Lab Evaluation: Adrenal Fatigue and Cortisol Test
Do you feel tired and worn out all the time, even though you’re getting plenty of sleep? Do you crave salty foods? If you see a doctor, they might say that you have adrenal fatigue.
What is adrenal fatigue?
The term “adrenal fatigue” was coined in 1998 by James Wilson, Ph.D., a naturopath, and expert in alternative medicine. He describes it as a “group of related signs and symptoms (a syndrome) that results when the adrenal glands function below the necessary level.” He says it’s usually associated with intense stress and often follows chronic infections like bronchitis, flu, or pneumonia.
Wilson says people with it may not have any physical signs of illness but still may feel tired, “gray,” and have fatigue that doesn’t get better with sleep. They also crave salty snacks.
The Theory Behind It
Your body’s immune system responds by revving up when you’re under stress. Your adrenal glands, which are small organs above your kidneys, respond to stress by releasing hormones like cortisol and adrenaline. These hormones are part of your “fight or flight” response. They increase your blood pressure and your heart rate.
According to the theory, if you have long-term stress (like the death of a family member or a serious illness), your adrenal glands burn out from the prolonged production of cortisol. So adrenal fatigue sets in Cortisol Test.
Cortisol Test: How is it maintained?
Cortisol is a hormone that is important throughout the body to maintain blood pressure, blood sugar, metabolism, and respond to infections and stress. A doctor may want you to be tested to see if you have the right level of cortisol in your blood.
Cortisol is made by your adrenal glands — two small glands that sit on top of your kidneys. Along with helping you respond to stress, it also plays a key role in other functions, including how your body breaks down carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins.
Tests can detect whether you have a condition called Cushing syndrome, which involves having too much of the hormone. It can also check for Addison’s disease, which is caused by having too little. The tests also help screen for other diseases that affect your pituitary and adrenal glands.
A doctor might order a cortisol test if they see symptoms that suggest your levels are either too high or too low.
Your cortisol blood level can be measured in three ways — through your blood, saliva, or urine.
Often, this test is done twice in the same day – once in the morning, and again later in the afternoon, around 4 p.m. That’s because cortisol levels change a lot in the course of a day.
The test itself is simple: A nurse or lab technician will use a needle to take a blood sample from a vein in your arm. Your results will show the level of cortisol in your blood at the time of the test. A doctor will tell you if yours fall in the normal range.
If your level is too high, a doctor might follow up with other tests (urine or saliva) to make sure the results aren’t due to stress or medication that acts like cortisol in your body.
Studies show this the saliva test is about 90% accurate in diagnosing Cushing syndrome.
You’ll do it at night before you go to bed. That’s because cortisol levels tend to be lowest between 11 p.m. and midnight. A high cortisol level near midnight can signal a disorder.
You can purchase salivary cortisol tests at drugstores. But for the most accurate results, see a doctor in order to have it done. They might want to compare the result against other tests.
A doctor might order this to test that’s called “free” cortisol. This means the cortisol isn’t bound to a protein like the kind blood tests measure. If a doctor prescribes a urine test, you’ll need to provide a 24-hour sample. This means you’ll pee into a special container or bag every time you need to use the bathroom over the course of a full day.
In addition to the tests listed above, a doctor may order other blood tests to pinpoint the cause of your abnormal cortisol levels. Some things, like abnormal growths or tumors, can affect them. If they suspect this may be the case, a doctor will order a CT scan or an MRI.
Adrenal Function Treatments
The suggested treatments for healthy adrenal function are a diet low in sugar, caffeine, and junk food, and “targeted nutritional supplementation” that includes vitamins and minerals like Vitamins B5, B6, and B12, Vitamin C, Magnesium. We provide peptide packages including vitamin B12 and more variations of stress-relief treatments.
What else could adrenal fatigue be?
Symptoms such as being tired, lacking energy, and sleeping all day long could be signs of depression, sleep apnea, fibromyalgia, or any number of diseases.
What is adrenal insufficiency?
There are two forms of this condition, and both are caused by damage or problems with your adrenal glands that result in them not making enough of the hormone cortisol.
Symptoms include chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, muscle weakness, weight loss, and stomach pain. You might also have nausea, vomiting, low blood pressure, diarrhea, depression, or darkening of the skin.
Adrenal insufficiency is diagnosed with a blood test that checks to see if your cortisol levels are too low. If you have it, you’ll need to take a hormone replacement.
If you’ve got some additional questions to ask, feel free to contact our qualified experts for a free consultation.