Do you struggle with chronic fatigue and exhaustion on a daily basis? Do you depend on stimulants to make it through the day? Do you experience poor sleep, brain fog, cravings, or moodiness? If you answered yes to these, you may need adrenal support. In this article, I’m going to share how you can get accurate data on your adrenal health with the best adrenal fatigue test.
Debunking the Conventional Doctor’s View of Adrenal Fatigue
Before we dive into the best adrenal fatigue test, we need to confront the elephant in the room: does adrenal fatigue testing exist?
There’s a good chance that you’ve already tried to go to a general practitioner to figure out why you’re so tired all the time. There’s an even better chance that you left feeling frustrated and hopeless. Here’s the thing-most doctors get absolutely no training on this condition, which doesn’t mean that it isn’t a very real (and very debilitating) issue.
The medical model looks at organs as either “functional” or “failing”. This means that unless you are in 1 of 2 very severe cases, you will most likely be dismissed by your doctor.
The first case is where the adrenals are not producing the stress hormone cortisol or aldosterone at all or the production is so low that the condition is very severe. This is known as primary adrenal insufficiency or Addisons Disease. There is also secondary adrenal insufficiency which occurs when the pituitary gland doesn’t make enough of the hormone ACTH causing the adrenal glands to be unable to produce enough cortisol.
The second type of condition is an overproduction of cortisol known as Cushing’s Disease. The reference ranges for cortisol in both of these conditions are so extreme that conventional medical testing misses most cases where people are still dealing with crushing low energy. So if you’re not overproducing or under producing cortisol by an extremely severe amount, you’ll likely get no help because conventional testing won’t detect it.
I totally understand how frustrating this can be! It’s like the doctor has to wait until it’s irreversible to acknowledge your struggle.
Most conventional doctors also don’t like the term adrenal fatigue because it doesn’t accurately describe the etiology or origin of the problem. The root cause of adrenal fatigue is HPA axis dysregulation which is fueled by chronic stress. This condition is actually recognized by the medical system although their means for correcting it is largely non-existent or ineffective.
The good news is that I’ve been in your shoes before and don’t want you or anyone else to feel like it’s all in your head. After going through adrenal fatigue 5 times and consulting with clients all over the world, my husband and functional medicine practitioner, Dr. Jones, and I have discovered the best adrenal fatigue testing. Are you ready to feel validated and supported? Then keep reading because your healing journey has just begun.
The Best Adrenal Fatigue Test
Before we dive into our favorite go-to test for adrenal fatigue, let’s talk about the other options.
At-Home Test for Adrenal Fatigue
“When exploring the pupil area reflex, I found that in the iris of these cases [adrenal insufficiency], although reacting readily to light, the contraction was flabby, lazy, and in a word asthenic. By making the patient look at the light we see that immediately after the initial miosis the pupil starts to dilate slowly as if it does not want to, seems to try to contract again by the dilation gains the upper hand and, after a fight between miosis and mydriasis lasting for about 40 seconds, the pupil remains dilated in spite of the persistence of the exciting agent [the light]. This sign is consistent and present in all cases of hypoadrenia in all of its clinical forms. In the normal individual , it does not appear as I have investigated.” (Arroyo, CF. MEd Journ. and Rac., Jan. 2, 1924. Cxix, pg. 25.)
This quote comes from Dr. Arroyo after his discovery of a very useful method for detecting adrenal fatigue. You can do this method at home and all you need is a small flashlight or penlight, a mirror, and a watch with a second hand.
Darken the room, sit in a chair in front of the mirror. Then shine a flashlight across the eye (not directly into it) from the side of your head. Keep the light shining across one eye and watch in the mirror with the other.
The pupil normally remains contracted in the increased light, but if you have any form of adrenal fatigue, the pupil will not be able to hold its contraction and will dilate despite the light. This will take place within 2 minutes and last for about 30-45 seconds before it contracts again.
Low Blood Pressure and Postural Low Blood Pressure
Blood pressure can also be a good indicator of adrenal function. If you have a blood pressure drop when you stand up from a lying position, this almost always indicates low adrenal function according to the author of Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome, Dr. James Wilson.
You can measure blood pressure at home with a blood pressure gauge.
After you’ve secured your device, lie down for about 10 minutes. Take your blood pressure while lying down. Then, stand up and measure your blood pressure right after you stand. Normally, blood pressure will increase 10-20mmHG just from standing up. If it drops when you stand up, you may have some form of adrenal fatigue or you may be dehydrated (another common symptom of adrenal fatigue). Make sure to do this on a day when you are fully hydrated to get an accurate picture.
Sergeant’s White Line
Sergeant’s white line is present in about 40% of people with adrenal fatigue. To do this test, take the full end of a ballpoint pen and lightly stroke the skin of your abdomen, creating a 6 inch long mark. A line should appear in a few seconds. If you have adrenal fatigue, the line may stay white for about 10 minutes. Although this test is not always positive in people with adrenal fatigue, it can still be a good indicator or confirmation for those with positive results for adrenal dysfunction.
Lab Tests for Adrenal Fatigue
As we discussed, the standard laboratory tests do not detect adrenal fatigue in its varying degrees of severity. However, there is a lab test that accurately measures several adrenal hormones and its our favorite: the saliva hormone test.
Saliva hormone testing measures the amounts of adrenal hormones in your saliva. That means it will measure salivary cortisol to accurately measure your cortisol levels to see if you have an adrenal issue. This type of test is better than a blood test because saliva measures active forms of hormone whereas blood testing does not.
The saliva test is the best adrenal fatigue test because it is simple, accurate, reliable, economical, and many studies have validated its accuracy to measure the hormone levels within the cells. We also love a saliva test because it gives the best information by telling you the optimal range for hormone levels. Yup, not just cortisol, but also sex hormones. This is such an important part because when there is hormone imbalance in one system, the entire endocrine system is impacted.
We’ve used this test with all of our clients for the past 10+ years. It’s as easy as spitting into a small vial and sending it off in the mail. After that, it’s important to work with someone who knows how to interpret the data and then support you in your healing journey. That’s exactly what Dr. Jones and I do in our coaching program.
How We Use the Functional Hormone Testing
We use the functional hormone testing to confirm the signs and symptoms of adrenal fatigue. To make a distinction: functional health tests measure how the body is functioning whereas conventional lab tests are more focused on statistical norms. If you want to measure your health against the average American, then conventional testing is the way to go. If you want to set the bar much higher and measure your health against what is optimal for you to feel your best and function at the highest level, functional health testing is the way to go.
We start with a saliva test that measures cortisol levels at 5 different times per day. What we want to see is a diurnal cortisol curve. This means that cortisol follows a diurnal rhythm that ebbs and flows in a 24-hour pattern. Cortisol should be highest in the morning upon waking and gradually declines throughout the day where it is lowest at night before bed.
What we typically see with people struggling with adrenal fatigue is cortisol that is very low in the morning (which is why they wake up tired) and levels that are all over the place during the day: major imbalance.
Our test also looks at key sex hormones (estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, DHEA) and melatonin. Melatonin is important because it’s your body’s sleep hormone and deficiencies can severely impact your sleep.
Once your results come in, the lab will make a determination on whether or not you have adrenal fatigue and if so, to what degree. From that point, we walk you through our group coaching program and our plan for rejuvenation and transformation.
What is the best adrenal fatigue treatment?
Now that you’ve gotten proper testing, what is next?
If you have adrenal exhaustion and adrenal burnout, major lifestyle changes are in order. We provide you with the health info you need to get started on the right track to regain energy and vitality. This is a stress free experience, because adrenal stress is a root cause of your fatigue.
This is why one of the biggest things you can do to overcome adrenal fatigue is to develop a healthy stress response. The changes we make together in our program are simple (although not always easy) and sustainable. That means that what you learn in the program will not only massively shift your life for the better but it will also arm you with the tools to continue to live your best life.
It’s important to get started on the right track as soon as possible, because if left unchecked adrenal fatigue symptoms just get worse over time. You could experience an adrenal crisis such as chronic fatigue syndrome.
I hope this article helped you understand the different routes you can take for adrenal fatigue testing, and why saliva testing is our favorite. If you want help with overcoming your low energy, we invite you to sign up for our group coaching waitlist and be the first to be notified when doors open again.