We are heading into the final stretch of To Burnout and Back: A Series on Adrenal Fatigue.
The stories have been fascinating, intriguing, and inspiring. I hope you have identified with one, or all of these amazing women. You are now wondering, “Could this be me?” so you take the adrenal fatigue quiz. You score in a realm that requires further testing. You are ready to get conclusive evidence that you suffer from adrenal fatigue.
Before we dive in, here is the re-cap of the last two weeks:
To Burnout and Back: A Series on Adrenal Fatigue (My story)
Adrenal Fatigue: What is it and do I have it? (Megan’s Story)
Adrenal Fatigue: Is this for Real (Mandi’s Story)
Tiny Glands with a Supersized Job
Running…Right into a Wall ( Julia’s Story)
The Pursuit of an Adrenal Fatigue Diagnosis (Kelly’s Story)
It is very liberating to realize that there may be an ACTUAL problem…not just a new normal that…well…SUCKS. It’s amazing what lab results on a piece of paper, that you can hold in your hand, show to everyone you know, and read over and over, can do for your psyche. I was so fearful that my results would end up as a “Normal.” I knew that SOMETHING HAD TO BE wrong with me. It couldn’t be all psychosomatic…or could it? Oh, the self-doubt! The desperation for answers. The longing for a source of the problem. I needed something that I could fix!
The testing process for adrenal dysfunction is relatively simple. The first step: find a Naturopath you trust. Have the discussion and request testing.
What does a test look for?
As we discussed in Tiny Glands with a Supersized Job, the adrenals secrete numerous hormones, however, cortisol is the primary concern when it comes to adrenal fatigue. Testing for adrenal dysfunction will look at the levels of cortisol in your system either as a cumulative count or a functional count.
Some tests also include levels of the following hormones:
- DHEA – the “buffer” to excess cortisol damage
Other important aspects related to your adrenals can be tested, such as:
- Blood glucose level
- Immunity level
- IgA levels (allergen response/food intolerance)
There are a couple different ways to test your cortisol level. The first would be a blood test. This would require a blood draw from your doctor’s office or lab. The problem with this method is two-fold:
- To receive a proper analysis of your cortisol level, you need a functional test. This requires samples of blood at four different times in a day. I don’t know about you, but I don’t want to be a pincushion unless ABSOLUTELY necessary.
- Most people are not comfortable with blood draws and become anxious. Anxiety causes your cortisol to spike (that’s why you are getting tested, right?), which can result in inaccurate results.
This may be your only option if you see your regular physician for testing.
A less invasive functional test of your adrenals would be a saliva test or “spit” test. All that is required is your spit at four specific times throughout the day: 8 am, Noon, 4 pm, and bedtime. Capture that spit in a tube and mail it to the lab. Voila! Done. My test came with little sponges that I put under my tongue to soak up my spit. Very easy.
Most Integrative Medicine Practitioners (Functional Medicine MDs and Naturopaths) use this method, however, your general practice physician may grant your request as well.
Other things to look for
Something you may be able to do on your own includes taking your blood pressure and body temperature throughout the day. Or, just notice: Are you dizzy when you stand up or for no noticeable reason? Are you colder or hotter than normal? These are signs of adrenal issues. These are also signs of a thyroid problem, so do not use this as a formal diagnosis.
Testing Completed: Treatment
Your treatment plan will vary depending on your specific diagnosis. Maybe your cortisol levels are borderline, or high at the wrong times, or just completely flat. Your level of dysfunction will warrant different treatment, however, there are lifestyle changes that are needed by anyone suffering from adrenal dysfunction:
- Get more rest! In bed by 10 pm is advised…earlier if possible!
- Avoid stimulation before bedtime: TV, computer, and cell phones
- Decrease your stress level: relationships, work, added responsibilities – things that ratchet up that cortisol!
A few dietary changes a very helpful:
- Avoid caffeine, sugar, and excess starches
- If you have a known food allergy, steer clear of it!
- Not sure of a food allergy? You can avoid the common offenders: gluten, dairy, soy, corn, and eggs.
- Adding in lots of leafy greens and colorful vegetables
- Bolster your protein with quality lean meats
Blood sugar levels need to be stabilized:
- Eat small meals about 4-6 times a day if you notice a dip in energy
- Avoid processed and refined foods (I call these non-foods)
Supplementation to bolster your body in this fight:
- Whole food supplement - extra fruits and veggies!
- Vitamin D3
- B vitamins
- Magnesium supplement
- Specific antioxidants
This will depend on your specific test results and your practitioner. This was a HUGE piece for me, so don’t discount these medications and higher grade supplements. Always seek the support of a trusted medical professional. Here is a short list of pharmaceuticals for adrenal dysfunction:
- Bovine adrenal gland – yup…cow parts
- Cortisol inhibitors
- Adrenal supporters
- Other hormone supplements such as DHEA, progesterone, etc
Remember, there are other disorders that may mimic adrenal fatigue. Like I mentioned above, thyroid dysfunction is one of them. I advise that you NOT self-treat, but see your practitioner to get tested. You could do more harm than good if you are wrong in your self-diagnosis. Use this list as a guide and a references, not a diagnostic tool.
Need a practitioner? Find one near you right HERE.
Here are a couple in my area:
Disclaimer: This series is not meant to treat or diagnose your illness. I am merely giving you information so you can make an informed decision on how you would like to proceed with your chosen practitioner. Thanks!