Published March 26, 2011
Updated August 27, 2012
Many people with thyroid and autoimmune thyroid conditions have compromised adrenal glands. Despite this, most endocrinologists and other types of medical doctors don’t even evaluate the adrenal glands. This is true even when the patient’s case history indicates they have an obvious problem with their adrenals.
When I suspect that one of my patients has an adrenal gland problem, I will recommend what’s called an Adrenal Stress Index (ASI) test, which is a test conducted by the company Diagnos-Techs. This test requires the patient to obtain four different saliva samples at different points throughout the day, and it will help to reveal the health of the adrenal glands, and thus determine if additional adrenal support is indicated for those who are following a natural thyroid treatment protocol.
Of course the main reason why most endocrinologists and other medical doctors don’t evaluate the adrenal glands of their patients is because they don’t know how to effectively treat adrenal problems. Most will just recommend prescription drugs for such a condition, while some will completely dismiss the symptoms, thinking that it’s all in the patient’s head. Fortunately this blaming of patients isn’t as common as it was in the past, as more and more medical doctors are realizing that adrenal fatigue is a real condition, even if they aren’t sure how to treat it. Others will only recommend adrenal testing when they suspect a disease state, such as Addison’s Disease.
A Breakdown of The Adrenal Stress Index Test
Let’s take a look at what the ASI test measures:
Cortisol Levels: This is the primary hormone most holistic doctors will look at, as this test will measure four different cortisol levels throughout the day to determine if you have a proper circadian pattern. Normally the cortisol levels should be at the highest levels in the morning, and then decrease throughout the day. This pattern will help to give you the energy you need throughout the day, and the lower cortisol levels at night will allow you to fall asleep.
People with weak adrenal glands commonly have low cortisol levels in the morning. This was true when I had this test done after being diagnosed with Graves’ Disease, as while I didn’t feel like I had adrenal problems, the low cortisol levels on this test confirmed that I did in fact have weak adrenal glands. And if I didn’t take the necessary steps to correct this then over time the condition would have worsened, and most likely have developed into “full blown” adrenal fatigue.
However, some people also have high cortisol levels. This is considered an urgent situation, as high cortisol levels will put the body into a state of catabolism, which will break down the body, has the ability to break down bone, and tear down the gut mucosa. And someone who has high cortisol levels will need to follow a completely different protocol than someone who has low cortisol levels. It is common for the cortisol levels to be high in the initial stages of one’s thyroid or autoimmune thyroid condition, as this is the body’s response to chronic stress. But over a period of years the adrenal gland will weaken, which will eventually result in depressed morning cortisol levels.
One can’t just rely on symptoms alone to determine whether the cortisol levels are high or low. So for example, just because someone experiences fatigue throughout the day doesn’t mean they will have depressed cortisol levels. On the other hand, when I was diagnosed with Graves’ Disease I actually felt like I had a good amount of energy, yet I had low cortisol levels in the early and late morning. So this is why the only way of knowing whether someone has depressed or elevated cortisol levels is through proper testing.
DHEA/DHEA-S: DHEA is manufactured by the adrenal glands, and plays an important role in immunity and in the stress response. DHEAS is the sulfated version of DHEA. If someone deals with chronic stress on a regular basis, this will also weaken the adrenal glands, and chances are these hormone levels will be low. But just as is the case with the cortisol levels, it usually will take years for this to happen. As a result, it’s not uncommon for the people I consult with to have normal DHEA levels, although frequently they are on the low side.
17-OH Progesterone: A steroid hormone produced during the synthesis of glucocorticoids and sex steroids. This hormone is mainly produced in the adrenal glands, and when someone has weak adrenals these hormone levels will also commonly be depressed, although once again it takes time for this to happen.
Gliadin AB: This measures your sensitivity to gluten, which many people are allergic to. Consuming gluten when you’re allergic to it can cause a lot of problems, not only with the digestive system, but also with adrenal health. However, it’s important to keep in mind that this test can give false results for someone who has a compromised immune system, which of course is the case with Graves’ Disease and Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis. There is definitely more accurate testing available for those who want to test to see if they are sensitive to gluten. Cyrex labs is one of the newer labs with more accurate testing for gluten sensitivity problems.
Secretory IgA: An antibody found in the saliva that plays an important role in immunity. Low values can indicate a problem with your immune system, which is common with people who have weakened adrenal glands. This also relates to gut health, as when this value is low it frequently indicates problem with the gastrointestinal tract. It could be due to problems such as leaky gut syndrome, H. Pylori, parasites, or other factors.
How Can You Tell If You Need An Adrenal Test Index Test?
If you’re consulting with a natural endocrine doctor, or any competent healthcare professional, they will have you complete a detailed case history which will help determine if you have problems with your adrenal glands. Some of the more common symptoms include a feeling of exhaustion, sugar cravings, and sleep disturbances, although there other symptoms one can have. Assuming you have at least some of these symptoms, there is a good chance the doctor will recommend a test to determine the health of your adrenal glands. But as I mentioned earlier, you can’t rely on symptoms alone, and thus the absence of such symptoms doesn’t necessarily mean that a person has strong adrenal glands. There are companies other than Diagnos-Techs which have tests to measure the adrenal glands, but this is the company I personally use, and I have had a great experience with them so far.
While I don’t recommend self-treating adrenal fatigue, you can take some basic steps to help restore your health. If you read the book “Adrenal Fatigue, the 21st Century Syndrome” by Dr. James Wilson, he includes some detailed questionnaires to help determine if someone has an adrenal problem. Once again, while symptoms are important, you can’t rely on them alone. But I still find the questionnaires he provides to be useful. As for curing an adrenal problem, I have discussed this in other articles, and Dr. Wilson also talks about this in his book, and so I won’t go into detail here about this. Ultimately you should consult with a competent natural healthcare professional to detect and correct any adrenal gland issues.
If you follow the factors of health I’ve spoken about in the past, then this will have a dramatic improvement on your adrenal health (and your overall health as well), even if you don’t consult with a holistic doctor. This of course includes eating well, taking some quality nutritional supplements, getting sufficient sleep, exercising regularly, and doing a good job of managing stress. But for optimal results it’s best to speak with an expert.
In summary, the Adrenal Stress Index test is a valuable test that can be used to determine whether someone has a problem with their adrenal glands. Receiving this test can help provide the information a person needs to restore their health back to normal through a natural thyroid treatment protocol. So if you suspect that you have adrenal problems and want to receive the ASI test, then you should consult with a natural healthcare professional, as chances are your endocrinologist won’t recommend this test, and probably will be opposed to you obtaining it.
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