Comprehensive Panel: Adrenals and Electrolytes


Our adrenal glands, which sit like baseball hats on top of the kidneys, secrete several different hormones, one of which is cortisol - Our main stress hormone. Cortisol helps regulate blood pressure and the immune system during a sudden crisis, whether that crisis is a physical attack or an emotional setback. This helps you to tap into your energy reserves and increases your ability to fight off infection.

The trouble is, relentless stress can keep this survival mechanism churning in high gear, ruining the hormone's good intentions. Chronically high cortisol levels can cause sleep problems, a weak immune response, blood sugar abnormalities, low electrolyte levels and even abdominal weight gain. When left unchecked for long periods of time, chronic stress can actually burn up all cortisol reserves, leaving you with adrenals that just cannot keep up with the demand.

With a cortisol imbalance, you may notice one (or all) of the following symptoms:

  • Hard time getting going in the morning
  • A “night person,” difficulty falling asleep
  • Feel both “wired and tired”
  • Perspire easily, even with minimal activity
  • Salt or sugar cravings
  • Lightheaded when standing up quickly
  • Belly fat storage

Let's Start with a few definitions so you know what the abbreviations mean when you see the results. Keep in mind this panel done through Lifetime Fitness is looking at what they would consider "optimal" ranges for a male of my age. These are not the same ranges I talked about in previous articles or even the same ranges your doctor would use. You'll see in the results section anywhere there is an arrow pointed up or down means it is outside the "optimal" range but still within "normal" ranges. Anywhere you see the number highlighted in red and with an "H" or highlighted blue with an "L" means it is either above or below the "normal" range.

My Results

Adrenal health is another area that I need to work on. Like i have mentioned before I have a high stress sales job and it clearly shows in my cortisol levels. You can also see an effect of the long term stress in my lowered DHEA levels and my salt cravings due to decreased sodium and potassium.

I've talked about stress and cortisol before in relation to blood sugar levels in my "4 Easy Steps to Blood Sugar Regulation" article. Blood sugar regulation is also very likely a contributor to my increased cortisol levels.

High cortisol levels have wide-ranging effects on your body such as increasing inflammation, increasing blood glucose and insulin levels, decreasing thyroid hormone production, impairing immunity, and causing weight gain. Your brain chemistry is also influenced by hormones. Imbalances in thyroid, cortisol, DHEA and sex hormones can lead to depression, anxiety, insomnia, and most importantly, cognitive decline.​

Low levels of DHEA are found in adrenal gland “burn out,” hormonal imbalances and/or pituitary gland problems. As people age, their levels of DHEA decline naturally. Low levels of DHEA have been associated with musculoskeletal pain and imbalances in estrogens and progesterone that may play a pivotal role in the development of bone disorders, obesity and belly fat accumulation. Imbalances in the Cortisol/DHEA ratio have been found to alter metabolism and lead to metabolic syndrome.

During periods of chronic stress, the release of the stress hormone cortisol can decrease levels of DHEA, lowering immunity and potentially accelerating aging processes. Low levels of DHEA have also been linked to increased weight gain and a decrease in bone mineral density (which can lead to osteoporosis). DHEA is involved in the regulation of glucose-6-phosphate, which can increase oxidative stress and inflammatory signaling, leading to glucose regulatory problems.

​Please read my article (Stress...the Silent KILLER) for some more in depth information about cortisol and DHEA. Stress is a terrible things and you will see more of its effects in other sections of my panel.

Thanks for reading and please comment below some ways you help manage stress in your life!

Matthew Welt
Or if you are a member of Lifetime Fitness in Westminster, CO please stop by and talk to him in person!

I promise you, it'll be worth your time!

Stephen Cummock

I am a Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist through NSCA, Strength and Conditioning Coach Certified through the Collegiate Strength and Conditioning Coaches Association, Level 1 Sports Performance Coach through the USA weightlifting Organization, Level 1 Precision Nutrition Certified, as well as a Corrective Exercise Specialist, Performance Enhancement Specialist and Certified Personal Trainer through NASM. I have over 10 years of experience in the health and fitness industry and 3 years of experience as an NCAA D1 strength and conditioning coach. I completed my bachelor’s degree from University of Northern Colorado in Exercise Sciences in 2010 and finished my Master’s in Exercise Physiology and Biomechanics in 2012. I have worked with a wide variety of clients ranging from special populations, weight loss, and even up to professional athletes. I have trained and educated people on how to become top notch personal trainers.

OHWW - a few months ago

Peculiar article, exactly what I needed.

My Lincoln form - a few months ago

This blog was… how do you say it? Relevant!! Finally I’ve
found something which helped me. Thanks!

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