High cortisol levels can be an indication that stress is a problem. High levels of cortisol over a period of time can cause a number of health problems including fatigue, muscle pain and osteoporosis. Elevated cortisol is often associated with low levels of the hormone DHEA. There are home-administered medical lab tests that can identify the levels of both hormones.
Indications of Stress-Related Problems
Stress is a natural part of life. Dangerous situations cause acute stress where the body goes into "fight or flight" mode. This prepares the body for any physical response it will need to react to the present situation. As part of this preparation, the body produces cortisol. After the acute stress situation passes, the cortisol should return to a normal level. High cortisol problems can be caused by levels not returning to normal after the passing of acute stress or the presence of persistent chronic stress.
Chronic stress can result from many situations and usually lasts for longer periods of time. A bad relationship or job can result in chronic stress. Chronic stress also prompts the body to release higher levels of cortisol. High levels of cortisol for extended periods of time has been linked to a diverse list of health problems. A saliva test may indicate elevated cortisol levels.
Saliva Cortisol Test
The level of cortisol in the body at any one point in time does not give much useful information. Most cortisol tests are performed on multiple samples taken at various times throughout the day. Depending on the testing company and the testing procedure, samples of saliva may be taken at least twice and possibly as often as four times during a day. The test results will indicate the variations of cortisol during the day.
Test kits and services are available online and at some pharmacies or health food stores. Follow the instructions included with the test materials when gathering the samples. This usually requires rinsing out your mouth with clear water before gathering the saliva. Do not eat or brush your teeth for at least 2 hours before gathering the samples. Fill the tubes at least half full at the prescribed times, label and place in a waterproof bag. Follow packaging and shipping instructions that accompanied the test.
Understanding the Test
Most patients self-refer themselves for these tests; they do not require any orders from a doctor. However, patients should consult with a physician concerning the results of the saliva cortisol test. Any course of treatment will need to be prescribed by a medical professional.