WIN-ning Wednesday: Testing Salivary Cortisol

Cortisol has had a fair bit of attention on it the last few years.  Cortisol balance has been linked to everything from hard to lose belly fat, to sleep issues, to energy levels.  This hormone, and the place it comes from, the Adrenal Glands, have been the focus of many books, articles and research.  There is a great deal of wonderment as to how much this hormone influences an individual’s state of health.

As a response to stress, the adrenals release cortisol, DHEA, adrenaline and noradrenaline.  The prolonged presence of these hormones in the bloodstream leads to stress related wear on the body.  Consistently high cortisol can lead to feeling tired but wired, difficulty sleeping and anxiety.  Too much cortisol can also interfere with female hormone balance.  Finally, if the adrenals are constantly responding to stress, they can eventually reach an exhaustion stage.  When they are depleted there can then be an opposite effect of not enough cortisol being secreted which can lead to fatigue (particularly in the morning), weakened immunity, feeling burned out, depression and low libedo.

The level of stress in a person’s day impacts cortisol secretion.  Skilled Naturopathic Doctors can determine if a person is experiencing adrenal exhaustion based on their history and a physical exam.  In addition, Naturopathic Doctors can utilize salivary hormone testing to get a clear and concise picture of how balanced cortisol levels are.

Normal cortisol levels are often high in the morning and decline through the day and are at their lowest point in the evening.  A salivary hormone test for cortisol can reveal if cortisol levels are rising and falling within range over the course of a day.

Cortisol levels can be mapped out by using saliva testing.  From the comfort of a person’s home, the can prepare four saliva specimens: morning, before lunch, before dinner and before bedtime.  The cortisol levels for each point are graphed according to the reference range for that time period.  We can obtain valuable information through this test and often can see if there is too little or too much cortisol in the morning, what levels are like through the day, or if levels are abnormally elevated before bed.

Using blood cortisol levels is not as helpful in understanding the physiological impact of stress on a person’s body. Cortisol done through blood work does not track the change in the hormone through the course of the day.  Moreover, blood cortisol levels are often normal in most individuals, and elevated blood cortisol levels are associated with pathological illnesses such as adrenal or pituitary tumour, liver or kidney disease, surgery or longstanding use of corticosteroids.

Testing cortisol through saliva is an excellent way to get an in-depth and individualized understanding of how a person’s body is responding to stress.  In addition, once a person’s cortisol secretion pattern is known through testing, a Naturopathic Doctor can recommend specific natural remedies, nutritional strategies and lifestyle ideas to help correct the imbalances.

Salivary hormone testing is a cutting edge therapeutic tool that can help shed new light on a number of common health issues that many people struggle with.  Visit a licensed Naturopathic Doctor to learn more about salivary hormone testing, to see if you can benefit from a salivary cortisol test and to find solutions for stress related health concerns.

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