I have recently taken on a new client who suffers from Addison’s disease. Could you please advise me what I should and shouldn't be doing with this client and whether there are any holistic therapies which could aid her condition?
Addison's disease is an endocrine or hormonal disorder that occurs in all age groups and afflicts men and women equally. The disease may be characterized by weight loss, muscle weakness, fatigue, low blood pressure and sometimes darkening of the skin in both exposed and non exposed parts of the body.
Addison's disease occurs when the adrenal glands do not produce enough of the hormone cortisol and, in some cases, the hormone aldosterone. The disease is also called adrenal insufficiency or hypocortisolism.
Addison’s Disease and Exercise
Because of the Addison’s disease, your client may feel as though she is working harder to increase her level of fitness. This is because her body finds it more physically demanding to do something to which it is unaccustomed. Some people may get dizzy or feel nauseous, so be sure she takes breaks in between sets of exercises. Also ensure she does not over exert herself, especially if she is new to exercise. She should drink plenty of fluids and perhaps avoid sports drinks with added potassium. Yoga and Pilates are great forms of exercise but watch the inverted positions so she does not get dizzy. These may be avoided until her body is more accustomed to the exercise. Sessions may start at a half hour and can very well work to an hour. Start her off slowly and give her a goal of adding in something each session, whether it is an extra set, heavier weights or a new exercise if she is ready. However, keep in mind, people who have Addison’s disease may not wish to change their fitness routines too often, so if you do add new things, do it gradually.
Other things to keep in mind include the following:
When someone is diagnosed with Addison’s disease, he or she should not stop exercising. Fitness programs should be planned carefully to ensure medication levels remain adequate. If exercising for a long period of time, or if exercise is more physically demanding, your client may need to increase her medication. Always consult with your client’s physician and be clear about the kinds of fitness programs you plan on doing, so the physician can assist with medication dosage.
People with adrenal failure tend to lose sodium. They may need extra salt to their diet, especially during vigorous exercise. Because they will also be retaining potassium, avoid salt substitutes, which tend to contain potassium chloride salts.
Some people have been known to run marathons with Addison’s disease while others cannot do 12 push ups due to muscle fatigue. This depends on an individual’s fitness level before and after being diagnosed with Addison’s as well as in the presence of other health conditions.
As in everyone’s fitness program, your client must find something she enjoys doing to help set the mind! Good luck.