Patients Adrenal Health Profile
The adrenal glands, that sit atop the kidneys, are vital to our ability to effectively handle stress, by producing two hormones, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and cortisol.
These hormones together regulate many systems in the body: Imbalances in cortisol and DHEA directly affect mood, sleep, immune function, thyroid function, weight, and resistance to stress, and may contribute to the development of various chronic health conditions:
Anxiety & depression
Osteoporosis (bone loss)
Abdominal weight gain
Diabetes and heart disease
The Salveo DiagnosticsTM Adrenal Health Assessment measures cortisol and DHEA in saliva, which has several advantages over blood or urine:
Convenient sample collection, performed in the comfort of your own home by simply spitting into a tube at four timepoints during a typical day.
Saliva testing analyzes levels of cortisol and DHEA in their biologically active state.
As cortisol and DHEA release vary over a 24-hour period, taking measurements throughout the day tracks overall production, and reveals the degree and timing of any imbalances. This can pinpoint possible causes of any abnormalities, allowing for customized treatments and lifestyle interventions to improve adrenal function and your ability to handle stress.
Cortisol is necessary for the “fight or flight” response. The spike in cortisol production shortly after waking helps us get out of bed in the morning and readies us for stressful daily demands – running for the bus, defending ourselves in an argument, or giving a presentation at work, for example. It breaks down proteins and fats in the body to generate energy in the short-term to help us meet those demands. If your cortisol level is too great or too little, adaptation to stress will be impaired.
If cortisol is too high: A chronically activated stress response can create prolonged “wear and tear” on the body, causing fatigue, depression, anxiety, central weight gain, bone loss, and sleep disturbances. Persistently high cortisol can also lead to high blood glucose and risk for diabetes, reduced ability to fight off infections, and also high cholesterol levels, high blood pressure, inflammation, and memory problems.
If cortisol is too low: On the other hand, a low cortisol lev¬el may indicate “adrenal exhaustion” and is linked to con¬ditions such as depression, hypothyroidism, arthritis, and chronic fatigue. In addition to continual (chronic) stress, low cortisol can be caused by nutrient deficiencies and certain medications.
In contrast to cortisol, DHEA is a “growth and healing” hormone, balancing the body’s stress response. It is the major precursor of estrogen and testosterone, is important for muscle development, fat burning, bone growth, skin health, and immunity, and guards against age-related degenerative conditions. Salivary DHEA shows less daily variation than cortisol and only the morning timepoint is reported.
If DHEA is too high: High DHEA levels are often associated with “masculine” symptoms (e.g., loss of scalp hair, acne, increased body hair) and can also indicate insulin resistance or metabolic syndrome.
If DHEA is too low: Although DHEA levels decline with age, low DHEA is a warning flag for adrenal exhaustion, and is linked to arthritis, osteoporosis, insomnia, depression, fatigue, and decreased libido. Reduced DHEA levels also lower the body’s ability to fight off infections or heal properly.
Cortisol to DHEA Ratio
As they have opposing effects, and jointly affect many processes related to immunologic, cognitive, and metabolic function, quantifying the relative amounts of cortisol and DHEA can provide useful information in addition to that provided by their individual values. If cortisol is in high demand due to chronic stress, DHEA levels decline in favor of cortisol production, and DHEA is no longer able to counteract the harmful effects of excess cortisol. As DHEA becomes depleted, the cortisol-to-DHEA ratio will increase. Changes in this ratio have been observed in connection with various disorders, including depression and sleep abnormalities.
How Can I Improve My Adrenal Health?
Cortisol and DHEA levels can be optimized by diet and lifestyle adjustments that reduce the effects of stress and inflammation on the body. It is important to identify sources of stress and incorporate stress-reduction and management techniques into your day. You owe it to yourself!
Such practices may include relaxation or breathing exercises, yoga, meditation, time outside in nature, or other things that you know bring you joy and help you unwind.
Make sure to eat plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables (for fiber, vitamins, and minerals), while reducing intake of processed, sugary foods. While these may be “comfort” foods in the short term, they will not help you feel better in the long term.
Adequate protein and omega-3 fatty acids (from oily fish or fish oil) will help balance blood glucose and reduce inflammation.
Your provider may recommend specific types of adaptogenic herbs based on your individual lab results.