Do I Have Adrenal Fatigue? (Part 2)

September 1, 2015

Do I Have Adrenal Fatigue?question

Most mainstream medical doctors do not recognize adrenal fatigue as a bonafide condition. When you bring it up to them they may say, stop browsing the Internet, or you’re probably depressed, or reassure you that you’re perfectly fine based on your blood work. This is not their fault. They are practicing medicine based on their medical school training.  Adrenal fatigue is not yet part of the medical school curriculum but it is part of the naturopathic medicine, chiropractic, nutritional therapy and acupuncture programs.


Common symptoms are: persistent fatigue, weight gain, difficulty getting up in the morning even with lots of sleep, difficulty handling stress, craving salty foods, and being sick a lot. Other related symptoms are:symptoms2

  • Asthma, allergies or respiratory complaints
  • Dark circles under the eyes
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Extreme tiredness an hour after exercise
  • Frequent urination
  • Female hormone issues
  • Neck/back pain
  • Joint pain
  • Lines in your fingertips
  • Loss of muscle tone
  • Frequent herpes outbreaks
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar
  • Low sex drive
  • Lower back pain
  • Numbness in your fingers / Poor circulation
  • Weight gain

Do I Have It? Lab Tests and Tests You Can Do It At Home

There are several ways you can go about determining whether or not you have adrenal fatigue. There are tests you can do at home or via lab work ordered through a practitioner. Let’s first talk about the tests you can do at home with a partner or someone who can read your blood pressure.

Home Test #1: Pupil Contractionpenlight into eye

A healthy adrenal gland manifests itself in the ability of your pupil to maintain the size of its circular shape when it is exposed to light after being in darkness. To do the Pupil Contraction test, you’ll need a dark room, chair, stopwatch and a partner. If you don’t have a partner you can use a mirror instead. Sit in a dark room with your partner or in front of a mirror. Keep the room dark for 30 seconds. Shine a penlight directly into the eye horizontally at a 45-degree angle at a distance of about 6-8 inches. Keep the light steady. Do not wave it across the eye. If you are alone you will need to be close enough to the mirror to see the contraction of your pupil when the light shines on it. As soon as you shine the light into the eye start counting the number of seconds that go by until the pupil stops holding its shape. After a matter of seconds it will start pulsating instead of keeping a steady circular shape. Write down the number of seconds. If it constricts and holds for 20 seconds, this is an excellent result and you do not likely have adrenal fatigue. If it constricts and holds for 10 seconds and then pulses this is considered a fair result and means you have some degree of adrenal fatigue.  If it constricts and pulses and then enlarges in 5-10 seconds this is a poor result. If it constricts, pulses and enlarges almost immediately this is a fail. If it constricts, immediately becomes larger or fails to constrict then you most likely have adrenal exhaustion. Consider lab work if you want a more conclusive result.

Home Test#2: Sitting and Standing Systolic Blood Pressure Levelsblood pressure

This test involves taking your resting systolic blood pressure while lying down and then right after standing up taking the systolic blood pressure immediately again, within 5 seconds. If you’re standing blood pressure drops by more than 10, compared to your blood pressure lying down, then you have adrenal fatigue.  If the blood pressure goes up by 6-10 points this is an excellent result. If there’s no change, adrenal response is fair. If it drops 1-10 points this is a poor response. If it drops by 20 or more points this indicates complete adrenal exhaustion.

If you’re someone that already has low blood pressure and/or you tend to get dizzy or faint after getting up from a lying or sitting position be careful as you transition from sitting to standing when doing this test. Have your partner or a health professional take your sitting blood pressure level

Lab Work

A salivary cortisol test is going to give you the most reliable indication of the degree or phase of adrenal fatigue. Cortisol is not the easiest hormone to test because cortisol in the blood is not an accurate indicator of cortisol levels. The consensus in the functional medicine and nutritional therapy community is that salivary cortisol levels are the best means of measuring your cortisol levels.lab vials You will need to find a practitioner that believes in adrenal fatigue (most functional medicine NDs, MDs, chiropractors and nutritional therapists do) and one that has helped clients tackle adrenal fatigue with the aid of salivary cortisol testing. The Salivary Cortisol Lab Test from BioHealth Lab in Torrance, CA offers a reliable lab test. It’s called the Functional Adrenal Stress Profile (#201, 204 or 205). You can read about at here. You take 4 vial-sized samples of your saliva at 4 different times of the same day.

Seeking Treatment Based On Symptoms Alone 

Some people will recognize that they have adrenal fatigue when they read about the symptoms and recognize the degree of stress that has been in their lives. If you do the home tests and they seem to indicate adrenal fatigue you could opt to act on this information alone, especially if you don’t have access to appropriate medical care or your insurance will not cover the lab work.

To learn how to overcome adrenal fatigue, go to Part 3 of this 4-Part series.

Back to Part 1


  2. Nutritional Therapy Association (NTP) course module materials
  3. Adrenal Fatigue, the 21st Century Stress Syndrome, James L. Wilson, 2001