What are the adrenal glands?

The adrenal glands are located at the top of the kidneys and produce hormones that help the body to control blood sugar, burn protein and fat, react to stressors and regulate blood pressure. They are made up of 2 distinct components, the adrenal cortex (outer part) which produces vital hormones such as cortisol, aldosterone and DHEA and the adrenal medulla (inner part) which produces adrenaline and nor-adrenaline.

What causes adrenal insufficiency?

During acute stress, the hypothalamus stimulates the adrenal medulla to release adrenaline and nor-adrenaline, which serves to enable a fight or flight response. If the stressor is still present after this phase, a more prolonged stress response is initiated. This is achieved by increasing Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) output from the pituitary gland, which prompts a subsequent release of cortisol and DHEA from the adrenal cortex. The rate of cortisol and DHEA production is regulated through the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis (HPA axis) negative feedback loop. However, a sustained demand for cortisol causes on-going ACTH release by the pituitary gland and if this process consistently continues, without a recovery phase, the stress becomes chronic. In these circumstances as the HPA axis negative feedback loop fails the adrenal glands will eventually have trouble meeting the demand increasing the potential of adrenal insufficiency/fatigue developing.

Symptoms of adrenal insufficiency/fatigue

• Low energy

• Craving salty foods

• Brain Fog

• Poor sleep quality

• Difficulty waking

• Low libido

• Reliance on caffeine

• Weakened Immunity

• Inability to handle stress

• Central weight gain

Why test adrenal function?

Optimally functioning adrenal glands are vital to the fundamental survival mechanism process of energy delivery, as they enable the body to balance energy expenditure with demand. In response to physiological or psychological stress, the adrenal glands should release appropriate levels of the necessary hormones to cope, however poor adrenal function can inhibit an individual’s ability to do so effectively. In the case of adrenal insufficiency/fatigue, it has also been shown that disruption to the HPA axis can lead to lower thyroid function, as well as inhibition of androgen synthesis (e.g. DHEA and testosterone). If a person experiences several of the symptoms highlighted above, then this test may be extremely beneficial to help to identify whether this is due to adrenal insufficiency.

What are the sample requirements & test turnaround?

The test requires 5 salivary samples to be taken at specific times throughout the day. Results are available within 15 working days.

 

Sources Cambridge Nutritional Science