First, let’s understand the adrenal glands and their function in the body. Your adrenal glands are your stress glands, and they produce cortisol, which is a stress hormone. Adrenal glands also produce other hormones, like DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone), which is a precursor to all of your other sex hormones, including testosterone, estrogen, and progesterone.
Adrenal Function Testing
As a naturopathic doctor, I like to perform adrenal function testing by testing cortisol. The best way to check cortisol levels is with a saliva test. One of the reasons why it’s beneficial to do a saliva test is because it also allows us to get multiple readings throughout the day, rather than doing a blood draw (since you wouldn’t necessarily want to be getting a blood draw numerous times a day). A saliva test is also very accurate in testing levels and detecting dysfunction at a very early stage.
Saliva Test and Cortisol Analysis
When the saliva is tested for cortisol levels, our patients collect samples four times throughout the day. It’s typically at 8 am, noon, 4 pm, and then around 10 pm so that we can get a nighttime reading.
From the saliva test results, we examine:
- What the circadian rhythm looks like with the cortisol; and
- What the cortisol levels look like.
For example, your cortisol levels should be nice and high in the morning, slowly decline through the day, and be nice and low at night, which allows you to get a good night of sleep. We look not only at the level of cortisol but also at the rhythm of the cortisol.
Testing DHEA Levels
Another effective way naturopathic doctors performing adrenal function testing that provides part of the picture is testing DHEA (dehydroepiandrosterone). Sometimes I’ll test DHEA with saliva, along with cortisol. Or sometimes I’ll test DHEA in the blood. This is another accurate way to get an idea of your DHEA levels, which is an indirect measure of adrenal function. It’s one more piece of the puzzle that lets us know how well your adrenals are functioning.
If you are interested in having your adrenal function tested, call 480-588-6856 to schedule a FREE brief meet and greet with one of our naturopathic doctors.