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Saliva testing for adrenal stress – why do it?

Saliva testing for adrenal & HPA dysfunction

Why use saliva testing for adrenal stress?  You can test the adrenals using blood, saliva and urine.  However, if you want to understand the delicate relationship between the hypothalamus, pituitary and the adrenal glands, then you want to run a salivary test that will give you the information you are seeking on the HPA relationship.

What is HPA axis?

HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-HPA) axis dysfunction is involved in virtually every physiological process in the body. It does not matter whether the condition is caused by, or simply correlated with, an increase or decrease in HPA axis dysfunction (otherwise known as maladaptation to stress).

Unhealthy lifestyle habits (poor diet, inadequate exercise, insufficient sleep, lack of relaxation, and internalizing emotional stress) are sources of chronic stress that may be underlying causes of HPA axis dysfunction and hormone imbalance. Other common sources of chronic stress include: food sensitivities, inflammation, GI infections, and heavy metals. Chronic stress erodes health and compromises longevity by impairing the function of critical systems in the body.

Under chronic stress, the HPA axis downregulates the output of cortisol—often referred to as the “stress hormone.” The principal hormones produced by the HPA glands—cortisol, DHEA, aldosterone, testosterone, estrogens, and progesterone—can all suffer when HPA axis dysfunction or maladaptation to stress occurs. Saliva testing for adrenal and HPA dysfunction allows us to see this imbalance and therfore correct it.

Saliva testing for adrenal stress

When we measure cortisol in a four-point diurnal test,we are not only looking at the health of the adrenal glands, but rather we are assessing the entire system that responds to those stressors which ultimately results in the output of cortisol and DHEA(S) from the adrenal glands. The cortisol and DHEA(S) that we measure are an end-result of a carefully orchestrated stress response involving the HPA axis.  If you test the adrenals with a blood test,you are only measuring cortisol in that moment. You will not understand what is happening over the day and night.
 

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is a catabolic hormone while DHEA is an anabolic hormone that grows and repairs.

Cortisol is often referred to as the “stress hormone”. However, cortisol is much more than a stress response hormone.  If you understand cortisol and it’s affect on your body, then you will understand how to balance your hormones and achieve good health.

What is DHEA?

DHEA  (Dehydroepiandrosterone) is a hormone that comes from the adrenal gland. The brain also produces this hormone.  DHEA leads to the production of androgens and estrogens (male and female sex hormones).

Levels in the body decrease after age 30.   DHEA levels decrease more quickly in women. People with hormonal disorders, HIV/AIDS, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, depression, diabetes, inflammation, immune disorders, and osteoporosis have lower levels of DHEA.

Corticosteroids, oral birth control and anti-psychiatric medicine contribute to the reduction of DHEA.  This anabolic hormone is used to help treat depression, obesity and osteoporosis.  DHEA is known as a pro-hormone and associated with longevity, muscle mass and strength.

Measuring cortisol

Measuring cortisol levels within the first hour of awakening provides us with insight into how vital the HPA axis is in responding to stress. Waking up in the morning is like a mini stress test for the HPA axis. If cortisol is excessively elevated, we know the system is revved too high and is in a highly reactive stress response. If the values are low, we know the HPA axis may be weakened due to chronic stress (a downregulation of the system), chronic
inflammatory signaling, sleep issues, or disorders like PTSD, chronic fatigue syndrome or seasonal affective disorder.
 

Saliva testing for adrenal stressHPA Stress profile saliva test

The HPA Stress Profile saliva test provides us with information regarding how well an individual maintains an adequate cortisol output throughout the day. HPA axis dysfunction can present with several different patterns.  So it is important to identify these patterns.  These patterns are identified as different stages of HPA dysfunction. There are 3 stages varying from mildy dysfunctional to complete break down.  We design programs around the different stages.  And lifestyle changes are an important part of any program.
 
These stressors are prevalent in our lives and undermine our health on many levels.  This is where your body break down begins.  Therefore it stands to reason that this is the first place we should be checking your health.  By running this salivary test and asking you to complete the stress profile, we can determine whether you are responding in a healthy manner or not. And if you are not responding in a healthy manner, then how damaged is your response?
 
Kelway Health designs programs to balance your HPA dysfunction and adrenal stress.  And lastly I will just say this, different labs use different methods for analyzing the saliva.  Kelway Health uses a laboratory that freezes the samples right until it arrives at the labs. This method ensures more accurate testing. So it is not just the type of testing but the method of analysis too. Be sure to ask about the process when your health professional suggests a saliva test.
 

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