Stress, Anxiety and Your Adrenal Health

Living in the 21st century is often frenetic, chaotic and very challenging which can easily lead to an unbalanced lifestyle.

anxiety and depression caused by cortisol adrenal hormones

Commonly, people experience ongoing emotional and/or physical stressors without enough time to recover and re-balance. Your adrenal hormones will become compromised on the cortisol roller coaster.   

The adrenals are two small glands that sit on top of each kidney. The adrenal glands produce three types of steroid hormones:

• Glucocorticoids (cortisol)
• Mineralocorticoids (aldosterone)
• Androgens (DHEA/DHEAS)

Cortisol enables the body to respond and adapt to the stresses of daily life. It also helps to maintain blood sugar levels and promote a healthy immune system.

Aldosterone works to balance salt and water in the body.

Androgens secreted by the adrenals provide the majority of DHEA for both men and women.

For women, the adrenal glands are the major source of testosterone. Imbalances in the adrenal system can contribute to problems with the nervous and immune systems, body composition difficulties, blood sugar irregularities, and high androgen levels.

Cortisol levels tend to be higher in the morning to get you going for the day, as well as during times of stress, exercise and excitement, and in reaction to low blood sugar.  Levels tend to decrease as the day progresses. However, too much physical or emotional stress over a prolonged period can cause the glands to reduce their output of adrenal hormones. This is of particular significance for women in midlife, as the adrenal glands become the main source of hormone production after menopause.

When stress is poorly managed, the adrenal function may be compromised. People with adrenal imbalance will often have normal cortisol levels in the morning, with below-normal levels at other times during the day. People with chronic stress may have unnaturally elevated cortisol levels throughout the day and they often have trouble winding down at night to sleep. 

Other symptoms of excess cortisol may include anxiety, depression, and chronic fatigue. Often these symptoms are not alleviated with sleep. Symptoms of reduced cortisol secretion include increased susceptibility to infections, reduced tolerance for stress, sugar and carbohydrate cravings, allergic reactions, chemical sensitivities, a tendency to feel cold, and extreme fatigue.

Cortisol hormone saliva testing can help chart the extent to which cortisol levels indicate an adrenal imbalance. Diurnal testing requires four separate saliva collections, measuring cortisol at four designated times in the day: morning, afternoon, evening, and bedtime, so that adrenal function can be fully evaluated. During the compensatory period, the glands will secrete increased cortisol to match increased demand. Over time, however, total cortisol output may decline to the point where the body cannot mount a response to stress, and illness ensues.

Treating the adrenals requires a strategic plan that looks at the whole person and his or her lifestyle. Stress management is often included as part of the complete program and may include some form of meditation, yoga or other meditative martial art, and counseling.


All the following include tests for the adrenal hormones: diurnal 4x cortisol and DHEA-S.

Advanced Saliva Hormone Test - at home testing for estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, cortisol and DHEA-S (ZRT)AdvancedPlus - A comprehensive profile of thyroid, sex, and adrenal hormones, plus Vitamin D.

HIS AdvancedPlus - The above but with a PSA test for men (no Vit D).

Advanced Saliva Profile - Sex and adrenal hormones only (no thyroid or Vit D).

Adrenal Stress Test - Dirurnal 4x cortisol and DHEA-S to focus on adrenal health.

Cortisol Awakening Response - Tests cortisol 6x in a day: Three within an hour of waking, then three more throughout the day. (No DHEA-S).

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