Standard testing for cortisol levels by most medical practitioners is through a serum blood test. Unfortunately, this test can only measure cortisol at a particular time of day- and that’s not usually right before you go to bed. The fact that many doctors only measure by snapshotting a single time of day can give an incomplete picture of the diagnosis of adrenal imbalance. It’s no wonder that unless a patient’s imbalance is severe, it may not be noticed.
Ideally, testing for adrenal imbalance should be done another way, one that allows more than just one time-specific measurement and permits more of an analysis of the plot of cortisol changes over the course of the day. It would also help to measure DHEA and secretory IgA. Blood tests can’t measure a small drop in adrenal hormone production. Also, because blood testing is almost always done in the doctor’s office or at a blood draw station, even if blood tests were capable of measuring smaller drops in cortisol, multiple blood tests over the course of a day are not practical. A better solution is testing saliva for adrenal hormones. Saliva tests, like the Precision Point Diagnostic Advanced Adrenal Stress Test, are superior to blood serum tests, not just because they are more effective in the detection of cortisol at a given time, but because they are cost-efficient and patient friendly. They allow the patient to take salivary collection tubes home with them and collect saliva at four points over the day, including just after waking up and just before bed to allow a much more accurate- and sensitive- picture of the patient’s cortisol production over the course of the day. These tests are simply superior to blood serum collection tests and can give a much more complete picture of a patient’s adrenal profile. If more specific information about adrenal production is known, then lesser degrees of adrenal imbalance can be treated.
Why is this so very important? Because standard treatment tends to decide that you either have Addison’s disease, or you aren’t worth treating until you develop it. Standard treatment for Addison’s suggests the use of steroids to replace lost cortisol. Using steroids for a slighter loss of cortisol might be akin to using a sledgehammer to drive a nail. Often this means that no treatment is offered by many doctors for slighter levels of adrenal imbalance. Couple that with the fact that a doctor may have a difficult time diagnosing an adrenal imbalance since many symptoms stemming from adrenal imbalances may also be similar to those from other conditions, especially thyroid imbalances. This difficulty is compounded when the doctor may not have the time to truly listen to the patient, particularly if the doctor is seeing many patients a day. Add to that the fact that we are talking about a balance in adrenal hormones here- too little cortisol and you may feel fatigued, but you may feel similar with too much cortisol because cortisol cycles throughout the day in your system. In the morning, when you get up and start the day, your cortisol should be higher to help you take on the challenges of the day. Low cortisol at the beginning of the day might indicate that you are cortisol insufficient. Your cortisol usually falls throughout the day, although some people may have a small peak in the afternoon. By bedtime, your cortisol should have lowered significantly, allowing you to relax and fall asleep. If your cortisol is still high at bedtime, then you might be producing too much cortisol. Other periods throughout the day can also be examined for cortisol levels, and imbalances there could exhibit a pattern that could be fixed by regulating cortisol, diet, or lifestyle changes. You don’t want too little cortisol, particularly at the wrong times, but you don’t want too much either. Having a healthy cortisol balance, throughout the day as necessary, will help you feel more energetic, and less anxious in general. A once-a-day sample simply doesn’t allow for these nuances in treatment.
If adrenal function is severely compromised, then steroids may indeed be recommended. But why wait until then to offer treatment? Steroids can be important tools, but they can be dangerous as well. They have side effects when taken long-term, possibly including: glaucoma, cataracts, high blood sugar, osteoporosis, and an increased risk of infections, since they suppress the immune system. This in addition to the fact that treating adrenal insufficiency with long-term steroids risks overcompensating and causing too much cortisol to be in the system resulting in Cushing Syndrome, and eventually causing the adrenal system to crash and resulting in steroid-induced adrenal insufficiency. The monolithic treatment paradigm for the Adrenal system has been in no small art driven by inadequate testing. Help change your patients’ lives by embracing a superior Adrenal testing paradigm with Precision Point Diagnostics!