I read this forum with particular interest. Orion and Sparker: I seem to have a lot in common with both of you, and I think you might be as interested in my experience as I was in yours. Like you, I experienced a drastic crash, which happened about seven years ago (when I was 20), though in retrospect I can see that my fatigue had been gradually increasing since high school. Before the crash, I was able to control the symptoms through cigarettes, sugar, coffee, and even alcohol, but after the crash nothing seemed to work anymore. I could drink a cup of coffee and then immediately fall asleep. I also started having headaches almost constantly (now I realize they were mainly sinus headaches). I would wake up with pain between my eyes and in my forehead and it would usually last all day. My digestion suffered also, and I found that I would lose my breath much more easily. It became much more difficult to exercise, and my weight dropped from a fairly athletic 170 (at 5'9'') to 140.
Unfortunately, because of the respiratory and digestive symptoms, it took me a long time to understand what was really going on. The conventional doctors did nothing but take my money, and I turned to the internet, where I explored just about every option. The most effective information before learning about the adrenal glands was to work on my diet. I went gluten-free and felt better almost immediately. The trouble was that more and more foods started causing problems, until I could no longer eat dairy, soy, or corn. I also try to avoid refined carbohydrates of any kind. I feel best when my carbs come from fruit and vegetables, though I regularly eat potatoes and rice, too. At some points I have been quite extreme about diet, but I recognize that this is a dangerous path, because any type of extremism is stressful, and I also believe that diet alone can never fully solve chronic adrenal insufficiency.
I only took the saliva cortisol test a little more than a month ago, and it was a revelation. The lab that I did my test with used different units from yours, but my morning level was at a third of the low end of normal; my mid-day level was about half of the low end, and my evening and bedtime levels were in the normal range. DHEA was at the low end of normal, 4 on the same scale as your test (normal being 3-10). As a 27 year-old male, I think it should definitely be higher. I was very happy to see these results, because it means that I have an explanation for my health problems. My allergies, sinusitus, poor digestion and breathing, and of course fatigue, can all be linked to adrenal insufficiency, and I hope that if I can strengthen my adrenals enough, I will be able to feel healthy and eat a normal diet again. Even after only a few weeks of therapy, I am already noticing improvement.
My first goal was to find a doctor who would prescribe Cortef, and I succeeded. This was very fortunate, because I had stressful grad school interviews planned at two Ivy League schools, and I knew that without extra support I would probably crash. As expected, the cortisol did the trick. I still had some problems, but I could clearly feel the extra stamina, especially in the morning. Not only did the cortisol improve energy, but subtle things that I did not always connect to my health improved. I felt more confident and assertive than usual--and less patient (I am often far too patient with people).
I'm still sort of worried about cortisol supplemenation, though, so now I only take it during times of extra stress (like 5 mg before a work-out). Instead, I take licorice in the morning, as well as Isocort and a glandular. I tried 50 mg of pregnenolone yesterday, which did help A LOT with energy, but kept me wide awake in a kind of manic frenzy until 4 am. It didn't kick in at full strength until about 11 pm, although I took it at 9 am, and then I felt so completely cracked out on adrenal hormones that I had to exercise vigorously for nearly an hour to calm myself down. I'm now afraid to take it again, and my wife is especially concerned--I can't blame her after how crazy I was last night. I had this reaction once before when I had too much licorice, but now it works fine, so maybe I should just try a lower dose of pregnenolone.
I'm interested in DHEA and would like to hear your experiences with it. Has it been helpful without any unpleasant side effects? Are there dangers with taking it similar to the dangers with cortisol?
I could write many more pages about my own experiences, but I'd like to hear feedback from you guys before going any further. I do have one last thing I want to share, though. I recently found a new biotype classification system (almost like a personality test) based on organs of the endocrine system. I fit very strongly into the thyroid type, which among other things is characterized by weak adrenals. I'm curious to see if other people with low adrenal function have the same immediate fit with other elements of the biotype. The thyroid type description can be found at http://www.biotype.net/types/thyroid.htm. I'm also curious about your bloodtypes. I don't know if this is significant at all, but I've read that type A is associated with weak adrenals. I'm A-.