I am doing my best.

Being sick took me out of the game for 2 weeks, which isn’t to bad. I also had a conversation with my Gastroenterologist about the stomach issues. This one is the one who is really interested in Addison’s Disease, she knows a lot about it and has been amazing. My other gastro, not so much. I am glad she reached out to me to see how she could help. She had me do an X-ray to see if my bowls were eliminating all the way, which they weren’t. She suggested that I do milk of magnesia every other day, and see if my symptoms would improve. She told me that when the bowls don’t eliminate all the way, it will cause bloating, nausea, pain, and other things. I don’t know why the other gastro didn’t do this. I have been doing the milk of magnesia since March 15th, and it has made a huge difference. I get just a little bit of bloating, but it goes away really quickly. Doing this has also helped with some weight loss as well.

The ablation that was done on my back has been so great. I haven’t had any issues. I am still careful because some positions irritate it, but overall I would say it’s about 80% better, which is phenomenal. I have been able to sleep a bit better (not great, but better), giving my body more time to heal.

My workouts have been slow going, but like I said, slow and steady wins the race.
I am running 1 mile and then doing light abs, legs, and arm workouts. Yesterday I noticed my stomach has been shrinking, which is AWESOME!!! I know if I continue to listen to my body and just take it easy, I can make it back to more intense workouts. Some days it takes away most of my spoons, but I am ok with that. I guess one good thing that came out of the weight gain, was that I got 2 new pairs of jeans that I absolutely love.

I am looking forward to adding a little more to my workout routine in April and running a little bit farther. I know that I will not be ready for the 10k that is in May, that I really want to do. If I pushed myself, I am sure I could, but I am not willing to put my body through so much yet. I am trying to focus on just being happy with who I am now.

April 23, 2019

My April didn’t go as planned. I was hoping that I would be out running and enjoying the amazing weather we are having, but my body had a different thing in mind.

I know that I was pushing myself more than I should have. I was still ignoring the tremors in my hands and legs. I was trying to prove that I could do all the things. My body quickly reminded me that I am not allowed to do all the things. I woke up at 3am on April first. My dog was scratching at my bedroom door, because she had to use the bathroom. As I sat up, I noticed that my head was shaking (like I was saying no), and that I felt the room was spinning. When I tried to stand, my legs couldn’t support my body. So I crawled to the door and let her out and then crawled back to my bed. I woke up around 9:30am and the dizziness and head nodding didn’t go away. I was able to get to the bedroom door and as I poked my head out, I told my husband that I was really dizzy. He said “your head is shaking.” I replied “call 911.”

I don’t remember them coming. I don’t remember being driven to the hospital. I don’t remember getting there. I was unable to keep my eyes open. I was having full body tremors, that I was not able to control, I could not walk or even lift my legs, and my speech was slurred and stutter (if that is a word). They ran so many tests on me. I had a full spin MRI, brain MRI, tons of bloodwork, and a spinal tap. They kept telling us that everything looked normal, but what was happening to my body was far from being “normal.”

They hospitalized me and I was sent to the neurology center of the hospital. Since I was unable to move, I had to use a bed pan. That was really embarrassing. I was also not allowed to eat, because I could barely swallow my water. I went 4 days with no food. Around day 4 was then upgraded to mechanical lift. I was also getting the tremors to calm down a bit, but my speech was still pretty messed up.

I was given heparin shots, which left some nasty bruising, and blood was taken every morning. On day 7, I was able to lift my legs just a little bit, but not enough to hold my weight. PT came in and worked with me, to see what the next steps would be. I again graduated to, solid foods, but only baby food type of food. At this point I realized that I hadn’t had a BM in 10 days. They started me on milk of magnesia, stool softener, and miralax. Just to remind you, I am still mechanical lift only or bed pan. Not only was it embarrassing to have a nurse and CNA come in to toilet me, my period decided to come early (talk about kicking you when you are down).  It wasn’t until the 9th, when I finally had a BM. It sounded like 2 small rocks hitting the bottom of a plastic bucket, and that was about what it was. None of the doctors or nurses seemed to be concerned about it, but I was worried. They just kept me on the laxatives and hoped that I would finally have a good BM.

On day 9, I was able to put a little weight on my legs, but still not enough to go far. The doctors decided to move me into inpatient Rehab, so that I could learn how to walk and build up some strength. The tremors had calmed down a lot more, and the speech was starting to get better as well. The less I moved and talked, the better talking and tremors got.

My first day in inpatient rehab, I was taken to my room and the nurse came in and got my vitals and checked me in. All I wanted was a shower, after not having one for 9 days, using a bed pan, and on my period. I JUST WANTED A SHOWER. But I was told no, not until PT and OT saw me. I was so mad.

At dinner time, so when they brought me my food, the nurse also had papers for me to sign. As I was signing, I noticed how foreign my hand felt. It was like I didn’t have control of it. I was able to sign one page, the next page-my hand started shaking really bad and then the tremors started acting up. The third page, my brain and hand were not communicating at all. I knew what I was supposed to write, but my hand had no clue what was going on. I told the nurse I would sign it later. When she left, I broke down and completely lost it. I was so terrified of what was happening to my body. I didn’t know what to do, so I just cried. A CNA was coming in and I yelled “GET OUT AND SHUT THE DOOR,” and she moved quickly. I recorded a video in this moment, because I wanted to be able to look back at it and see me at my lowest point.

I was able to sleep, which was nice. About 7am the OT came in and told me it was time to shower. I was in heaven. I took way to long in the shower but I needed it. I felt human again. Going through OT she had me put 9 pegs into a board and then had me take them out. She timed me on each hand. The right hand it took me 54 seconds and with my left hand it took me 44 seconds. In doing this, the tremors got worse and my slurred/stutter speech came back. Later that day PT came and had me try to walk. I was able to take a few steps, which was good. My right leg didn’t feel like it was mine. It felt like I had been given a prosthetic leg and then told to walk. It was just not cooperating with my body. Each day I did get a little stronger. I gave the nurses a really hard time. I was constantly getting scowled for not calling them for things.

Finally I was released on April 15, 2019. I was so happy to be home. I have a lot of adjusting to do, but I know that I am strong.

One thing the doctors were not putting together was my Addison’s disease and how this played a factor. Not one of them knew a thing about Addisons and kept trying to dismiss it. They said that these symptoms were brought on by stress. And if they knew ANYTHING about Addisons, they would have been able to factor that in. I also learned that I had Acute Kidney Injury, after I got home and printed out all my test results from my 15 days there. I was NEVER told about that. I also had 5 other diagnosis that I was not told about and 1 was dated all the way back to 2014 (a year after I was diagnosed with Addison’s). I have been denied disability, but I did apply again after this newest diagnosis. I also got in touch with a news caster and emailed him my story on Addisons disease and how disability is viewing it and how the judge made the remark “If you can handle the stress of your autistic son, why can’t you handle the stress of a job?” I was sickened by this comment.

We really need to raise awareness. This disease is so debilitating and only gets worse with time, especially if you have other underlying illness. I am hoping that I can help change that. I have been sharing other people’s stories on my podcast (found on my blog page), hoping to raise some much needed awareness.




Steroids Save Lives Campaign

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Adrenal patients need steroids just like diabetics need insulin, but awareness on adrenal disease is not as common as awareness on diabetes is.

We’re going to change that.

We’ve lost way too many in the adrenal community due to lack of steroids.
It’s time the truth of adrenal disease was told and this foundation is doing all we can to advocate for all forms of adrenal disease!

We invite you to join us in our social media awareness campaign #SteroidsSaveLives

Upload your awareness photos to social media and use the hashtag #SteroidsSaveLives to help us raise awareness that steroid medications are necessary for life in those with adrenal insufficiency!

We are going to END steroid shaming.

We are going to spread the message that steroids are necessary for adrenal patients to live.

No one should feel guilt for being on medications that keep them alive. 


Tag @AdrenalAlternatives on instagram or
@AdrenalAdvocate on twitter. 

It’s time the truth of adrenal disease was told!

SteroidsSave (2)


What is the Cortisol Pump?

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What is the cortisol pump?

Basically, the cortisol pump is a repurposed insulin pump that delivers solu-cortef instead of insulin.

The use of solu-cortef (injectable version of cortisol when mixed with saline) is placed in an insulin pump that is programmed to disperse cortisol according to circadian rhythm dosing by programming rates of basal delivery into the pump. The pump also has options to bolus for stress dosing.

This helps adrenal patients maintain better control of their cortisol levels by allowing them to get cortisol quicker instead of waiting until steroid pills metabolize through the stomach and finally enter the bloodstream.

This therapy bypasses the gastric system and is able to deliver cortisol in a more consistent way. With a pump, an adrenal insufficient patient can receive a constant supply of cortisol and will not suffer the ups and downs with oral cortisol replacement tablets. They are able to sleep through the night without having to wake up to take steroid pills.

This can be of great benefit to adrenal patients who are hypermetabolizers of cortisol. Some patients have to take medications more frequently than others due to their body’s high cortisol clearance rate. The pump is a great asset to these patients because they are no longer forced to take pills every couple of hours around the clock.

Side effects due to mal-absorption can be decreased and patients have been reported to have improved sleep, weight management, gastric issues and experience an overall improvement in their energy levels and sense of well-being as opposed to taking steroid tablets.

Professor Hindmarsh, of CAHISUS is a pioneer for this life changing treatment.

For more information on the medical information visit his website-

The pump is not a cure for adrenal disease and is difficult to obtain. This treatment is relatively an unknown in the United States and this foundation is actively working to raise awareness on this alternative treatment to managing adrenal insufficiency.

It is a difficult process but it IS POSSIBLE!  For more information please read our article on HOW TO GET ON THE CORTISOL PUMP.

If you feel you could benefit from the cortisol pump, speak with your endocrinologist but be prepared to hear “NO.”

Don’t lose heart!

There are doctors in the USA who will manage this treatment and we hope to continue raising awareness so that one day it will be as available to adrenal patients as it is to diabetics.

We’re here to lead all adrenal patients to every adrenal alternative!











Step 1- Assess your life, health and disease management.

The cortisol pump is not a cure for adrenal insufficiency and is not a treatment that is right for everyone. If you are well managed on the steroid replacement pills, the adrenal pump is excess money and effort you may not need.

The pump is NOT an easy thing to acquire and the fight to get one takes a great deal of trouble, mental stamina and resources.

You need to consider whether this is something you actually need or not.

Here is a link to a wonderful post about 5 reasons NOT to get a cortisol pump by a lovely woman who has adrenal insufficiency and is on the pump. Reasons NOT to Get a Cortisol Pump

That being said, If you are struggling with your quality of life this treatment may help you.

Step 2- Research, Learn and Educate for yourself!

Adrenal insufficiency is a rare disease not widely understood in the medical community. You need to become an expert on your own health, especially if you are attempting to get on the pump.

Most doctors barely know anything about adrenal disease. They have been taught that replacement therapy with pills is the only treatment and that patients live a normal life with this disease.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

You need to understand your specific health concerns.

Information you need to know-

What is your diagnosis? Do you have primary Addison’s disease, secondary adrenal insufficiency, tertiary adrenal insufficiency or congenital adrenal hyperplasia?

If you are unsure, here is a link to Understanding Adrenal Disease

What is your quality of life? Are you able to work, drive, do housework or function normally?

What have you tried to manage your adrenal disease?

Typically an endocrinologist will not even consider the pump until you have tried EVERY oral steroid possible.

What is your current daily dose of replacement steroid?

How much are you stress dosing?

What other medical issues do you have?

Are you able to afford the supplies and medication needed for the pump? Insurance does not typically cover “off label” treatments.


This disease is expensive and life threatening if left untreated. If you have A.I you HAVE to have some sort of steroid replacement to stay alive.

Just educate yourself on everything you need to know. You will have to present YOUR case to an endocrinologist to get the cortisol pump. Which brings us to the next point.

Step 3- Finding An Endocrinologist

This will be a difficult part of your journey to the pump. Finding an endocrinologist that understands adrenal insufficiency is a needle in a haystack and then finding one who will be brave enough to attempt guiding you through pump therapy just adds to the challenge.

Prepare the best case possible. Send your research, your health information, everything you can to the endocrinologist BEFORE your appointment so they are aware of your intentions before hand. Write a letter to the endocrinologist explaining diagnosis, failed treatments and desire to be on the pump.

You will have to fight to find a doctor willing to write the script for the pump. It will take effort, lots of research and a mental stamina.

Step 4- Battling the Insurance Company

Adrenal Insufficiency is documented to be treated by oral steroids and not by the insulin pump. Be prepared to be on the phone for hours and be told incorrect information. Just be aware that you will have to tell the same story to a different agent over and over and over again. Don’t give up.


Step 5- Getting A Pump & Supplies

If your insurance cooperates and provides you with a pump and supplies, GREAT! But I’m pretty sure with A.I it won’t be that easy.

Take heart, there are other options.

There are many ways to obtain a pump and supplies: Diabetic Barter Sites, Facebook Groups, Craigslist and Ebay.

The internet is a plethora of connectivity. You can find what you need, you just have to put in the effort to look.

Step 6- Waiting for the Pump

If you are not doing well on pills, switching to subcutaneous injections of solu-cortef may be an option while you are waiting.

To figure out your dose, You need to convert it from oral milligrams to liquid solu-cortef.

2 units= 1mg if you are doing a 2:1 ratio with actovials of solucortef.

You can also run a 1:1 ratio with 1ML of saline per 100mg of solucortef powder vials.

You also need to dose according to the circadian rhythm percentages.

Circadian dosing method example-

6am and 12 noon 40%

12 and 6pm 20 %

6pm to Midnight 10-15%

Midnight and 6am 25-35%

Source for the dosing is based on Professor Hindmarsh’s research (link posted below)

Use solu cortef solution and inject with insulin needles.

The standard recommendation is to have lab testing to see how quickly you absorb and “use” the cortisol in your body.

You can have cortisol clearance testing done but it is not typically covered by insurance. It is beneficial to creating proper rates for your specific needs. A pump is only as good as the information programmed into it.

Step 7- Staying Sane

The process to get on the pump is long, obnoxious and detailed. No one should have to fight for years to get better quality of life. The healthcare system is broken and changes need to made. This stands for all diseases and treatments, not just adrenal disease.

Everyone should have access to a better life.

Take heart friends, Our voices will be heard.

This foundation is dedicated to adrenal disease advocacy.



When Invisible Illness Becomes Visible

Awareness about invisible illness is something that this foundation is incredibly passionate about. Those who suffer with diseases and conditions that cannot be seen are scrutinized by those who simply do not understand.

Conditions like Addison’s, Cushing’s and most adrenal diseases cannot be seen by the human eye but effect the lives of so many sufferers.

But what happens when your invisible illness suddenly takes on a visible form?

Which is worse; Looking well but being sick- therefore having people assume you are lazy and unmotivated  OR being sick and looking sick and having people stare at you in confusion; knowing something is wrong but not having the compassion to understand?

In either of these situations, people with chronic illness feel misunderstood.

My illness took on a physical form after my diagnosis of adrenal disease.

My body now bears the exacerbation and side effects of poor steroid absorption. Before I was on the cortisol pump  I was on steroid tablets, which I did not absorb and got very sick.

My once clear, ivory skin now bears the unfortunate appearance of acne, my figure is now in double digits instead of the quaint size “8”  I  formerly was and my body bears the bright purple/red stretch marks and scars resulting from my surgery and the mismanaged cortisol medication.

Every time I take a bath, I want to fight back tears. I want to scream and escape from the cage that my  body is. This cage is painful and unattractive. My once invisible illness has taken on a very visible form. I no longer can hide the fact that I am sick. No amount of exercise and make up can fix my body now. My diet is a strict as possible and I am in an intense physical therapy program for exercise and muscle strengthening. In chronic illness, there are just some things that cannot be controlled. I have to accept who I am now.

Self worth should never be dependent on looks. It is truly inner beauty that counts.

How someone treats another person is the TRUE reflection of who they are.

Anyone can have a pretty face, but not everyone can have a pretty spirit after going through darkness, pain and tragedy.

“True self control is controlling your thoughts, actions and feelings when nothing is the way you feel it should be.”

When I look at my body now, I have to realize that I did not choose this. I did not make bad decisions to cause any of the problems I have. Guilt is the worst thing a chronic illness sufferer can harbor in their spirit. It destroys us and is absolutely an unnecessary emotion.

Most of us with adrenal disease have struggled with our looks. Before my diagnosis, I was 87 lbs at 5’4….then four years later before the pump I ballooned to an obese size.


But you know what? My heart remains the same.


The only size that should matter is the size of your heart.


We have enough to battle, let’s not battle our own spirit as well.

You did not choose your illness, but you do choose to bravely fight it every day.

Whether your illness is visible or invisible, I hope you accept yourself for the strong warrior that you are.

If you are struggling with self acceptance, please reach out to us, we have counselors available to help you!


Wishing you Comfort &Cortisol,

Love, Winslow E. Dixon

The Adrenal Alternatives Foundation Founder



How to Be Tested for Adrenal Insufficiency

Adrenal disease can be life-threatening and is rarely tested for. This post was written to explain how to be properly tested for adrenal disease. This is not to be used to diagnose or treat condition. Contact your doctor before starting or stopping any medication or treatment.

There are many forms of adrenal disease-

(This is not an all inclusive list, there are hundreds of adrenal complications)

Adrenal Insufficiency- Disease of the adrenal glands, resulting in the lack of cortisol production. Can also result in lack of DHEA, aldosterone and disrupt the balance of endocrine hormones, electrolyte balances and blood sugar levels.

Primary Addison’s disease- Autoimmune disease resulting in the
destruction of the adrenal glands, rendering them unable to
produce proper amounts of cortisol, DHEA & Aldosterone.

Secondary Adrenal Insufficiency- When the pituitary gland does
not produce the hormone ATCH (Adrenocorticotropic hormone)
resulting in the lack of cortisol production in the adrenal glands.

Tertiary Adrenal Insufficiency- When the hypothalamus fails to
release CRH (corticotropin-releasing hormone) which stimulates the
production of ACTH by the pituitary gland.

Congenital adrenal hyperplasia (CAH)- Genetic disorder present from birth that impairs the adrenal glands. CAH patients lack the enzymes the adrenal glands use to produce hormones that help regulate metabolism, the immune system, blood pressure and other essential functions.

Cushing’s Disease- A rare condition that is the result of too much cortisol production in the body.  One source of Cushings is when the adrenal glands have a tumor; making too much cortisol. Another cause of Cushing’s syndrome is when the body makes too much of the hormone ACTH; which causes the adrenal glands to make cortisol.

Possible Symptoms of Adrenal Insufficiency-

(Note- This disease is sometimes referred to as “Syndrome X” because it presents different in everyone. The following symptoms are possible ailments that may be present in adrenal disease but are not all inclusive.)

Pain in the abdomen or muscles or joints, dehydration, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, lightheadedness, loss of appetite, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, water-electrolyte imbalance, or sweating, nausea or vomiting, craving salty foods, darkening of the skin, excess urination, muscle weakness, reduced sex drive, or weight loss.
If you are craving sea salt or salty foods, PLEASE get tested. That is one of the most prominent signs of adrenal disease.

The primary diagnostic tests that endocrinologists use to diagnose adrenal disease:

ACTH stimulation test- Measures how well the adrenal glands respond to the release of the adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). When this test is done, blood is drawn prior to injection of ACTH, then at 30 minute intervals for a few hours to test your adrenal response to the ACTH. If your cortisol levels do not rise properly, you are then diagnosed with adrenal insufficiency.

Dexamethasone Suppression Test- Tests adrenal gland function by measuring how cortisol levels change in response to the steroid dexamethasone. This test has historically been used to diagnose depression as well.

8am Cortisol Blood Draw- Your body’s natural cortisol levels should be the highest in the morning, according to your body’s circadian rhythm. If your AM levels are low, it indicates an adrenal issue.

(Saliva and urine tests are also performed, but are not as widely accepted for diagnostic criteria)

Alternative Test- An insulin tolerance test (ITT) is a medical diagnostic procedure during which insulin is injected into a patient’s vein, after which blood glucose is measured at regular intervals. This procedure is performed to assess pituitary function and adrenal function.

Important Warnings-

Do not get on any steroids before you have had an ACTH stimulation test. You will forever battle for the right diagnosis with an endocrinologist if you do. Steroids can cause adrenal suppression and if you do not get tested BEFORE your steroid use they will always assume you have secondary adrenal insufficiency, even if that was not the reason you developed adrenal failure.

Do yourself a favor and get tested and discover your body’s natural adrenal function. 

Steroids are life saving medications for those with adrenal insufficiency, but they do come with side effects.  (Such as- Weight gain, stretch marks, cataracts, glaucoma, easy bruising, acne, increased appetite, increased growth of body hair)

They are not medicines that you want to start on a whim.

Steroids CAN cause adrenal suppression.  DO NOT get on them unless your doctor is SURE you need them.

(Acute uses of steroids are common for infections and asthma, this is not what I am talking about. Long term or repeated use DOES come with risks. Please be advised and ALWAYS consult your doctor regarding your medication use) 

An adrenal crisis will lead to death if left untreated. If you suspect you are having adrenal issues, please request the following-


ACTH Stim Test


Dexamethasone Suppression Test

Blood Tests-

Aldosterone, DHEA, Cortisol and Renin levels.


To read more about adrenal disease visit the following links-

Understanding Adrenal Disease

The Care and Keeping of Adrenal Disease

Video- How to easily explain Adrenal Disease

This post is not intended to diagnose or treat any medical condition. Consult your health care provider before starting or stopping any medical treatment. I am NOT a doctor, nor do I claim to be. I am simply an adrenal insufficient woman who has done much research to understand adrenal disease and seeks to help others understand as well.