How is stress affecting your health?
As a Functional Medicine doctor, I see stress taking a toll on the three body systems including (and not limited to) the neuroendocrine system (adrenal glands), gastrointestinal system, and the detoxification system (including the liver). Stress is a major trigger for autoimmune diseases creating a flare up in those who are already receiving treatments for their underlying thyroid, skin, joint conditions. Stress makes it difficult for blood sugar to come down in those suffering from diabetes. Stress can also trigger migraines and heighten muscle and joint aches/pains. With underlying conditions, stress will also add to the inability for the body to properly handle toxins.
The HPA Axis
HPA Axis references the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. This is the signaling pathway between your brain and adrenal glands. Let’s run through the signaling pathway and why this is important. The adrenal glands are the master control center for handling stress in the body. The hypothalamus inside of the brain will help maintain homeostasis (keep the body’s sleep, thirst, temperature, and other systems in a regular rhythm) by communicating its needs with the anterior pituitary. Under stress (such as running from a tiger or finishing a project so your boss isn’t upset), the anterior pituitary gland will release hormones to tell the adrenal glands to initiate a “fight or flight” response. This is like the GO peddle in the car- your body needs to flee or fight in response to the stress. When the system is working well, cortisol will elevate and handle the stressor in our lives. When you’ve safely outrun the tiger, or you’ve successfully made your boss happy, the system tells the hypothalamus to stop producing the stress response.
The HPA Axis Dysfunction
During brief, acute stressors such as the tiger chasing you or your need to finish a project up at work so your boss doesn’t get upset, the HPA axis works very well! The axis fires you up when you need it to and will return to its normal baseline when the stress is gone. However, if we are under prolonged stress, the HPA axis can go terribly wrong. Modern stresses of juggling work, family, physical fitness, and eating the best we can (on the go) day after day has its consequences. Our acute, small stressors never seem to stop, and instead we are left with lengthy, sustained, chronic stress. This will lead to what we call adrenal fatigue, adrenal burnout, or a cortisol imbalance. Our system gets desensitized to stress signals. This results in a HPA malfunction. This is very similar to insulin resistance and the path to diabetes. Just as insulin resistance has a timeline where it progressively develops, so does adrenal fatigue. HPA axis dysfunction is a problem anywhere along the axis causing hormone imbalances and symptoms including
We call this burn out because you never run out of hormones, but the signal isn’t properly working for you anymore. Fatigue
Is Adrenal Fatigue repairable?
Yes. Absolutely. Stress is a serious battle. And chronic stress can wreak havoc on disease while accelerating aging. It makes it difficult for us to lose weight with diet and exercise. It also makes it difficult to feel like you’re refreshed or getting ahead. With the use of the Adrenalcortex Stress Profile (ASP), your functional medicine doctor at West Health Spa can help assess your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis using carefully timed salivary samples of the hormones cortisol and DHEA. Together, we devise a plan to help you naturally reset your HPA axis rhythm.
Symptoms of HPA Axis Dysfunction can include:
HPA axis dysfunction is strongly associated with the following conditions:
The Adrenocortex Stress Profile testing can reveal these HPA axis imbalances and provide direction for clinical intervention with targeted therapeutic treatments such as nutrient support, adaptogens, stress management, and lifestyle interventions. To learn more, schedule a Functional Medicine Consultation on the West Health Spa app or call one of our Spa Associates at 352-331-3649.