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Addison's disease

Addison's disease (also known as chronic adrenal insufficiency, or hypocortisolism) is a rare endocrine disorder, first described by British physician Thomas Addison. more...

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It is estimated that it affects about 1 to 2 in 100,000 people.

It occurs when the adrenal glands, seated above the kidneys, fail to produce enough of the hormone cortisol and, sometimes, the hormone aldosterone.

Addison's disease refers specifically to primary adrenal insufficiency, in which the adrenal glands themselves malfunction; secondary adrenal insufficiency occurs when the pituitary gland does not produce enough adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) to adequately stimulate the adrenal glands.

Signs and symptoms

Early signs

Addison's disease progresses slowly, and symptoms may not present or be noticed until some stressful illness or situation occurs. Common symptoms are:

  • chronic fatigue that gradually worsens
  • muscle weakness
  • loss of appetite
  • weight loss
  • nausea/vomiting
  • diarrhea
  • low blood pressure that falls further when standing (orthostatic hypotension)
  • areas of hyperpigmentation (darkened skin), known as melasma suprarenale.
  • irritability
  • depression
  • craving for salt and salty foods
  • hypoglycemia (worse in children)
  • for women, menstrual periods that become irregular or cease
  • tetany (particularly after drinking milk) due to phosphate excess
  • numbness of the extremities, sometimes with paralysis, due to potassium excess

Addisonian crisis

An illness or accident can aggravate the adrenal problems and cause an Addisonian crisis in which the symptoms include:

  • brown coating on tongue and teeth due to iron loss hemolysis
  • sudden penetrating pain in the legs, lower back or abdomen
  • severe vomiting and diarrhea, resulting in dehydration
  • low blood pressure
  • loss of consciousness
  • hypoglycemia

Untreated, an Addisonian crisis can be fatal. It is a medical emergency.


In suspected cases of Addison's disease, one needs to demonstrate that adrenal hormone levels are low after appropriate stimulation with synthetic pituitary hormone.

Once demonstrated, the cause of adrenal failure needs to be elucidated. The most common cause is autoimmune, and can be tested for with an assay for 21-hydroxylase antibodies. If there are no antibodies present, infectious or genetic causes should be sought. This may include imaging of the adrenal glands, tests for tuberculosis or HIV infection, and searching for metastatic cancer.


Eighty to ninety percent of cases of Addison's disease are said to be due to autoantibodies directed against adrenal cells containing 21-hydroxylase, an enzyme involved in the production of cortisol and aldosterone.


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Interview with Elizabeth Baker - interview with author of several natural nutrition book who overcame Addison's disease and colorectal cancer with diet
From Townsend Letter for Doctors and Patients, 8/1/02 by Kathy Parslow

Nearly nine years ago I first met Elizabeth Baker, Dr. Jonathan Wright, in whose clinic I was a nutritionist for eight years, had invited her to demonstrate the preparation of raw foods for his many patients. "Uncook something different," he had told her. I opened the clinic door to a bright little lady who greeted me with, "You must be Kathy. I do hope you approve of eggplant." Her contagious smile lit up the room. Her directness, the cheer in her voice lifted me out of my early evening melancholy as we sat down for a get-acquainted, pre-class chat. And we've been chatting ever since at seminars we've done, in hotels we've shared when on the road, at visits to each other's houses, after a radio show we've given or conventions we've attended. When we're together it's impossible to believe this passionate, joyous person is 89. Years ago she was sent home from the hospital to die. But she, her chemist-physicist husband and God decided otherwise. A many-year battle began in which Elizabeth overcame deadly diseas es with all raw foods and natural supplements. Two of those "incurables" were Addison's disease and colon cancer.

Kathy Parslow: First off: Who is Elizabeth Baker?

Elizabeth Baker: I was born and reared on a wheat farm in Oklahoma, schooled through college there and married. For a honeymoon, my husband and I went to graduate school. After teaching two years in a state university we left to further our graduate studies on the West Coast, followed by university teaching. After the birth of our two sons, my husband did research at the Laurence Radiation Lab of the University of California.

Parslow: What caused you to get into nutrition, raw foods and writing?

Baker: Survival! In 1952 I was given Chloromycetin, an antibiotic miracle drug for pneumonia. For 6 years we didn't know why I got every virus and bacterial infection that came along, followed by a lowgrade, debilitating fever for months, even years. My husband learned that Chloromycetin destroys bone marrow, our leukocyte-manufacturing center. My immune system had taken a critical beating. For the next 32 years I lived with a white blood cell count of 33% of normal or less. Once it was so low my husband was told to check out the mortuary for me. After years of tests, X-rays, surgery and the latest in diagnostic apparatus and practices of the 60's, doctors gave me little hope.

Parslow: What was the first thing you did to turn things around?

Baker: I asked God to please take over my life and I would do what He wanted me to. Later that morning a neighbor brought me a book, but I paid no attention to it, Adelle Davis' Let's Get Well. Following our family doctor's advice. I quit most of the 6 or 8 medications I was on. Food was next. I abandoned the bland, sugar-loaded, margarine-satiated, Jell-O diet the doctors advised. I ate the only thing I could eat, which was fresh fruit, like peaches, apricots, avocados and bananas, and only a small portion of one of them at a time.

Parslow: You started right then with all raw foods?

Baker: Not really. Fruit was all I could digest at the time. As my digestion improved a little, I reverted to cooked foods, the fare my caretaker prepared. In misery and boredom, I read the Adelle Davis book Let's Get Well, only to learn I had about every problem she mentioned plus the nutritional deficiencies responsible for them.

Parslow: Were you overwhelmed at the complexity, the magnitude of it all?

Baker: Not overwhelmed as much as challenged. I was still the creative visionary. I had high hope. At last there were some answers to my questions the doctors could not answer. And there were things I could do for myself When my husband got home from his office he listened to me without comment. However, he stayed up past midnight reading the book.

Parslow: Was reading that book the start of a change in your life?

Baker: Yes. An about face. The first thing we did was to take refined sugars and white flour out of our diet. Astonishingly, in three days the pain left my arthritic joints. My husband had no more asthma. None. He'd had asthmatic wheezing every night after dinner for several years.

Parslow: Did you steadily improve in health from that time on?

Baker: No. There were many devastating setbacks, long periods when nothing seemed to be happening. All the while, mostly in bed, I read all the books my husband brought me. Weekends he went to the University of Washington Medical Library, (we lived on Puget Sound), and studied nutrition against disease. He knew Linus Pauling, Roger Williams, Dr. Fred Klenner and Royal Lee, stalwarts in the nutrition field. However, his contacts with them had been science for the sake of science. He never really associated it with any need or problem he or I might have. But suddenly it came home to him. Dr. Klenner and Linus Pauling advised optimal vitamin C for me. Dr. Williams talked B vitamins. Royal Lee advocated natural nutrition. At the time, what I did not understand about all this science for lack of background, my husband explained to me as he did to his students. You see, I was an art major. I did not take science, I married it!

Parslow: What was the first serious illness you overcame?

Baker: Addison's disease. It was just after reading Adelle Davis' book. I was given one and a half to two years to live. Addison's disease is the atrophy of the adrenal glands, caused by a drastic mineral and B vitamin deficiency. I did what Ms. Davis said. In a few weeks the horrible brown splotches over my face, arms and hands faded away and the disease went into complete remission. Since then I've known of several people who recovered from Addison's disease.

Parslow: I understand cancer of the colon was one of the illnesses you overcame. What did you do to get well, how long did it take and why didn't you choose mainstream treatment?

Baker: I'll start with the last question first. My husband, a research specialist in nuclear chemistry and physics had said he would not choose surgery for cancer unless there was life-threatening obstruction. Nor would he submit to radiation and chemotherapy. Both killed cells. Rather, he would choose alternative therapies, homeopathy, and natural herbals. After studying the health and medical literature he brought home, I agreed with him. With our lifestyle greatly improved, neither of us dreamed we'll ever have cancer. But the cancer I had probably took 20 years to develop. It required two years to conquer it, the natural way. I ate all raw foods--fruits vegetables, seeds, nuts and sprouts, plus six ounces morning and night of a green drink. The first year we juiced every fresh vegetable including the tops (beets, carrots, radishes, turnips, celery), plus comfrey and dandelion sweetened with a carrot or beetroot. The second year we grew wheat grass and juiced it. I drank 4 to 6 ounces night and morning. And I still live the same way except for the quantity of green drink.

Parslow: In your books you advise one to continue with the cancer diet and lifestyle years after recovery. Why?

Baker: What gets us over disease protects us from disease. An optimal diet of all-natural, mostly raw foods is superior for curing, prevention of disease and premature old age. Besides, it gives far more energy because it takes much less energy to digest. Uncooked foods require little energy to go from "portal to portal" in the body, at one third to one half the time it takes for cooked foods. Raw foods have all the original nutrients. When we cook foods, we destroy, across the board, half the food value; most of the vitamin C, all the enzymes, the oxygen, some of the B vitamins and the minerals. If we pour the cooking water down the drain, there go a lot of the precious minerals, necessary for the utilization of the vitamins. Without sufficient minerals and vitamins, the body cannot synthesize enzymes.

Parslow: We've all probably heard doctors say, "Eat anything you want. It has nothing to do with your problem." Do you agree with that answer?

Baker: Not at all. In fact, what we eat affects every phase of life, recovery, function, and performance, even outlook. If we put kerosene in our car's gas tank, dirty water in the radiator, and fail to change the oil, that car eventually becomes full of ruinous silt, dirty oil and gas and soon won't run. It breaks down in some or several ways. So it is with the body.

Parslow: You explain all this very convincingly in your books. What prompted you to start your nutrition "Un" series: The Uncook Book, The Undiet Book, The Unmedical Book, The Unmedical Miracle--Oxygen, The Gourmet Uncook Book and the new Unbelievably Easy Sprouting?

Baker: It did not start out as a premeditated series of "Un" books. After we adopted an all-natural diet, people noticed how well we looked and asked questions. We were soon invited to give classes on nutrition. Word of mouth, newspaper publicity, a radio and TV show or two and we were on our way. Already an author of novels, I started keeping notes on nutrition. Then I found! had cancer. All those years I had low energy, low immune system, low blood pressure, among other things. I looked fairly well but! had to rest a lot, lying down more than being up. Much of the time! ran a low-grade fever which drastically curbed my activities.

Parslow: What did you do on learning you had cancer?

Baker: I went home and prepared my first all raw dinner. From then on I never went off raw foods. I knew, deep in my heart, a cancer patient cannot afford to put anything into his or her mouth that is not totally health giving. My husband backed me up 100%. He soon decided to eat the way I did. I began to think of ways to duplicate cooked foods with all raw ones. The result was The Uncook Book. I packed it full of a lot of information from research, experience and the results of trial and error.

Parslow: That first book, The Uncook Book, became a best seller and after 12 printings, still is. What motivated you to write more books and articles, to be on radio and TV and to make two videos?

Baker: After The Uncook Book, my purpose was to continue to give witness of my miraculous recovery from four near-death experiences. Many painful, serious problems, over a period of time, disappeared, such as bursitis, arthritis, shingles, athlete's foot, skin cancer, knee and hip "failure" and what later was diagnosed as chronic fatigue syndrome and/or Epstein Barr, to mention a partial list. My purpose was to let people know that through faith and perseverance, dedication and self-discipline, they could recover from a host of diseases with the help of nutrition.

Parslow: And you feel that the cause of disease is principally deficiencies in the diet? To be specific, what deficiencies?

Baker: First, we have to consider the soil from which most of our food supply comes. It is so depleted from over-farming it can be 85% deficient in essential minerals according to a recent report from the US Department of Agriculture. To correct deficiencies in humans and in animals, we must first supply the missing minerals. With sufficient minerals our immune system strengthens. It's the best thing we can do for prevention. This is actual prevention, not just the early detection that is being passed off as prevention by many in the mainstream medical profession.

Parslow: Is that what motivated you to write The Undiet Book?

Baker: It is the underlying motivation for all I write and talk about. Good health is the goal I have for everyone. Good health means the body is not going to break down with degenerative disease, and that is prevention. The Uncook Book tells what I did to get over colon cancer. It's cold turkey into all raw foods, a little too difficult for some people. For that reason I wrote The Undiet Book, which is a transitional program in seven phases. Each phase is seven days. Seven is a sacred, perfect number. In six phases I "sneaked" out the six bad things in the diet--sugar, dairy, wheat, bad fats, meats and bad beverages. Allergists say 90% of the people in the USA are allergic to wheat. Figuratively, I go into the person's kitchen and get rid of the processed food there. Almost everyone has bad things in cupboards and pantries. They will throw out the nutritionist before they throw out all that deficient food. So in the first phase, only sugar is taken out. There are sweet replacements used in the menus for the seven days, like honey, stevia, rice syrup, malt, maple syrup and fruit. The book is packed full of all sorts of information--exercising at home, sprouting seeds and grains in your kitchen, etc. The Undiet Book's program goes from conventional to all-natural.

Parslow: Isn't your Unmedical Book quite different?

Baker: Yes, but it has its share of nutritional how-to. It's a home encyclopedia type reference book of commonly known diseases and problems most of us have experienced. I state what each disease is; explain the cause (usually deficiencies) and how to get over it naturally. I give my cancer story and my husband tells how he got over glaucoma. The book is truly helping people. They see they can recover and enjoy normal health.

Parslow: Is this a book for professionals or can the average layperson read and understand it?

Baker: It was definitely written for the layperson. The language is everyday. I wrote from the heart, having gone through most of the problems myself, or with family and friends. Readers identify with the suffering, trials and triumphs of others.

Parslow: Your Unmedical Miracle--Oxygen book is a bit of a departure for you from nutrition, isn't it?

Baker: Not really, since oxygen is our number one nutrient. We can live weeks without food, days without water but only a few minutes without oxygen. We live in an oxygen-poor world. In the book I explain how serious, how life threatening it is, and what we can do to get more oxygen. In the appendix, I list 12 household uses for hydrogen peroxide (H2O2, one form of oxygen) and 15 personal uses. Each gets some oxygen into our system.

Parslow: Is there a correlation between oxygen deficiency and disease?

Baker: Yes. Degenerative disease proliferates where cells don't get oxygen. They are called anaerobic cells, meaning they don't need oxygen. They can't live with oxygen around them. Cancer cells are the best example. If cells get enough oxygen they cannot become cancerous or diseased.

Parslow: Is the reason you advocate raw foods, because they have oxygen?

Baker: That's one of the reasons. Raw, living foods have an abundance of oxygen. We really can't have optimal health without sufficient oxygen along with all the other nutrients.

Parslow: The Gourmet Uncook Book is made up of recipes of all natural, living foods. Do you think it is necessary to eat all raw foods to have optimal health?

Baker: To have optimal health and be disease-free, I think we'd have to eat all raw. But most people are probably never going to give up all their cooked foods, even though they know that one-half of the nutrients on average, are destroyed by the heat. We are a nation of cooked food addicts. Many people will continue to eat meat. That isn't so bad if they eat it in moderation and organic. Vegetables and/or fruits should make up the bulk of the diet, eaten along with whole grains, nuts and seeds. A member of my family lived to be over 100 years old, with a good mind. She was lacto-ovo, mainly raw food, vegetarian, and had remarkable energy. The last time I visited her, at 99, she chuckled and said, "I don't often get tired. If I do I eat an apple sitting here with all my plants." The oxygenating plants literally filled her sitting room and the fresh fruit provided her with extra oxygen among other things. A lack of sufficient oxygen means low energy, tiredness and dullness of mind.

Parsiow: If you could give only one instruction about eating for health, recovery and prevention, what would it be?

Baker: It would be a compound instruction. First, take out of the diet, (1) processed foods, (2) fat-cooked and overcooked foods and (3) soft drinks, (4) hydrogenated (shelf) oils, (5) pasteurized, homogenized milk. Second, include in the diet all-natural, mostly raw foods, pure water and herbal teas.

Parslow: The five books you have written focused on the effectiveness of raw foods. Is your latest book maintaining that focus?

Baker: Raw food is the basis, the foundation of my teaching and writing. My new book focuses on informing people of the devastating sicknesses that inevitably lie ahead if they cannot change from a health-destroying diet to a life-giving one. Many diseases have appeared in this last generation. They demand attention. For instance, over half the population in the USA is overweight; over a third of the children are overweight. Forty years ago a chubby child was a rare sight. Thirty-four percent of grown-ups today are obese, a dangerous condition. A third experience cancer in their lifetime. One in six has diabetes, one in six has arthritis. One in three die of heart disease. Most of these problems are avoidable. Usually the cause is in the diet, lifestyle, and environment, in that order.

Parslow: If all this is true, why don't physicians warn people of unhealthy eating?

Baker: They aren't food-oriented. Medical school didn't train them in nutrition. Confronted with a patient, they think symptoms, with drugs for relief. Drugs are often prescribed for symptoms and may never treat or relieve the cause.

Parslow: Do you find in your experience, reading and research, illnesses directly or indirectly caused by diet?

Baker: Oh yes! Therapists and physicians are realizing most problems are caused or made worse by wrong eating, junk food, artificial foods, sweeteners, and toxins in the water and air. Once any one or all of those weakens the immune system, essential to health, the body is threatened. If the individual eats a highly nutritious, natural diet, he/she can avoid a lot of problems and avoid a breakdown. We would not think of feeding a wild animal such as a deer, with macaroni salad, Jell-O, hamburgers and cooked broccoli. They would die in short order. Calves given only pasteurized milk live about six weeks. If the milk is also homogenized, the calf lives only two to four weeks.

Parslow: Can you suggest some specific foods that cause specific problems?

Baker: If there is one food that comes near it, surely it is white table sugar. I call it public enemy number one. Heavy sugar eating has been in the lifestyle of almost all adult-onset diabetics. Sugar as a cause is convincing. My husband's 15 years of asthma and my arthritis of seven years started getting better when we both went off sugar completely. Of course no sugar, none, means no white flour, cookies, pies, cakes, doughnuts and muffins. White flour contributes much to the sugar problem. Since our recovery from asthma and arthritis, many people through the years have listened to and followed the example of no sugar and no wheat, especially white flour. Their joy in recovery, like ours, is abundant. They usually also needed to avoid the five deadly whites, as nutritionists call them: (1) white sugar, (2) white flour, (3) white (clear) processed oil, vegetable cooking fats and margarine (white before the added coloring), (4) white milk products (processed cheeses, homogenized-pasteurized milk) and (5) wh ite rice. They are contributing causes for arthritis, diabetes, Crohn's disease, lupus, multiple sclerosis, cancer, heart disease, digestive disorders, constipation, overweight, obesity and a host of other problems.

Parslow: This sounds very logical to me. Are there double blind studies available, proving the efficacy of whole, natural, mainly raw foods for the prevention and recovery of diseases?

Baker: Not many. Such studies of necessity involve a lot of people, which costs an enormous amount of money. Since little profit is gained from it, no one wants to provide funding. People suffering from these bewildering diseases are prescribed drugs to relieve the symptoms. They get adverse reactions and are even worse off than they were. Can a deficiency be drugged into remission? How can you medicate a deficiency and expect it to go away? It is amazing that most people soon begin to feel better and have more energy, in just days, on natural foods.

Parslow: Does this apply to cancer?

Baker: Yes. Cancer is the classic nutritional deficiency disease. When you examine the cancer patient's lifestyle for a period of years before diagnosis, you find a lot of bad things contributing. Almost invariably, these people have eaten more cooked and processed foods than fresh, natural raw. And they have eaten far more sugar than they realize. One thing that is all-important, raw foods are essential to cancer prevention. Raw food and natural supplements got me (and others) over colon cancer. I got optimal nutrition and extra oxygen into my body. Cooked, processed foods have no oxygen. Neither does boiled water to make herbal tea, or coffee, or just to drink for body warmth. Yet oxygen is necessary to keep cells from becoming anaerobic, or radical. We need to remember: cancer cells proliferate only where there is no oxygen. If we do not breathe deeply of fresh, clean air every day for a few minutes, do not eat food with oxygen in it (raw), do not get it in clean water, we are vulnerable to cancer and dege nerative disease.

Parslow: You are saying we can prevent cancer. We can prevent degenerative disease and getting sick.

Baker: Absolutely. I say to people: Years ago I overcame degenerative disease and now I live preventing it all at an advanced age. And the cost compared to present living expenses is much less.

Editor's Note: Elizabeth Baker is the author of seven best-selling books: The Uncook Book, The Undiet Book, The Gourmet Uncook Book, The Unmedical Book, The Unmedical Miracle--Oxygen, Unbelievably Easy Sprouting and Does the Bible Teach Nutrition? She also is featured in the videos, The Elizabeth Baker Story and Gourmet Uncook. All are available from Drelwood Publication, 1754 N.E. Medford #63, Poulsbo, Washington 98370 USA; 360-697-9881.

COPYRIGHT 2002 The Townsend Letter Group
COPYRIGHT 2002 Gale Group

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