Adrenal Hormones and Testing

  • April 12, 2023

Adrenal responses define many of your patients’ day-to-day lives. Adrenal hormones are instrumental in sleep, focus, and emotional flux. They can also shape long-term health and wellness. Hormones like cortisol, dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA), and pregnenolone contribute to the development of chronic conditions, including chronic stress and adrenal exhaustion. Furthermore, adrenal function can be indicative of certain tumors and diseases.

Unsurprisingly, monitoring adrenal hormones has become a priority for many health practitioners. But the best practices for testing these hormones have been hotly debated. Both saliva and blood testing have significant merits. A well-developed approach for adrenal hormones should integrate the most effective testing methods for accurate readings.

Adrenal Hormones

The adrenal gland works in tandem with the pituitary gland to produce hormones. Though the hormones are highly specialized, they influence whole-body health. Once signaled by the pituitary, the adrenal gland produces DHEA, which is responsible for the production of sex hormones such as estrogen and testosterone. Imbalances with adrenal hormones, therefore, drastically impact your patients’ well-being, including their reproductive health.

The pituitary gland controls much of the activity of the adrenal gland; adrenal health is closely connected to pituitary health. The pituitary gland monitors the differentiation of cells. As a result, it plays a significant role in the immune system. Consequently, pituitary and adrenal system abnormalities can have resounding consequences on whole-body health.

In particular, the pituitary gland produces adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH stimulates the adrenal gland to produce cortisol, a foundational adrenal hormone.

The Role of Cortisol 

As the so-called “stress hormone,” cortisol defines your patients’ health. Its primary role in stress response makes it a fundamental factor in metabolism. Cortisol levels deeply influence the use of fats, proteins, and carbs within the body. Furthermore, cortisol regulates blood pressure, manages glucose, and controls the sleep/wake cycle.

Cortisol Imbalances

Cortisol imbalance is symptomized by adrenal fatigue. Weight gain, muscle weakness in upper arms, and high blood sugar are all symptoms of a cortisol imbalance. Adrenal insufficiency can also cause body aches, digestive problems, and poor sleep. As a key regulator of glucose, high cortisol levels can manifest as Cushing syndrome. Low cortisol levels can lead to extreme weight loss, muscle weakness, and other hallmarks of Addison’s disease. Additionally, hormonal imbalances can lead to prediabetes and diabetes. In extreme cases, it can also result in hypertension and hirsutism.

As an integral aspect of patient care, monitoring cortisol levels has become a focus of the scientific community. Cortisol presents unique challenges for testing. Over even the course of a day, cortisol levels can vary drastically. Laboratory tests that are assayed during specific times of the day when cortisol is typically released can be a reliable tool for tracking cortisol levels and endocrine function.

Monitoring Adrenal Hormone Levels

Adrenal insufficiency and adrenal gland disorders have a myriad of different symptoms. Detecting and correcting imbalances poses a potential pitfall. Lab tests help navigate these symptoms to provide effective patient care.

Saliva and blood testing are the two essential methods for tracking adrenal hormone levels. While the benefits of each have been a point of discussion, each method fulfills specific diagnostic needs.

Blood Testing

The blood reveals a combination of free and bound cortisol levels. As a result, blood samples are often helpful during diagnosis, particularly in tandem with saliva. Conditions such as hyperthyroidism and obesity cause an increase in unbound cortisol. In such cases, the difference in salivary cortisol and blood cortisol levels may be highly significant.

Saliva Testing

Saliva testing has certain advantages. Significantly, it is highly approachable for patients. Although saliva collection requires some technical precautions to avoid interference from food residue, many patients are capable of obtaining their own samples. At the same time, saliva hormone tests maintain the sensitivity and accuracy of blood testing. Salivary cortisol has even been shown to closely reflect free cortisol levels. Particularly due to the diurnal nature of cortisol, saliva samples are a convenient and reliable testing method. The other advantage over blood is patient comfort in not having to draw blood multiple times throughout the course of a day.

Diurnal Rhythm 

Cortisol levels fluctuate in accordance with the human circadian rhythm. Throughout the day, cortisol levels slowly decline, reaching their lowest point during sleep. Data throughout the day is necessary to get a complete picture of cortisol function.

Access Medical Labs offers a saliva adrenal panel with four samples throughout the day. As it can be self-collected, saliva samples make it possible to conveniently track cortisol’s diurnal pattern.

When to Test Adrenal Hormones

Consistent testing is key. As adrenal imbalances have varied clinical presentations, testing your patients’ hormone levels is the most effective way to prevent potential long-term consequences. Consider integrating adrenal testing as a part of preventative care.

Access Medical Labs offers several hormone testing panels. Our comprehensive hormone tests measure biomarkers for adrenal and thyroid hormones alike. These test results reveal vital information about your patients’ adrenal function.

Access Medical Labs: Testing for Adrenal Hormones

Widely influential in whole-body health, adrenal hormones are a hallmark of medical testing. Our hormone panels are designed to provide the most in-depth information for your patient care. Learn more about our hormone panels.

More About Dr. Ghen

Mitchell Ghen, DO, Ph.D

Mitchell Ghen, DO, Ph.D. has 33 years of experience in Anti-Aging and holistic and integrative medicine. Along with his work in nutritional medicine, “Dr. Mitch” has a remarkable amount of experience as an expert clinician and researcher in the field of stem cell transplantation.

In addition to being a physician, Dr. Mitch holds a Master’s Degree in Biomechanical Trauma and has a Ph.D. in nutrition and psychoneuroimmunology. He is an international lecturer on oral and IV nutrition and stem cell transplantation and is recognized as one of the premier teachers at conferences and seminars on integrative medicine. His private practice is in Boca Raton, Florida.

Dr. Mitch’s vast academic knowledge, coupled with his entertaining delivery, makes him one of the most sought after personalities in his field. Currently, he is a medical director for several Natural Medicine companies and a consultant for physicians worldwide, teaching them how to implement integrative medicine into their practices.

He is the co-author of four textbooks including the “Advance Guide to Longevity Medicine,” “The Ghen and Raine’s Guide to Compounding Pharmaceuticals,” “The Anti-Aging Physicians’ Handbook for Compounding Pharmaceuticals,” and “The Essentials and Science of IV Parenteral Medicine.”