My Adrenal Stress/Hormone Saliva Panel Results
I’ve talked about the Functional Diagnostic Nutrition (FDN) program that I’m doing before. This course teaches me how to use various labs to uncover malfunctions at the subclinical level within the Hormone, Immune, Digestion, Detoxification, Energy Production and Nervous Systems. We can then give client’s recommendations based on FDN’s DRESS protocol to support the bodies innate healing ability. DRESS stands for Diet, Rest, Exercise, Stress reduction and Supplements. The really fun part is that I get to run labs on myself first and then on two test clients. The first lab we run is called the BioHealth 205, which is an Adrenal Stress/Hormone Saliva Panel. I thought it would be interesting to show you my results and the steps I’m taking and have taken to improve my health.
This post is personal but I hope that it can help others or maybe inspire others to dig deeper to achieve optimal health. I took the BH205 on October 7th, 2014 so need to retest soon to see where I’m at, as that was over 8 months ago already! The 205 tests cortisol 4 times throughout the day (morning, noon, afternoon and nighttime) to actually see what your circadian rhythm is doing. It also tests your DHEA twice and averages it, as well as Estradiol (your dominant estrogen), Progesterone, Testosterone and Melatonin. Melatonin gives us a look into gut function, as 80% is created in the gut and also gives a look at the circadian rhythm.
FDN has their own optimal ranges, as the lab reference ranges use a large population of people that aren’t necessarily healthy and then averages their results. The optimal ranges for morning cortisol is 12-20, noon is 6-7, afternoon is 5-6 and nighttime is 1.3-2. As you can see from the above results none of my levels were in the optimal range. Let’s take a closer look:
Morning: 5.2 (optimal: 12-20)
Noon: 1.9 (optimal: 6-7)
Afternoon: 0.6 (optimal: 5-6)
Nighttime: 3.4 (optimal: 1.2-2)
Sum: 11.0 (optimal: 33-35)
My morning, noon and afternoon cortisol levels were all low and my nighttime cortisol level was high. No wonder I’m sooo tired when my alarm clock goes off, even after a solid 8 hours. The high nighttime cortisol can provide clues as to some immune activity, which can be caused from gut pathogens like parasites. I can take the GI pathogen screening test to dig deeper into that issue. These levels put me in the Exhaustive Phase of HPA Axis Dysfunction. If you want to learn more about the different phases, read this post I wrote as part of a series on Adrenal Dysfunction.
My DHEA was 2.86, which is low as optimum is between 6 to 8. Compared to my cortisol sum my DHEA is actually higher than expected. This can happen if someone is taking adaptogens, steroids or their body just makes DHEA well. I was not taking adaptogens or steroids and suspect that the heavy strength training I was doing, had something to do with that higher than expected number.
Let’s look at my steroid hormone levels next. For women its best to take this test on days 19-21 of the menstrual cycle, as estradiol and progesterone should be upper end of their ranges. Estradiol is the dominant estrogen in the body and we can see that mine was at 1.1. I took this test during the mid cycle and the optimum levels are actually 5-7, so my estradiol is low. It’s been much lower in the past when I had Hypothalamic Amenorrhea and the Integrative doctor I work with put me on bio-identical estradiol for awhile. I’ve since been able to come off of it about 2 years ago and I have a regular menstrual cycle! The Estriol is a weaker estrogen and BioHealth doesn’t test it anymore because it doesn’t give us anymore information than Estradiol does.
As you can see my Progesterone looks like it’s through the roof at 1981. The optimal range is actually between 180 and 400. At the time of this test I was taking bioidentical progesterone, which makes it look really high. My doctor was monitoring it via blood tests as she states bioidentical progesterone is measured best through blood.
I made the personal decision to stop taking the progesterone a few months ago. I had been taking it for almost 3.5 years and feel like I never really had the opportunity to make lifestyle and diet changes before I started taking it. I did delay for a few months but now that I understand HPA Axis Dysfunction better, I know that wasn’t long enough.
Every time I meet with my doctor I’ve asked her when I can come off the progesterone and she’s wanted me to stay on it a bit longer. Now I don’t recommend anyone do what I did and to always consult with their own doctor first. I really wanted to see if I can get my hormones back into a healthy range just using nutrition, lifestyle changes and supplements. I know others have done it but I also know we’re all biochemically unique.
I’ve also read a number of articles from people that I trust and they recommend that bioidenticals should be the last step after nutrition, lifestyle changes and supplements have been implemented first. Also with the information I’ve learned in this course it makes sense to me that bio-identical hormones should be a last resort. Now that I understand progesterone is a precursor for cortisol, I know that a lot of the progesterone I was taking was just being converted into cortisol when I wasn’t managing my stress and continuing to over exercise. It’s more of a bandaid approach, whereas I prefer to get to the root issue. So far, with 3 months off the progesterone, my cycle has stayed pretty regular with minimal PMS symptoms. To support my cycle and progesterone levels, I started Seed Cycling, taking evening primrose oil, vitamin C and Chasteberry.
My testosterone was a 39.74 and optimal is between 55 and 60 so that’s low as well. All these steroid hormones being low indicate the pregnenolone steal, which happens when the body begins to basically steal from the other hormones to produce more cortisol to keep up with the demands of stress on the body.
My Melatonin was at a 10.3, which is also low as optimum is greater than or equal to 18. This again indicates some gut dysfunction, which correlates with the high nighttime cortisol. I don’t have a lot of digestive symptoms but I can tell it’s not optimal either.
The testing is great but at the same time we never focus solely on the tests, We need to get correlation from the clients and when I did this test everything did correlate with the symptoms I was experiencing. At the time of this test I was feeling stressed right out! I was lifting really heavy at the gym and had noticed my progress stop and start to regress. I was waking up really early and couldn’t fall back asleep. I was not practicing yoga or meditating. I was working full-time and starting my business on the side and also started this FDN course. Mentally I was feeling stressed out as I tried to figure out how to manage my time.
Since then I now sleep through the night, like a rock most of the time. I had started eating a small snack of protein and fat before bed and immediately I slept through the night and didn’t wake early. I still wake feeling tired though, but once I get going I feel better. I have to say I had worse PMS symptom before and those have improved. I’m still working full-time, have my business on the side and am taking this FDN course, but I have changed the way I perceive being busy and it’s not nearly as much of a stressor anymore. I also stopped working out so hard and brought my yoga practice back into my life and more walking. I’m still avoiding really heavy lifting, high intensity interval training and Crossfit, even though I love all of those activities. I continue to focus on eating well and balancing my blood sugar. I just got a glucometer, so I can get an even better look at what foods affect my blood sugar negatively. I try my best to get off the computer at 9pm, an hour before bed and notice that I do sleep better. I’m also being more consistent with taking the specific supplements that my body needs.
Issues with the HPA axis don’t just affect our steroid hormone balance. HPA Axis Dysfunction can also affect other areas of the body including: Musculoskeletal health, Neural Tissue health (sleep memory, etc.), Endocrine function (thyroid, pancreas and ovaries), Fat and Protein Metabolism, Detox Capacity, Eicosanoid Modulation (think Immune system) and Carb Metabolism (blood sugar regulation). This is why the BH#205 is the first test we start with, with FDN.
I just submitted a urine test for my next test, the BH#101 Metabolic Assessment Profile. This test measures oxidative damage in the body, liver and gallbladder function as well as protein digestion. Once I get my results I will write a post about the BH101 as well.