The Adrenal Stress Index
Advantages of the ASI™
Abnormal adrenal rhythm can influence:
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The Adrenal Stress Index™ Panel Can:
The adrenals are two small glands, each weighing 3 to 5 grams, that 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 24-hour cycle is called the circadian rhythm and is depicted in Figure 1. An abnormal adrenal rhythm can influence many functions of the body, some of which are described below. Energy production Abnormal adrenal function can alter the ability of cells to produce energy for the activities of daily life. People who have a hard time rising in the morning, or who suffer from low energy throughout 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. The Adrenal Stress Index™ panel measures stress hormones and insulin, to help ferret out the causes of fatigue, cravings and obesity.
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 wasting with chronic pain.
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 osteoporosis. Stress is the enemy of the bones. In postmenopausal women, the effect of stress worsens due to female hormone imbalances.
Various immune cells (white blood cells) cycle in and out of the spleen and bone marrow. The immune system trafficking follows the cortisol cycle. 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 in the lungs, throat, urinary tract and intestines. With the reduction in the surface antibody (called secretory IgA), the resistance to infection is reduced and allergic reactions are believed to increase.
The ability to enter REM sleep cycles and experience regenerative sleep is interrupted by high cortisol values at night and in the morning. Chronic lack of REM sleep can reduce a person’s mental vitality and vigor and induce depression.
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 (see Figure 2.)
The level of cortisol at the cell level controls thyroid hormone production. Often, hypothyroid symptoms such as fatigue and low body temperature are due to an adrenal maladaptation.
Grain intolerance and stress response
Approximately 12% to 18% of the U.S. population suffers from a genetic intolerance to grain. A high incidence occurs in people with Celtic, Nordic, non-caucasian and Mediterranean ethnicity. The gut becomes inflamed within 30 minutes after consuming 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- Ask your doctor for more information.)
The Adrenal Stress Index™ (ASI™)
Four saliva samples are used in the ASI™ for the following tests: