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A short Synacthen test is a blood test performed for the investigation of adrenal insufficiency.

The adrenal glands are small cone shaped glands which sit above each kidney. They rmake and release stress hormones like adrenalin and cortisol which are released to enable us to ‘fight or flee’. When the adrenals have been weakened they simply do not function properly – they’re fatigued. The main reason with poorly functioning adrenals is stress: worry, fear, anxiety, panic all the things that we experience almost daily in this 21st century lifestyle we all lead.

How the adrenals are weakened:

Adrenals can also be weakened by the use of stimulants – caffeine being a big culprit. In the short term, coffee makes us feel better from the stimulation it gives. Over time, however, the constant stimulation drains the adrenals which leads to fatigue, irregular blood sugar, anxiety and even sleep disruption. Sugar and refined foods and carbohydrates are other culprits which deplete the body of B vitamins and drain the adrenals.

A short synacthen test is not a readily available routine blood test – but is a good way of investigating the efficiency of the adrenal glands and it’s a test I feel people who suspect they have adrenal fatigue should be aware of.

It’s best performed in the morning as the cortisol responses between the morning and the late afternoon differ (by as much100 nmol/L at 30 min sample post Synacthen).

Blood needs to be taken 3 times during a one hour period to be prepared to spend to spend some time with the phlebotomist! It may be a good idea to have someone with you also as blood sugar levels would be quite depleted post test.

An excellent book on the subject of adrenal fatigue is: Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by Dr James L. Wilson who has also formulated a nutritional supplement to help this condition.

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