You’ve probably heard it over and over: Stress raises the risk of disease. But how do you know if your stress is the disease-causing kind? It’s helpful to know some signs and tests to let you know.
Severe stress can either cause you to be fatigued all the time, wired all the time, or a mix of both. Or maybe stress manifests as sleep issues.
It’s not uncommon for people to become so used to being stressed out they fail to realize it’s an issue.
Symptoms of fatigue-based stress
- Slow to get going in the morning
- Energy crash in the afternoon
- Craving sweets, caffeine, or nicotine
- Unstable behavior; moodiness
- Shaky, light-headed, or irritable if meals are delayed
- Inability to stay asleep
- Dizziness when moving from sitting to standing
Symptoms of wired stress
- Excess belly fat
- Insulin resistance (high blood sugar)
- Not feeling rested in the morning
- Women grow facial hair; men grow breasts
- PCOS in women (polycystic ovarian syndrome).
How to do a lab test for stress
You can also do a lab test to measure stress levels using your saliva; it’s called an adrenal salivary panel. Your adrenal glands are two small glands that sit atop each kidney that secrete stress hormones.
The best way to use the adrenal salivary panel is do the test a second time after following a health protocol. This shows you whether your health is improving.
This is because stress is always caused by something else, such as low or high blood sugar, an infection, or autoimmune disease.
Adrenal health should improve as you manage these conditions. If things do not improve, it means you must keep searching to find out what is taxing the body.
Measuring your sleep-wake cycle
Another way to gauge stress is to look at your sleep-wake cycle, or circadian rhythm.
Are you alert in the morning and sleepy at night? An abnormal circadian rhythm is one symptom of adrenal stress.
Your primary stress hormone, cortisol, should be high in the morning and low at night. Many people have a backwards rhythm causing fatigue in the morning and insomnia at night. Or, instead of a gradual decline of cortisol during the day, it may suddenly drop in the afternoon, causing an energy crash.
Where are you on the stress scale?
By measuring several markers, the adrenal saliva test can tell you whether you are in:
- The “alarm reaction” of high adrenal hormones
- Adrenal exhaustion and chronic tiredness
- Somewhere in between
You do not necessarily have to progress from alarm reaction to adrenal fatigue. It’s possible to jump between phases, or stay in one phase for years.
The adrenal saliva test also measures immune cells called total SIgA. This measures how stress is impacting your immune system. If SIgA is low, it can mean you are more susceptible to food intolerances, infections, and weakened immunity.
Start with blood sugar stability to manage stress
Although diet and lifestyle factors are important in managing stress, the most common cause of chronic stress is a blood sugar imbalance. Addressing high or low blood sugar are vital to addressing chronic stress.
Additionally, various herbal and nutritional compounds can profoundly influence adrenal function. For instance, herbs called adrenal adaptogens are very beneficial regardless which stage you are in.
Ask my office how you can support your adrenal health, 704-895-2240.