Many hormones are produced in the Adrenal Gland. After a woman reaches menopause the adrenal gland produces most of the sex hormones. The adrenal gland also produces cortisol and DHEA.
Cortisol has many functions in the body. It is a major stress hormone and has become synonymous with “stress”. In addition to being involved with stress reactions, cortisol is involved with balancing blood sugar, weight control, immune system response, rate of bone turnover, sleep and protein synthesis. It influences the testosterone/estrogen ratio, and the DHEA/insulin ratio. Cortisol is important in acute stress situations. It can mean the difference between life and death. However it can have negative consequences in a chronic stress situation where the cortisol level is raised over a long period of time. Some of these consequences are fatigue, irritability, sugar cravings, sleep disturbances, weight gain, muscle weakness, easy bruising. In addition, the immune system is decreased, osteoporosis risk is increased and it also has negative effects on blood pressure, cholesterol, triglycerides, blood sugar, insulin/insulin resistance and risk of infections.
Eventually the adrenal gland loses the ability to make cortisol. Your cortisol and DHEA levels drop and you become “adrenally exhausted”. This can result in extreme exhaustion, low blood pressure, insomnia, digestive problems, emotion imbalances, low blood sugar and decreased sexual interest.
Testing Cortisol & DHEA
A 4-point saliva test is a good way to test your daily cortisol pattern and DHEA levels. Four test tubes are given with instructions and timing of collection. This is then sent to a lab and the results arrive in approximately. 2 weeks