Adrenal Fatigue and HPA Axis Dysfunction

The hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPA) is a part of our bodies' endocrine system. This is the mechanism that sends signals back and forth throughout the body when we secrete hormones. When we are exposed to stressful situations, the axis initiates a chain of events that inevitably results in the production of cortisol, an endocrine steroid hormone known as our "stress hormone."

Cortisol is known for putting our bodies into a "fight or flight" state, which inhibits some system functions while secreting an abundant amount of glucose.

You should know, however, that the HPA axis operates in a "feedback loop." If the hypothalamus and endocrine system detect that enough cortisol has been produced, they will close the axis to keep the system from flooding, allowing the body to return to normal.

When there is chronic stress, the HPA axis can become dysfunctional. This means that all hormones, the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis, will continue to be produced on a near-constant basis. In worst cases, if this issue is not addressed, the HPA region may lose its ability to recognize signals urging it to shut down. This is cause to aggravate adrenal fatigue/insufficiency.

Adrenal Fatigue and HPA Axis Dysfunction

Adrenal Fatigue: How It Affects the Human Body

Adrenal Fatigue: How It Affects the Human Body

When the aforementioned occurs, we refer to it as "Adrenal Fatigue." This stress-related illness is quite common throughout the United States, and it has recently become one of the most prominent diagnoses in the Functional Medicine field. Althgough it is referred to as “Adrenal Fatigue”, the adrenal glands are only a part of the problem. Attempts by doctors to cure the entire HPA axis is frequently subject to failure.

To make matters even more complicated, HPA dysfunction manifests itself in a wide range of symptoms that are difficult to define, including:

  • Fatigue
  • Trouble waking up
  • Insomnia
  • Thyroid disorders
  • Problems with blood pressure
  • Blood circulation issues
  • Immune-system illnesses
  • Blood sugar levels imbalances
  • Abdominal fat accumulation
  • Inability to cope with stress
  • Brain fog
  • Inflammation
  • Slow healing wounds
  • Dizziness
  • Parched skin
  • Salty foods cravings
  • Slow Libido
  • Muscle pain
  • Anxiety
  • Depression

Exhaustion is the most common symptom of adrenal fatigue, and it is difficult to overcome even with quality sleep. When all of the symptoms listed above are taken into consideration, it's easy to see how many people may mistakenly believe they suffer from different conditions rather than a single illness. In many cases, despite years of pain, the person may appear to be in good health.

The Stages of Adrenal Fatigue

Many of us underestimate the role of cortisol in our overall health. Too much of anything, too frequently, can not only disrupt our HPA axis but also cause cellular problems. When high levels of cortisol are combined with low levels of DHEA (Dehydroepiandrosterone is a hormone that the body naturally produces in the adrenal gland), a syndrome known as Chronic Stress Response develops. This occurs when our body's ability to tune a wide range of activities is compromised, resulting in serious metabolic, immunological, and hormonal issues.

Adrenal Fatigue, like many other illnesses, has multiple stages:

Stage 1
Stage 1

In the early stage of adrenal fatigue, cortisol levels rise while DHEA and its metabolites decline, resulting in an imbalance of testosterone and estrogen levels.

Stage 2
Stage 2

DHEA levels drop even further as a result of continuously elevated cortisol levels. Cortisol production eventually declines as well.

Stage 3
Stage 3

As the disease progresses, overall cortisol and DHEA release are lowered even further, and high amounts of ACTH (the hormone made by the pituitary gland) are substituted. The pituitary gland is lacking its ability to produce cortisol at this stage, which might bring the HPA axis to a halt.

Internal Healing and Wellness MD, Houston and their treatments

We help clients from The Woodlands, Spring, Conroe, and other Houston suburbs recognize and treat their Adrenal Fatigue at Internal Healing and Wellness MD. We can now diagnose the illness using basic saliva and urine testing, as well as monitoring the patient's neurotransmitters, thanks to contemporary technology. We can create a personalized therapy plan to restore HPA axis function, which will include herbal supplements, dietary adjustments, and stress management.

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