Markers tested: Cortisol (morning, noon, evening, and night)
What is cortisol?
Cortisol is one of the stress hormones produced in adrenal glands. It has important role in metabolism to break down carbohydrates, lipids, and proteins. A well defined 24 hour circadian pattern is an important characteristic of cortisol. The levels peak around 30 minutes after waking up and then gradually drop throughout the day.
Why measure cortisol levels?
Change in the normal cortisol circadian rhythm can be caused by many issues including chronic stress, adrenal fatigue, burnout, or problems with adrenal glands. Chronically high levels are especially bad as they may result in increased appetite and weight gain. Excessive levels cause muscle loss, immune suppression, water retention, and bloating. Low levels are also bad since deficiency can result in fatigue, sluggishness, and low energy.
Checking cortisol levels can help identify potential problems with adrenal glands. Very high levels are indication of Cushing syndrome and unusually low levels indicate Addison’s disease. Therefore, diurnal cortisol test assessing the circadian rhythm profile is crucial to diagnose issues related to the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands) hormone balance.
How to test for cortisol levels?
An easy, low cost method of measuring your levels is by using an cortisol level test at home. Simply order this 4 point salivary cortisol test kit, collect the sample at home, ship it for free to our world class CLIA-certified labs, and find out your levels within days. Unlike a cortisol blood test a saliva sample makes it especially useful for those fearful of needles.
We also offer a cortisol am test and cortisol pm test as an alternative. The Cortisol AM-PM Saliva Test Kit measures levels in the morning and evening.
Be informed, read more…
For a detailed discussion about symptoms of low and high cortisol levels, a comparison of cortisol blood test versus saliva test cortisol, main reasons to get tested, the convenience of an at home saliva cortisol test, the important role it plays in weight gain, adrenal fatigue, muscle loss, and more, please read: All About Cortisol.
You can also read an overview of stress hormone test at MedLinePlus.gov and at WebMD. ZRT lab has an excellent discussion and plots of diurnal cortisol curves for healthy individuals as well as patients with chronic stress, chronic fatigue, and burnout symptoms. Finally, you can learn more about the intricate details of a salivary testing cortisol levels for Cushing Syndrome from the experts at Mayo Clinic.
Learn more (1): What are Adrenal Glands?
The adrenal glands are a pair of glands on top of each kidney. They produce five key hormones:
- Three steroid hormones: testosterone, DHEA, and aldosterone
- Two non-steroid hormones: adrenaline and noradrenaline
Adrenaline hormones have a classic 4-ring backbone structure derived from cholesterol (examples are testosterone, estrogen, progesterone).
There are two types of steroid hormones:
- Anabolic hormones: they build muscle tissue and promote fat loss; testosterone is good example
- Catabolic hormones: they act as a balance to anabolic hormones by accumulating fat and helping raise blood sugar by breaking down muscles and bones; cortisol is a good example
Learn more (2): Cortisol and Pregnancy:
The circadian rhythm of free cortisol in pregnant women starts to change around 20th week of pregnancy. Although the diurnal rhythm remains, mean levels increase 1.5-2-times and morning levels increase several times higher than normal levels. Another important observation is that the peak levels lag behind approximately 90 minutes likely due to delayed activation of the HPA axis. The external stimulation of CRH does not increase ACTH as well as salivary cortisol levels support this observation. The levels return back to normal after 5-7 days of delivery. Original publication: Psychoneuroendocronology, Vol. 19, No. 4, 1999 (page 317).