Stop calling it Adrenal Fatigue. Call it HPA -Axis Dysfunction

Do you feel tired during the day and wired at night? Aren’t most of your friends and acquaintances complaining about being exhausted? Do you assume that this may be the norm?

I can tell you that it may be common for a lot of people to be tired most of the time but it is not normal.

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Symptoms associated with HPA axis dysfunction include:

  • Weight gain in the midsection
  • Fatigue, feeling of tiredness all the time or in the afternoon
  • Sleep problems, trouble falling asleep or staying asleep
  • Allergies, seasonal allergies, or food allergies
  • Depression, not being motivated
  • Memory problems, can’t remember where you parked your car or put your key
  • Visiting the restroom often
  • Constipation
  • Blood sugar problems, low blood sugar or high blood sugar
  • Blood pressure problems, feeling dizzy all of a sudden, legs feel heavy
  • Anxiety or nervousness, feeling jumpy
  • Brain fog, not being able to concentrate
  • Dry skin
  • Feeling cold all the time, or just having cold hands and feet
  • Loss of libido

Why do I call adrenal fatigue “HPA axis dysfunction”?

The adrenal glands produce hormones, especially cortisol as a stress hormone, which help us cope with daily stress. But they also help regulate blood sugar levels, and reduce inflammation. However, the adrenal glands do not work in a vacuum; they are connected via a hormonal feedback loop with the hypothalamus.

The Hypothalamus checks the level of hormones in the blood and sends hormonal signals (CRH) to the Pituitary which in return sends ATCH, a hormone, to the Adrenal glands to either reduce the production of cortisol or to elevate it. We call this connection the HPA axis.

HPA axis

 

Stress induces the release of corticotrophin releasing hormone (CRH)

CRH stimulates the release of drenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the anterior pituitary

ACTH stimulates the release of glucocorticoids from the adrenal cortex

As you can see the interaction between the different hormone glands in the HPA axis is complex.

Remember, Cortisol is a stress hormone, therefore any kind of stress will elevate this very important hormone. If you suffer from chronic stress your adrenal glands will be constantly stimulated via the HPA axis.

Not only are adrenal gland hormones effected, but also the thyroid hormones through the HPA-HPT (T for Thyroid) axis. Remember, Cortisol is a Stress hormone. Therefore, any kind of stress will elevate this very important hormone. If you suffer from chronic stress your adrenal glands will be constantly stimulated via the HPA axis.

Stress

 

Moreover, chronic stress disrupts the glucocorticoid dynamics, modifies cortisol levels which disrupts the HPA-axis feedback loop and can have a negative impact on mood and neurotransmitter.

 

 

A simple dried urine test could help you determine your adrenal function if you produce too much or too little of the stress hormone cortisol and or estrogen, progesterone, testosterone, or melatonin. The dried urine test will also determine the hormone metabolites, but this needs to be explained in a separate article because it involves gene mutations and methylation processes.

Unfortunately, the medical community doesn’t really recognize HPA axis dysfunction as a serious condition. The problem lies in the way cortisol is being tested. The dried urine test measures cortisol four times a day while your doctor only measures cortisol in the blood one time during a particular day or in a 24 hour urine test of the total cortisol output.

If you get tested or not, my recommendation is to reduce external stress as much as possible, eat a whole food diet and get adequate sleep. If you suspect internal stressors such as pathogens or mineral imbalances, get tested.

Contact me if you would like a 20 minute Health Consultation

References: 

Environmental stressors and epigenetic control of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal-axis (HPA-axis)  
Richard Lee and Akira Sawa 

Role of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis in Developmental Programming of Health and Disease Fuxia Xiong and Lubo Zhang