Combat Cushing’s Disease by Lowering Stress

by Elisa Oliver-Nielsen, MA, Registered Dietitian Nutritionist, EON Consulting

April is Cushing’s Disease Awareness Month.

This disease is characterized by a hormonal imbalance that affects men, women and children who experience an increased production of the hormone cortisol. However, this disease is mostly prevalent among women between 25 and 40.

Cortisol is widely known as the “stress” hormone, but in actuality the body produces cortisol daily to facilitate important functions such as regulating blood pressure and blood sugar, lowering inflammation and generating energy from the foods we eat.

However, when cortisol levels remain abnormally high for an extended period of time, it may lead to imbalances in the body that result in several complications.

Known causes of Cushing’s disease include high stress levels, alcoholism and athletic training, but the most common causes involve extended use of prescribed anti-inflammatory medications known as steroids or the presence of tumors in the brain, adrenal glands or other parts of the body.

Common symptoms vary from weight gain, thinning skin easily bruised, acne, fatigue, elevated blood pressure and/or blood sugar levels, depression, anxiety, kidney stones, weakened bones and decreased fertility.

There are several treatments, and since the symptoms can impact both the body and the mind, let us review useful lifestyle changes you can easily implement.

Reduce your stress levels

  • Be aware of your triggers (people, environment, circumstances, etc.).
  • Schedule some “alone” time.
  • Engage in activities that bring you joy!
  • Establish a support system.

Move your body

Increase your level of physical activity slowly without overly exerting yourself, especially if you are fatigued often.

Aim at making physical activity a regular part of your day/week.

Think of low impact exercises you can engage in at home (gardening, exercise videos, Pilates, etc.).

Be patient with your body, especially if you are experiencing pain on a regular basis.

Adopt a healthy diet

Choose from a variety of lean meats, low-fat dairy products, fruits, vegetables, nuts, seeds, legumes and whole grains daily.

Protect your bones by eating calcium-and-vitamin-D-rich foods daily.

Limit high sodium, high sugar and fatty foods.

Aim at drinking half of your body weight in ounces of fluids mainly without caffeine.

For more information, visit: Cushing’s Support and Research Foundation at