Stress is unavoidable, which makes stress management important for maintaining health.
Everyone experiences stress at times, but how well we cope with stress depends on a number of factors, one of which is hormone balance. The body’s experience of stress is carefully mapped out by a series of hormone responses.
Fight or Flight
In an extremely stressful situation, the body releases bursts of the hormones cortisol, adrenaline and noradrenaline to prepare for a “fight or flight” response. High levels of cortisol free up stored energy to help the body physically resist or flee from physical danger.
Unlike the physical stressors of past centuries, our modern-day stresses tend to be less dramatic, but of longer duration. This means that cortisol levels may stay mildly elevated, resulting in symptoms like feeling tired but wired, difficulty sleeping, and anxiety. Excess cortisol also interferes with the action of other hormones (progesterone, testosterone and thyroid), creating more hormone imbalance and more symptoms.
With continued stress, the adrenal glands may become depleted from producing too much cortisol or may reduce cortisol production significantly in response to the detrimental effects of high cortisol.
Symptoms of low cortisol may include fatigue (particularly morning fatigue), increased susceptibility to infection, decreased recovery from exercise, allergies, low blood sugar, burned out feeling, depression and low sex drive. Other adrenal hormones can be affected, particularly aldosterone and DHEA. Low aldosterone may result in reduced sodium and potassium levels. Symptoms of low DHEA are not well defined, although low DHEA is often associated with chronic illness.
Why Get an Adrenal Function Panel?
Since cortisol is the major stress hormone produced by the adrenal glands, measurement of cortisol levels may be a useful means of assessing ability to cope with stress.
Our Medical Tests