The Adrenal Stress Index

The adrenals are two small glands, each weighing 3 to 5 grams, which are located above the kidneys. The adrenals have one of the highest rates of blood flow per gram of tissue, and the highest content of Vitamin C per gram of any tissue in the body.

Each adrenal gland is composed of two separate functional entities. The outer zone, or cortex, accounts for 80% to 90% of the gland, and secretes adrenal steroids (Cortisol, DHEA(S) and Aldosterone). The inner zone, or medulla, comprises 10% to 20% of the gland, and secretes the catecholamines adrenaline and nor-adrenaline. Cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline are the three main adrenal stress hormones.

The Adrenal Rhythm and Its Importance

The human adrenal gland does not secrete its steroid hormones at a constant level throughout the day. The hormones are actually released in a cycle with the highest value in the morning and the lowest value at night.
This is easily understood by looking at Figure 1. This 24-hour cycle is called the circadian rhythm. An abnormal adrenal rhythm can influence many functions of the body, some of which are listed below.

24-hour cycle-circadian rhythm chart

1. Energy production

Abnormal adrenal function can alter the ability of cells to produce energy for activities of daily living. People, who have a hard time rising in the morning, or who suffer with a low energy level during the day, often have abnormal adrenal rhythms and poor blood sugar regulation.

The maintenance of a stable blood sugar level depends on food choice, lifestyle, adrenal function and insulin activity. This panel measures stress hormones and insulin, to help ferret out causes of fatigue, cravings and obesity.

2. Muscle and joint function

Abnormal adrenal rhythms are known to compromise tissue healing. Reduced tissue repair and increased tissue breakdown can lead to muscle and joint breakdown with chronic pain.

3. Bone health

The adrenal rhythm determines how well we build bone. If the night Cortisol level is elevated and the morning level is too high, our bones do not rebuild well, and we are more prone to the osteoporotic process. Stress is the enemy of the bones. In postmenopausal women, the effect of stress worsens due to the female hormone imbalances.

4. Immune health

Various immune cells (white blood cells) cycle in and out of the spleen and bone marrow for special conditioning, and possible nourishment and instructions. This immune system trafficking follows the Cortisol cycle. So, if the cycle is disrupted, especially at night, then the immune system is adversely affected.

Short and long-term stress is known to suppress the immune response on the surfaces of our body as in lungs, throat, urinary and intestinal tract. With the reduction in the surface antibody (called secretory IgA), the resistance to infection is reduced and allergic reactions are believed to increase.

5. Sleep quality

The ability to enter REM sleep cycles, i.e. regenerative sleep, is interrupted by high Cortisol values at night and in the morning. Chronic lack of REM sleep can reduce the mental vitality and vigor of a person and induce depression.

6. Skin regeneration

Human skin regenerates mostly during the night. With higher night Cortisol values, less skin regeneration takes place. So, a normal Cortisol rhythm is essential for optimal skin health.

7. Thyroid function

The level of Cortisol at the cell level controls thyroid hormone production. Quite often, hypothyroid symptoms such as fatigue and low body temperature are due to an adrenal maladaptation.

8. Impaired Growth Hormone Uptake

Growth hormone production declines rapidly after the age of about 24, correlating directly on the effects of, and symptoms of aging. Maintenance of one’s natural production of GH is a paramount goal of any anti-aging program. Unfortunately, Cortisol is a GH antagonist and moderate elevations of Cortisol after 10:00 PM, as little as 5%, cause an inhibition of GH release. A critical marker of overall hormonal health is the ratio of serum Cortisol to DHEA(s). Under normal conditions Cortisol is held in balance, or a state of homeostasis, by DHEA. Unfortunately, DHEA production begins to decline after about age 25, dropping by about 80-85% of peak production levels by age 75. Just as our DHEA levels are falling, Cortisol levels begin to elevate in response to stress. The effect of this dysfunctional adrenal rhythm, particularly, the circadian variation of Cortisol levels, can have profoundly negative and serious side effects on our health.

9. Grain intolerance and stress

About 12-18% of the U.S. population suffers from a genetic intolerance to grain. Specifically, a high incidence occurs in Celtic, Germanic, and Nordic derivation. The gut becomes inflamed within 30 minutes after consuming the grains and this can lead to an adrenal stress response, increased Cortisol and reduced DHEA.

(Several other functions that go beyond the scope of the pamphlet are also Cortisol and DHEA dependent.)

The Adrenal Stress Index™ (ASI™)

Four saliva samples are used in the ASI™ for the following tests:

*This statement has not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure or prevent any disease.
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