Healthy adrenal glands produce the correct level of cortisol, based on a diurnal curve, to increase blood sugar through gluconeogenesis, to suppress the immune system, and to aid the metabolism of fat, protein, and carbohydrate.
Correctly functioning adrenals and thus good cortisol levels, neither too high nor too low, are essential to healthy thyroid function. Cortisol raises your cellular level of glucose which works with your cell receptors, ATP (our energy source) and mitochondria to receive T3 from the blood into the cells.
Clues that you may have low cortisol levels include difficulty both falling asleep at night and waking up in the morning early, or feeling refreshed, waking frequently during the night, bright lights bother you more than they should, you startle easily due to noise (loud cars and motorbikes are awful!), when standing from sitting or from lying down, you feel lightheaded or dizzy, you take things too seriously and feel that you don’t cope well with certain people or events in your life.
For me getting my adrenals functioning as they should, (I am on specialized medication for this due to the severity of my adrenal insufficiency – however this step may not be necessary for much of the population) was a turning point in my life. Once my cortisol levels improved the uptake of my thyroid medication improved dramatically and so did my health. I work very hard in keeping all factors balanced as any small deviation can have a terribly detrimental effect on how I feel. Therefore testing for cortisol levels is a necessary piece of the health puzzle.
Adrenal Cortisol levels should be tested via a 24 hour saliva test, NOT blood, in order to determine if your cortisol production follows the diurnal curve that it should. Our highest levels of cortisol are required in the morning in order for us to carry on with our normal activities and then fall progressively towards night so that we can sleep.
Unfortunately, doctors tend to recommend a one-time blood test, which measures both your bound and unbound cortisol–not how much cortisol is produced at different times of the day. Ideally, you will need to be off all cortisol containing supplements for two weeks before testing.
Tests results for optimum health should look like these numbers below:-
8 am: At the literal top of the range.
11 am-noon: In the upper quarter, and often about a quarter below the top.
4-5 pm: Mid-range
11 pm to midnight: At the very bottom.