In the meantime, read on for more on adrenal fatigue (how it differs from adrenal insufficiency) and how to recover from it.
For what it’s worth, I took the Labrix at-home saliva test for Adrenal Hormone Function. It involves spitting into a tube upon waking, shortly after waking, noon, evening and night. Your cortisol levels have a natural rise and drop throughout the day, so mapping the pattern via saliva is a more convenient way than via one blood test, since the levels can fluctuate quite a bit depending on when the blood is drawn.
Exhaustion and fatigue: If you feel yourself dragging throughout the day, even after plenty of sleep, or dozing off during meetings, that’s an indication that your cortisol levels have been exhausted, and your whole body feels it. If you’ve ever pulled all-nighters to get through exams, then gotten home and slept for 5 days straight (and potentially also come down with the flu) this is low grade adrenal fatigue. In the real world, our exams don’t come along once a quarter, and it’s when a finals week situation turns into a full month of added stress and bad habits, that things can really go awry for your adrenals.
Especially if you’re a woman during the holiday season, juggling family obligations, end of year office grunt work, and a finely calibrated hormonal motherboard. So yeah, that’s everyone right?
Dehydration and dry skin : I talk about this one a bit in the water chapter of The Wellness Project book. Since the adrenals sit just above your kidneys, their other main function is to control your water levels. The more stress you have, the more hormones and salt they send out to circulate in the body. When your stress levels fall, all that sodium needs to be evacuated. Just think of a nervous puppy that has to pee all the time. That’s the stressed-out you, constantly flushing fluids, along with sodium, down the toilet. People with adrenal fatigue can drink their full daily water quota and still be dehydrated. If your lips are perpetually chapped and your skin is dry, yet you’re drinking plenty of water, it might be an indication that some electrolyte supplements are needed.
Adrenal fatigue, on the other hand, can be tested for using an at-home saliva test, which is more convenient, but not always covered by insurance. The feeling that testing for adrenal fatigue is unnecessary has also been seconded by plenty of holistic practitioners, since the reality of the matter, as I joked earlier, is that there are so many women who could benefit from more adrenal support.
Ideally, your cortisol levels are highest in the morning, around 8am. Think of it as the body’s natural caffeine, helping us stay tuned in during the day. It gradually tapers off through the afternoon and evening, and hits its lowest point at 3am, since you need very little motivation while sleeping.
There’s much debate in the medical community about whether adrenal fatigue is an actual syndrome. The full-blown expression is Addison’s disease, also known as adrenal insufficiency, and you can test for it using the ACTH Stimulation Test, where cortisol levels are checked in the blood before and after a synthetic hormone (ACTH) is given by injection.