Adrenal Fatigue: How can I know for sure?
If you haven’t had a chance to read my blog post on Adrenal Fatigue yet go back and read that first.
Adrenal Fatigue – The Silent Epidemic
Disclaimer: I am not a healthcare professional. I am sharing what I have learned but you need to make your own decisions about your own health care. Consult with a health care professional that you trust for guidance in any changes that you are interested in making.
I’m going to remind you of the list I shared in the last post of symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue. This is not an exhaustive list and you only need one symptom from it to suspect adrenal fatigue. Obviously the more symptoms you have the more likely it is.
- Being tired all the time no matter how much sleep you get.
- Trouble getting up in the morning, “needing” a cup of coffee to get going
- craving salty and/or sweet foods
- mild depression
- increased respiratory infections/difficulty recovering from sickness
- allergies both food and airborne
- brain fog
- insomnia esp between 3-5 am
- Low Blood pressure
- sensitivity to light and/or cold
- irritability, anger, impatience
- panic/anxiety attacks
- burst of energy in the evening after dragging all day
Adrenal fatigue may be one aspect of another illness. That doesn’t mean that your adrenal fatigue doesn’t need to be addressed as well. The stress of that illness can wear out your adrenals quite quickly! For example,
“during the Spanish flu epidemic in 1919, according to the Archives of Internal Medicine, doctors autopsied 126 patients who had died in the flu epidemic. Of these, 103 showed adrenal gland atrophy and shriveling consistent with adrenal exhaustion, and another 3 cases had adrenal hypertrophy and swelling consistent with a state of extreme stress. The adrenals were exhausted in their effort to restore balance to the body during overwhelming infection, to the point that their depleted state was physically detectable upon autopsy and significantly contributed to their death.” (from here)
Adrenal exhaustion cannot be ignored!
If you have identified yourself in this list but you still aren’t convinced here are 3 tests that you can do yourself at home to confirm your suspicions.
Test #1: Iris Contraction Test – In a darkened room, sit in a chair in front of a mirror. Holding the flashlight at the side of your head, shine it across one eye (not into the eye). Watch what happens in the mirror. You should see your pupil contract immediately after the light hits the eye. The pupil will normally stay contracted, but if you have adrenal fatigue, the pupil won’t be able to hold its contraction and will dilate. This dilation will take place within 2 minutes and last for about 30-45 seconds before it contracts again. Time how long the dilation lasts and record it along with the date. Retest monthly as it serves as an indicator of recovery.
Test #2: Blood Pressure Test - If your blood pressure drops when you stand up from a lying position, this almost always indicates low adrenals. This can be measured with a blood pressure gauge (a sphygmomanometer), which you can buy at a drug store. Make sure to purchase the type that doesn’t require a stethoscope to take your blood pressure. Make sure to do this test when you are well hydrated or it could give you a false positive. Lie down quietly for about 10 minutes, then take your blood pressure (while still lying down). Then stand up and measure your blood pressure immediately upon standing. Normally blood pressure will rise 10-20mmHg from standing up. If your blood pressure drops, you likely have adrenal fatigue. The more severe the drop, the more severe the adrenal fatigue.
Test #3: Sergent’s White Line - This is only present in about 40% of people with Adrenal Fatigue, but if the test is positive, it’s a “slam dunk” confirmation. With a ballpoint pen, take the cap end of the pen and lightly stroke the skin on your abdomen, making a mark about 6″ long. Within a few seconds, a line should appear. In a normal reaction, the mark is initially white, but reddens within a few seconds. If you have Adrenal Fatigue, the line will stay white for about 2 minutes and will also widen.
Now that you feel confident that adrenal fatigue is likely an issue for you, you need to do one more test. This absolutely must happen before you can start treating your adrenal fatigue with herbs or drugs. No, you can’t figure this out some other way. The kind of test you want is a diurnal saliva test. That is you will take samples of your saliva 4 or 6 times in a 24 hour period and send them off to be tested. (You could also do a blood test at the right intervals but who wants to do that? Plus finding a lab to draw it after 10 pm could be tricky). My family sees a Dr who will order this test but many Dr’s don’t know about this kind of testing and will not order it. If your Dr won’t order it it is possible to order it yourself. You can do that at Canary Club. The cost is $109.
If you have not done this test it is very difficult to know how to treat your adrenals effectively although there are some general things you can do no matter what your cortisol pattern looks like. It is important that you not be taking anything that will effect your cortisol levels for 2-3 weeks before you take the test. Getting an exhaustive list of things that effect cortisol is difficult since there are so many. The most common substances are hydrocortisone, anti-anxiety meds, some anti-depressants, herbal adrenals supplements, asthma inhalers, melatonin, zinc, and prednisone. What I did was go off of most supplements for those 2 weeks and researched anything I felt would be difficult to live without (google the supplement name and cortisol together). Foods also can effect cortisol but changing your diet is not necessary for accurate testing. If you usually consume coffee it is ok to do so on the day of the testing at your normal rate but do follow the instructions for fasting.
You should get your test results in 1-2 weeks. My next post will be about what you can do to help your adrenals to heal. In the meantime get more sleep and avoid stress as much as possible!
Do you have any questions about testing your adrenals? Did you do any of the self tests? What were your results? Share in the comments.
Adrenal Fatigue: What Can I Do About it?