The Adrenal Stress Index is a test that shows how the body's stress response system is functioning. The adrenal glands produce the body's two long-acting stress hormones, cortisol and DHEA. When these hormones become imbalanced by prolonged stress, every part of the body begins to break down. The immune system is compromised with increased risk to infections, certain cancers, allergies and autoimmune diseases. Glucose utilization and insulin function are altered with resultant higher blood sugar levels. Salt and water are retained, producing tendency toward high blood pressure. Blood cholesterol and triglycerides increase and predispose to heart disease. Thyroid function becomes impaired, resulting in decreased metabolism, lowered body temperature, and reduced vitality. The body stores fat, especially around the midsection. Depression, insomnia, hunger, and PMS result. Reproductive function falters with resultant infertility and cessation of the menstrual cycle. The body becomes more susceptible to toxins and heavy metals. Stomach ulcers form. Memory and learning become impaired. The combination of reduced R.E.M. (rapid eye movement) sleep and lowered growth hormone release at night diminish mental and physical regeneration, which results in acceleration of the aging process. Protein synthesis is reduced and protein breakdown is increased, leading to bone loss, skin wrinkles, arthritis, muscle loss and weakness, and all the protein supplements in the world won't make a difference. However, resistive exercise (like bodybuilding) can maintain muscle mass under these conditions by "stealing" protein from the internal organs. Obviously, this is not healthy. An additional strike against endurance athletes is the fact that insulin-sensitive, slow oxidative type 1 muscle fibers become replaced by fast glycolytic type II-B muscle fibers, resulting in poor performance. Not all of these effects of high cortisol and low DHEA occur in everyone. What does happen in each individual is dependent upon genetic predisposition and lifestyle/environmental factors. It's important to realize that stress includes not only mental-emotional strain, but also excessive levels of sound, light, certain chemicals, fatigue, starvation, acute illness, pain, tissue injury, trauma, surgery, long airplane flights, heat, cold, and swings in blood sugar levels. The Adrenal Stress Index involves laboratory testing of saliva samples for levels of cortisol and DHEA. The precise nature of the results leads to various natural strategies to restore the body's stress response system to normal and improve energy levels.