Optimise Your Health At Home By Testing Your Cortisol Levels
Understand whether stress levels may be impacting your health and what simple steps you need to make to reduce them.
A small amount of stress can be seen as a good thing, helping you to cope day to day. However, when stress levels start to increase then that is a different matter. Stress can start to impact your daily life in lots of different ways, but how do you know if you are putting your body under too much stress?
The good news is that cortisol (stress hormone) levels can be detected and monitored using the Stress (Cortisol) Test. Raised or low levels of cortisol can tell you if stress could be impacting your health and whether you need to make lifestyle changes or visit your GP.
How it Works
4 Simple Steps To A Healthier You
Receive Your Test
Order online and we will post your test kit directly to your home.
Take the easy test
Collect 2-3 finger prick drops of blood and post your sample to our laboratory.
Receive Your Results in approx 10 Days
Review your easy to read results.
Advice included on your next steps to a healthier you.
What’s In The Test?
What’s In The Stress Test Kit
Your kit includes a free return envelope included, making it easy for you to post your sample back to us securely. You can leave the rest to us, while our team of diagnostic experts analyse your sample at our partner laboratory
- Stress (Cortisol) Test
- Two single-use lancets
- One blood collection tube
- One blood collection tube label
- One plastic blood collection tube case
- Two adhesive plasters
- A cleansing wipe
Take Care Of Yourself With Our Stress (Cortisol) Test
Using a quick and easy home-to-laboratory finger-prick blood test. Get your results within 5 days, and you will receive advice on whether your results are acceptable, if lifestyle changes are required, or if a visit to your GP is recommended. Lifestyle guidance is also provided.
Being aware of your cortisol (stress hormone) level is a first step to making positive changes. It is also easy to track your levels of stress over time.
Take steps to change your life for the better.
Cortisol Test – PAA/FAQs
Most of us know that cortisol is the primary stress hormone in our bodies that’s released when we experience moments of anxiety, fear, or other stressful events. While cortisol is often viewed as a stress hormone that contributes to weight gain, skin conditions, and other adverse symptoms, cortisol is an essential stress hormone that influences our body’s ability to metabolise glucose, control blood pressure, regulate inflammation, and respond to danger.
Cortisol is one of several steroid hormones that are produced by the adrenal glands, which are regulated by the pituitary gland. When released into the bloodstream, cortisol can influence many parts of the body, such as the liver, pancreas, muscle tissues, and insulin production, Cortisol is a necessary component to the fight or flight response – which is a natural reaction to perceived threats – but it’s also released in stressful situations that are less threatening.
Although it’s become trendy to discuss the health issues and prevalence of having high cortisol, the body can experience problems when cortisol levels are too low as well. Having the right balance of cortisol hormone is essential for optimal health, which is why testing your cortisol levels can be an important measure to know exactly where your body stands and what, if any, action you should take to better balance this important stress hormone.
Prolonged, chronic stress is one cause of cortisol imbalance. However, abnormally high cortisol levels can also manifest after traumatic events, such as in individuals who are experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD)1. Whether prolonged over an extended period or in the wake of a traumatic experience, the root cause of a cortisol imbalance can be stress.
Everyone encounters stressful events from time to time, and some individuals experience stress more frequently and intensely than others. But no matter how common you perceive stress signals like tension, trauma, pressure, and distress, it can reach a point when excess stress turns into a cortisol imbalance issue.
Not all cases of cortisol imbalance are the result of having too much of the stress hormone. Low cortisol levels can also cause an imbalance, which is often more deeply rooted in adrenal health problems. Chronically low cortisol levels (clinically referred to as “hypocortisolism”) are most commonly a form of adrenal insufficiency, which can occur at different degrees of severity. One cause is primary adrenal insufficiency (or Addison’s Disease), which is an autoimmune response where the immune system attacks the adrenal glands, thereby impairing their ability to produce sufficient levels of cortisol. Stress burnout is another cause of adrenal insufficiency that needs to be checked for.
One of the most commonly sought solutions to help influence cortisol imbalance and regulate levels is diet. Although diet and nutrition are just one factor among many natural ways to regulate cortisol (e.g. sleep, exercise, relationships, stress management, etc.), there is substantial science that supports certain dietary approaches to help control cortisol, including:
– Eating a diet high in refined carbohydrates, sugar, and saturated fat can lead to significantly higher cortisol levels compared with eating a diet high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and polyunsaturated fats.
– Studies have shown a strong relationship between mental health and healthy gut bacteria. Consuming foods that help maintain a healthy gut microbiome – as well as supplementing with probiotics and prebiotics – can help reduce stress, anxiety, and support overall mental health.
– A diet high in healthy, unsaturated fats is linked to improved overall health and mental wellness. Omega-3 fatty acids, in particular, are the most potent types of fats linked with optimal brain health and reduced stress.
– Mild dehydration has been associated with heightened cortisol levels. Making sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day is a good habit.
These are just a few dietary considerations to help manage cortisol levels. Below we discuss more specific foods and supplements that can help in regulating high and low cortisol.
While diet is just one part of the stress management equation, there are several potential cortisol-lowering foods that are worth adopting into one’s diet.
– High vitamin C foods like citrus fruits, bell peppers, tomatoes, strawberries, and white potatoes.
– Potassium-rich foods like sweet potatoes, legumes, bananas, melons, squash, avocados, spinach, broccoli, and dried fruit can help
– Green tea, which contains polyphenols, has been postulated to regulate cortisol-producing enzymes. For someone with high cortisol, green tea might be helpful in reducing levels.
– Fermented foods like sauerkraut and kimchi contain probiotics that naturally occur in the human digestive tract.
– Dark chocolate, specifically types rich in polyphenols, has been shown, in a small study, to reduce cortisol levels6.
Stress reduction and lowering cortisol levels go hand in hand. So many foods that have “calming” properties are also potentially good for regulating cortisol levels.
There are certain types of food that may exacerbate stress and elevate cortisol levels. Below are some of the most common foods to avoid so that you’re better able to minimize increased cortisol.
– Refined sugar may contribute to raising cortisol levels. Any form of sugar can quickly elevate blood sugar levels, only to plummet shortly after. it’s important to keep sugar consumption in check.
– Trans fats are associated with a variety of diseases and it’s widely recommended to avoid trans fats in all forms.
– Alcohol, while not technically a food in the nutritional sense, is a toxin that the liver cannot break down. In turn, this creates internal stress that can raise cortisol.
– Refined grains should be replaced with 100% whole grain. It’s best to consume these foods mindfully.
– Caffeine consumption can still be enjoyed at healthy cortisol levels, however, individuals who are prone to high-stress lifestyles can benefit from minimizing caffeine. Low tolerance caffeine users may experience jumps in cortisol that linger throughout the day.
– Saturated fats from animal-based sources, such as meta, whole milk, eggs, and butter, can have the same effect on cortisol levels as trans fats. Whenever possible, consume lean options of fish, poultry, and plant-based fat alternatives, like coconut oil and olive oil.
Learning to avoid cortisol trigger foods can not only have a positive effect on your stress levels, but may also help in reducing other emotional and hormonal issues that have been associated with anxiety, depression, and obsessive-compulsive tendencies.
Testing cortisol levels is important to gauge adrenocortical function, which can have numerous health implications, especially in individuals who are susceptible to stress. Determining abnormal cortisol levels is essential in the diagnosis of Cushing’s Syndrome and Addison’s disease, hypopituitarism and adrenal hyperplasia, and carcinoma.
Cortisol is usually at its highest early in the morning and at its lowest near the midnight hour. Normal cortisol levels can vary depending on the type of test, the individual, and when the test is taken. It’s generally recommended to test cortisol levels in the morning.
Elevated cortisol levels can occur as a result of a number of factors, ranging from emotional and psychological (e.g. stress) to physical and biological triggers, including:
– Stress response in the body, either caused by physical or emotional stressors, can cause cortisol levels to increase. This response can be triggered from many occurrences, such as trying to meet a tight work deadline or catching a cold or illness.
– Malnutrition, such as consuming an unhealthy diet filled with animal-based fats, refined sugar, and alcohol, can contribute to elevated cortisol. Similar, certain eating disorders can result in cortisol imbalances.
– Pituitary gland problems, for example an overactive pituitary gland or pituitary tumour, may stimulate your adrenal glands and result in too much cortisol production.
– Medications like corticosteroids used to treat asthma, arthritis, certain cancers can, mimic cortisol as they are similar in structure and action.
– Adrenal gland tumours can disrupt normal cortisol production, thereby causing either too much or too little. Most often, such tumours can contribute to high cortisol levels.
There are also several different conditions that can influence increased cortisol, such as depression and psychological disorders, diabetes, and alcoholism.
Just as high cortisol can be the result of many different factors, the symptoms can be equally vast. Some of the most commonly reported symptoms of high stress are:
– Low sex drive or low libido
– Insomnia or inability to fall asleep
– Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) and ulcers of the stomach
– Frequent colds, illness, and immune system issues
– Excess belly fat and prone to weight gain
– Menstrual cycle imbalance in women
– Testosterone imbalance in men
– No symptoms at all
If you’re feeling one or more of these symptoms, or it may be that you don’t have any symptoms but are still worried about what might be happening in your body, then you may want to have your cortisol levels checked for high values.
Although high cortisol is more widely discussed, experiencing low cortisol levels is equally concerning for one’s health. One cause of reduced cortisol may occur when there are issues with the pituitary gland preventing its ability to produce enough adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). Addison’s disease can develop when your adrenal glands are damaged, reducing the levels of hormones it produces. Stress burnout can cause adrenal insufficiency and low levels of cortisol.
Symptoms of low cortisol levels can develop slowly, oftentimes taking several weeks to several months to notice changes. Some of the most common symptoms and reporting feelings of below-average cortisol include:
– Chronic fatigue
– Decreased appetite and weight loss
– Hypoglycemia or low blood sugar levels
– Muscle soreness, joint pain, and abdominal pain
– Gastrointestinal distress, including nausea, diarrhea, or vomiting
– Low blood pressure
– Depression, irritability, and behavioral symptoms
Low cortisol symptoms can be very subtle at first and progressively get worse over time. If you start to feel one or more of these symptoms, it’s important to catch problems related to disrupted pituitary glands and adrenal glands as soon as possible.
Proper testing is the best way to measure cortisol levels and pinpoint whether there’s a deficiency or excess of hormones present. While cortisol testing can be done with blood, urine, or saliva tests, a blood cortisol test is the most common and accurate method. Conducted in a laboratory setting or with a simple finger-prick blood sample taken at home using a blood collection kit, a blood sample (best when taken in the resting morning hours of the day) can help you determine if your cortisol levels fall in the normal range. Urine tests are not helpful unless you collect your urine for 24 hours and then test a sample of the whole collection. This isn’t very practical, and a blood test is much more useful to determine what your cortisol level is.
A cortisol test is conducted to accurately measure an individual’s levels of cortisol hormone. There are several different types of cortisol test. The most accurate and popular type is a cortisol blood test, which can effectively measure cortisol levels and determine whether they’re high, low, or at a normal value.
A cortisol test can help pinpoint problems associated with both the pituitary gland and adrenal glands. While cortisol is produced by the adrenal glands, the root cause of elevated or reduced cortisol levels may sometimes be attributed to the pituitary gland, which releases adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), an essential hormone that’s responsible for stimulating cortisol production in the adrenal gland.
The timing of the cortisol test is critically important because of the way cortisol levels vary throughout the day. In most cases, it’s recommended to do a cortisol blood test in the morning hours. Your morning cortisol level is the best indication of whether or not you have a normal cortisol level. Morning cortisol levels are typically the highest point in the day, and then fall over the course of the day.
Our at home cortisol test can indicate whether an individual has elevated or low levels of cortisol hormone, which may point to an adrenal or pituitary gland disorder. Usually taken in the morning hours, a cortisol test will show whether or not levels fall between the normal values set by the laboratory that is used. However, results from cortisol testing can vary widely depending on the time of day the test was taken as well as the other factors that influence cortisol levels.