Archives for August 2019 | Integrative functional medicine blog

Get back to life. Be Healthy, Be Happy!

Adrenal testing. Why? Who? When? and How?

Today we are talking a little bit about The Who, when, what and why to get adrenal testing. Many times when I ask patients and clients if they have heard of adrenal fatigue they kind of get this far away look in their eyes and nod and say something like "yeah, I've kind of heard of it, someone mentioned it this one time." While doing this they often reach for their throat thinking that their adrenal glands are in the throat, neat the thyroid or somewhere in the general neck area. What they are doing is mistaking something that sounds similar called the "adenoids" in the back of the throat for the Adrenals, which are located in the back on top of the kidneys.

You may hear the argument or comment from many traditional doctors that adrenal fatigue doesn't exist. That is because they are only taught about what is called adrenal failure. This is when the adrenal glands completely stop producing cortisol and you have to go onto cortisol shots. From their perspective, like many doctors they think that health is either black or white. Good or bad. Healthy or sick. They don't think that there is any in-between. So if you are not in adrenal failure, they think that your adrenal glands are fine and thus adrenal fatigue does not exist.


Many of us are too stressed out these days and this can have negative consequences on our bodies and brains, promoting chronic disease and rapid brain degeneration leading to "neurodegenerative" issues such as dementia, Alzheimers, Parkinson's, etc. If you’re concerned about the effects of stress on your body and how to manage it, an adrenal salivary test is an important ally. It can show you whether your stress hormone cortisol is too high, too low, too high and too low, and whether this has affected your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.

Symptoms of low adrenal hormones
  • Fatigue
  • Slow starter in the mornings
  • Crash in the afternoon
  • Crave sweets, caffeine, or nicotine to keep going
  • Prone to moodiness
  • Become shaky, light-headed, or irritable if go too long without eating
  • Wake up at 3 or 4 a.m.; inability to stay asleep
  • Become dizzy when move from sitting to standing

Symptoms of high adrenal hormones
  • Excess belly fat (everyone has heard of Cortisol by now)
  • Insulin resistance (high blood sugar and diabetes or Metabolic/ Syndrome X)
  • Trouble falling asleep
  • Wake up not feeling rested
  • Women grow facial hair; men grow breasts
  • Polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS).

And the list can go on and on.

How to do an adrenal salivary test
To perform the adrenal salivary test, simply collect a small vial of saliva several times throughout the day using the vials in your test kit. The lab will then analyze your saliva for cortisol levels and how much cortisol you produce in the morning, afternoon, and evening. Do not do something unusual or stressful on the day of your test. It will alter the results. We want an average day.

It’s important to understand that low or high adrenal hormones usually don’t reflect a problem solely with the adrenal glands, two glands that sit atop each kidney and secrete adrenal hormones. Instead, chronic stress affects stress pathways in the brain, which start to dysfunction when stress is chronic.

It isn’t just being too busy, a bad job, a bad relationship, and so forth that cause chronic stress.
When I'm talking about stress we have to remember that it's not just mental stress. There is mental, physical, chemical, emotional, spiritual, etc.

Lesser known factors of chronic stress can include unstable blood sugar (usually from too many carbs), a chronic infection, leaky gut, or an autoimmune disease. Using second and third adrenal salivary tests allow you to track whether you’re successfully managing your condition; adrenal health should improve as these conditions resolve. If adrenal health does not improve, it means you must keep investigating to find out what is causing the body stress and deal with it as best as possible.

Keep in mind that we can't remove all stress, nor should we. Some stress is normal and healthy for the body. Such as exercise. There is an acronym called SAID - Specific adaptation to Imposed Demand. It basically states that our bodies will adapt to what we demand of it. Without some stress our bodies dont adapt and we deteriorate.

Measuring the sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm
A sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm, that is out of whack is one symptom of adrenal stress. If the circadian rhythm is normal, then cortisol is highest in the morning and lowest at night. This is what allows us to feel alert when we wake up and sleepy before bed. Many people with altered circadian rhythms notice they are more awake at night. Or they may notice an energy crash in the afternoon and being wide awake in the middle of the night. We will discuss these a little bit more in detail and I will show you what those look like.

The stages of stress
The adrenal salivary test measures circadian rhythm, the cortisol precursor hormones DHEA and cortisol levels. Some tests like the one we typically use in my office also include what is called a Cortisol Awakening Response or CAR. We will discuss in more detail what that is and why it's important. It can tell you where you fall on the spectrum of adrenal fatigue to high adrenal hormones. People don’t necessarily progress from high adrenal hormone to low; adrenal function can jump back and forth between phases or stay stuck in one phase.

So stand by as I switch screens and we will discuss different levels of adrenal fatigue. Also, stay tuned to the end, I have a special offer for a limited time on Adrenal testing and a free review of your labs along with personalized recommendations.

I'm Dr. Craig Mortensen
Be healthy, be happy!

If you enjoy this page, subscribe for updates.

* indicates required