The adrenal glands release a very important hormone, used to cope with stress called Cortisol, which is critical for life and the key to normal body composition and response to emotional stress. Commonly called the “stress hormone,” Cortisol levels increase when emotional stress is increased or when physical emergencies occur to prepare our bodies to be able to handle the stress. Many people today suffer from the adrenal gland’s inability to respond to stress, called adrenal fatigue. This condition stems from various factors including chronic stress, sleep deprivation, excess caffeine and carbohydrates, chronic pain, extreme exercise, and a generally unbalanced lifestyle.
Chronic physical or emotional stress, which causes excessive and chronic excretion of Cortisol over time, eventually exhausts the adrenal glands, resulting in lower Cortisol production. Weak adrenals set the stage toward illness and disease. This insidious cycle can cause premature aging of tissues and total “body burnout.” Over time, chronically elevated cortisol levels due to persistent stress leads to hormonal imbalance that affects all the other hormones in the body, producing a chain-like reaction resulting in body fat accumulation, increased blood sugars, fatigue, bone loss, decreased sex drive and immune system deficiencies.
Patients are evaluated for Adrenal fatigue by measuring the level of Cortisol. Cortisol is normally produced by the adrenal glands 24 hours a day, although output varies at different times throughout the day. Cortisol output by your adrenal glands is one of the most reliable indicators of your adrenal function and how well your body is dealing with stress.
Cortisol levels are normally highest upon waking, which energizes us for the day ahead. Levels decline steadily throughout the day, reaching the lowest point at night in preparation for sleep. Individuals with adrenal fatigue have a flattened cortisol profile. This means that there is no morning surge of the hormone.
The Harding Medical Institute measures Cortisol using either blood or saliva testing depending on the clinical situation. Both methods of testing provide an accurate evaluation of how Cortisol levels differ throughout the day.
The Saliva Hormone Test measures the levels of the stress hormones DHEAS and Cortisol in your saliva throughout the day. The test involves simply spitting into a test tube. Cortisol is measured four times – in the morning (8 AM), noon, evening (4 PM) and night (best between 11 PM and midnight). Other steroid hormones, such as estrogen, progesterone, DHEA’s and testosterone can be measured along with Cortisol in the 8 AM saliva sample, if desired. You carry the test tubes with you during the day (they easily fit into a pocket or purse) so they are handy when it’s time to give a saliva sample. Immediate refrigeration is not necessary. Once the sample set is complete, you mail the tubes back to the lab for analysis in the mailing envelope that is included with the test kit. Results are usually available within 2 weeks to be able to discuss the results with our physicians.