Are Test Results Accurate
Cortisol tests are likely to accurately reflect your cortisol level at the time the test was taken, though no test is without some potential for error.
Accurate testing requires proper sample collection, and some patients who are collecting 24-hour urine samples may find it difficult to follow collection instructions precisely. If too little or too much urine is collected, test results can be affected.
To try to get the most accurate results, a doctor will make careful selection of initial and, if needed, repeat or follow-up testing. To interpret your results, your doctor will take individual factors into account, including your symptoms, the medications you take, and your sleep schedule.
Cortisol tests are complex to interpret, so any questions about their accuracy or significance should always be addressed in consultation with a medical professional.
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Are The Tests Accurate
The results of your at-home cortisol test are processed in the same labs that a doctors office uses, so theyre generally accurate.
However, the accuracy can depend on the type of test and collection method. If you receive your results and are unsure if theyre accurate, most test providers offer to review your results with you.
Its also a good idea to talk with a doctor after taking the test if you need more insight or guidance for next steps.
Will Lowering Cortisol Help Lose Weight
Answer From Katherine Zeratsky, R.D., L.D. There is no solid evidence that cortisol blockers lead to weight loss. When youre under stress, your body boosts production of the hormone cortisol. Chronic stress and persistently high cortisol levels may be associated with increased appetite and weight gain.
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What Are The Normal Values Of Cortisol In Your Body
Due to the way the body needs cortisol levels to vary throughout the day, there is no pinpoint normal number. Instead, using the time of the blood test, there is a range of normal values. This is because not every test can be done at the same time and it is, therefore, harder to compare this.
Heres a graph that shows the normal pattern of cortisol levels in black. The blue dots show the true results of healthy cortisol levels. This graph shows how these results are not completely on the curve but are still completely acceptable.
The most commonly used blood test is the morning one. At ElevateMe, we use a sample that is taken in the first 3 hours of waking up. This provides the clearest picture of cortisol levels.
According to the NHS, these levels should be between 119-618 nmol/L7. In reference to the graph above, this is equivalent to 4.31 g/dl -22.4 g/dl.
At ElevateMe, we use optimal ranges to track your blood tests in lieu of reference ranges. Reference ranges are numbers that any adult should ideally target. However, to truly thrive and live your best life, optimal ranges which are developed with the healthiest of individuals as the benchmark, are the way to go. You can learn more about the benefits of using optimal blood test ranges over reference blood test ranges here.
The optimal range for cortisol levels is between 171-535 nmol/L.
What Does The Test Measure
Testing measures the cortisol hormone in the blood, urine, or saliva. Cortisol is one of several glucocorticoid hormones that help the body control blood sugar levels, respond to stress, and regulate the immune system.
It is normal for cortisol levels to change over the day and react to various stressors. The bodys process of producing cortisol requires several steps:
- An area of the brain called the hypothalamus produces the corticotropin-releasing hormone .
- CRH travels to another part of the brain called the pituitary gland and triggers the secretion of corticotropin, also called ACTH.
- Finally, ACTH is transported to the adrenal glands, where it stimulates the production of cortisol.
In this way, cortisol levels reflect whether these different steps are being carried out normally in the body. Additional information may be gathered by conducting a cortisol test and other tests like the ACTH test.
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How Often Should You Test Your Cortisol
Unless you have a diagnosis of either Cushing syndrome or Addison disease, you dont need to test your cortisol levels regularly.
A doctor will give you specific instructions on the type of test you should take, what time to take it, and how regularly you need to get tested.
They may recommend testing twice in 1 day or multiple times over several days since cortisol levels vary.
Will I Need To Do Anything To Prepare For The Test
The preparations will depend on the type of test you are having. Be sure to follow all the instructions that your provider gives you.
Stress can raise your cortisol levels, so you may need to rest before your test. A blood test will require you to schedule two appointments at different times of the day. Before a saliva test, you may need to stop using certain medicines. Let your provider know about all medicines you use, including skin creams. But don’t stop using any medicines without talking with your provider first.
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How To Test Cortisol Levels At Home
Cortisol can be tested in three different ways. You can use a blood test, urine test, or saliva test. Sometimes, a combination of different tests may be used.
Blood tests for cortisol are one of the most common home testing methods. This test measures the total amount of cortisol in your blood, including cortisol carried on the carrier protein cortisol binding globulin . You simply order a home test kit and collect a blood sample via a fingerprick. You send this sample to the lab, and then you get your results online in a few days.
There are also salivary tests for cortisol. The salivary cortisol test only measures free cortisol, meaning cortisol that isnt bound to the carrier protein. Studies have generally shown that theres a strong correlation between the results of a saliva test for cortisol level and a blood test for cortisol levels taken at the same time.
In some cases, a 24-hour urine collection may be used to test for cortisol. For this type of test, you collect all of your urine for an entire day. Although this method does allow for the determination of an average cortisol level over a longer period of time, its very inconvenient, and is not generally used as a home cortisol test.
This Post May Help To Explain Why Sometimes We Might See An Inconsistency Between The Result For An : 00 Am Morning Cortisol Blood Test Compared To The Free Cortisol Measured In A Cortisol Saliva Test
It is very important to realise that cortisol saliva testing and cortisol blood testing measure entirely different things. A cortisol blood test measures all the cortisol contained in the blood, i.e. both the free/unbound cortisol and the cortisol bound to protein . A cortisol saliva test only measures the free cortisol. In some cases, a person may have very high or very low bound cortisol . This can make the cortisol blood test result appear either high or low in the range compared to cortisol measured in saliva.
Clearly, every situation is different and the entire history and situation with an individual needs to be taking into account.
The link explains that the amount of cortisol produced and the amount of free cortisol available can be very different in some scenarios. Measuring both allows for insight into the rate of cortisol clearance/metabolism. Here are two examples:
Here is the link:
The bottom line is that I am a great believer in testing both free cortisol in saliva and total cortisol in blood at 8-9:00 am, as you get the whole picture. Relying on free saliva cortisol only is not sensible. There can be inconsistent results between blood cortisol testing and saliva cortisol testing and this needs to be assessed properly. This position is very clear in all my books, including the latest one, The Thyroid Patients Manual.
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What Does It Mean If You Have A High Cortisol Test Reading
High cortisol levels can point to a number of factors that you might be up against.
The most obvious reason is that you are experiencing too much stress. Consistent stress increases cortisol levels. This is due to the bodys constant readiness for a flight or fight response1.
Cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, but the levels are controlled by another hormone called Adrenocorticotropic hormone . This hormone is made in the pituitary gland. So if either of the glands develops any tumors, whether cancerous or not, the levels of cortisol could increase1.
Is Cortisol A Stress Hormone
Cortisol is widely known as the stress hormone. However, it has many important effects and functions throughout your body aside from regulating your bodys stress response.
Its also important to remember that, biologically speaking, there are multiple different kinds of stress, including:
- Acute stress: Acute stress happens when youre in sudden danger within a short period of time. For example, barely avoiding a car accident or being chased by an animal are situations that cause acute stress.
- Chronic stress: Chronic stress happens when you experience ongoing situations that cause frustration or anxiety. For example, having a difficult or frustrating job or having a chronic illness can cause chronic stress.
- Traumatic stress: Traumatic stress happens when you experience a life-threatening event that induces fear and a feeling of helplessness. For example, experiencing an extreme weather event, such as a tornado, or experiencing war or sexual assault can cause traumatic stress. In some cases, these events can lead to post-traumatic stress disorder .
Your body releases cortisol when you experience any of these types of stress.
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Can You Get A Cortisol Test At Home
Yes. Our fingerprick home health test kit tests for 21 blood markers and includes a cortisol test.
There are quite a few other cortisol test providers in the market. However, we show how your cortisol levels might affect your overall health.
For instance, cortisol affects your mood, fitness, and immunity. Its crucial to understand that our health cannot be assessed in the context of a single blood marker. At ElevateMe, we build a holistic profile of your health and wellness.
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What Does The Cortisol Total Test Measure
The cortisol blood test determines the level of cortisol production in the body. Cortisol is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands when stimulated by ACTH . ACTH is a hormone produced by the pituitary gland, a tiny organ inside the head below the brain.
It is released in excess amounts during stressful situations. Likewise, overproduction of cortisol also happens when problems occur in the pituitary gland, such as hyperplasia or tumor growth, causing Cushings disease.
On the other hand, low levels of cortisol can be associated with Addisons disease or adrenal insufficiency.
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Can You Control Your Cortisol Levels With Diet
Having a balanced diet is always essential to maintaining a healthy body.
Unhealthy food can cause an increase in cortisol production. In fact, sugar intake is a trigger for cortisol production8. If you have a regular, high intake of sugar, your cortisol levels will be constantly elevated9.
However, sugar intake can be beneficial in moments of extreme stress10. If you are facing a threat, elevated cortisol levels are exactly what you need. Interestingly, sugar can be beneficial in times of stress when the cortisol need is increased.
Unfortunately, thats one of the reasons behind stress eating. When your body detects a threat, it knows it needs more energy to be able to respond as fast as possible. This results in sugar cravings which in the long run have their own side effects.
Here is a list of foods that can be eaten at the onset of sugary cravings. Eating these instead of sugary foods will still provide your body with healthy sources of immediate energy. This will help reduce your overall cortisol levels if they are high.
- Drinking water whilst exercising11
- Fruits particularly bananas and pears13
- Black tea & green tea14
Probiotics are bacteria found in yogurts. They are good for you. Prebiotics are foods that these bacterias consume. Increasing levels of both will also help reduce cortisol levels in your body15.
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Diagnosis During An Adrenal Crisis
If Addison’s disease is left untreated, it eventually leads to an adrenal crisis. This is where the symptoms of Addison’s disease appear quickly and severely.
During an adrenal crisis, there’s not enough time to perform a synacthen stimulation test to confirm Addison’s disease.
If possible, blood will be taken and tested for any abnormalities. While you’re waiting for the results, treatment may be started with steroid injections, and fluids containing salt and glucose.
Read more about treating Addison’s disease.
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How Does My Body Control Cortisol Levels
Your body has an elaborate system to regulate your cortisol levels.
Your hypothalamus, a small area of your brain involved in hormonal regulation, and your pituitary gland, a tiny gland located below your brain, regulate the production of cortisol in your adrenal glands. When the levels of cortisol in your blood fall, your hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone , which directs your pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropic hormone . ACTH then stimulates your adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol.
In order to have optimal levels of cortisol in your body, your hypothalamus, pituitary gland and adrenal glands must all be functioning properly.
What Are Normal Cortisol Levels
The level of cortisol in your blood, urine and saliva normally peaks in the early morning and declines throughout the day, reaching its lowest level around midnight. This pattern can change if you work a night shift and sleep at different times of the day.
For most tests that measure cortisol levels in your blood, the normal ranges are:
- 6 a.m. to 8 a.m.: 10 to 20 micrograms per deciliter .
- Around 4 p.m.: 3 to 10 mcg/dL.
Normal ranges can vary from lab to lab, time to time and person to person. If you need to get a cortisol level test, your healthcare provider will interpret your results and let you know if you need to get further testing.
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When Should I Get This Test
Your doctor may recommend cortisol testing if they think you have a condition affecting your cortisol levels.
Doctors may initiate cortisol testing if you have a health problem unusual for people your age, such as young adults with hypertension or osteoporosis. They may also recommend cortisol testing if you have a severe health condition affecting cortisol levels or if your doctor finds an adrenal tumor during imaging tests conducted for an unrelated concern.
Your doctor may recommend cortisol testing based on your symptoms, especially if you have more than one symptom of high cortisol that worsens with time. Symptoms of high cortisol include:
- Unexplained weight gain, particularly in children
- Fat accumulation around the base of the neck
- A hump-like pad of fat between the shoulders
- Slow growth in children
- Unexplained weight loss
Conditions that cause high and low cortisol levels are rare, and other diseases most often cause these symptoms. Thus, a doctor may test for more common conditions before initiating cortisol testing.
In addition to diagnostic testing, cortisol may be tested as a type of monitoring if you have been previously diagnosed with high cortisol and are taking medications to lower your cortisol levels.
Are There Any Risks To Taking An At
At-home cortisol testing generally comes with few risks. If the test uses a blood sample, there is the possibility of bruising or bleeding. These tests are generally very accurate, but there is the chance that you may receive inaccurate results due to the sample collection process or shipping.
Remember, this type of testing isnt a substitute for a visit with your primary care doctor.
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Other Causes Of Inconsistent Cortisol Blood And Saliva Test Results:
A. The use of natural progesterone creams can corrupt the results in many saliva testing labs. The progesterone molecule is so similar to cortisol that many labs cannot distinguish between the two and show higher cortisol as a result. Even stopping the cream/gel a few days before might not stop this as it sits in the tissues.
B. The use of any HC cream can do the same and inflate cortisol saliva test results.
C. Those patients on oestrogen replacement can have much higher cortisol in blood tests, than in saliva tests. The reason for this is that oestrogen increases cortisol binding globulin and falsely elevates any cortisol blood test. So, patients who need to do a cortisol blood test or a Synacthen test need to be off oestrogen replacement for 8 weeks prior to the test. The oestrogen replacement tends to leave the free cortisol levels the same but blood cortisol levels can be much higher than normal.
I believe that this is because the HPA uses free cortisol as its input. Oestrogen replacement raises cortisol binding globulin thus binding more of the free cortisol to protein. The HPA then responds by requesting the adrenals to make more cortisol to compensate for higher CBG. The net result is that all cortisol blood tests can show falsely inflated cortisol levels. Whilst the free cortisol in saliva tests remains unaffected. Note: the same thing will occur in those women with unusually high oestrogen levels.
I hope that you found this article interesting and useful.