Ever wondered about HPA axis dysfunction? Part 1

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Hormone dysfunction is at the root of MANY conditions that plague both women and men. Many of us have no idea that something is seriously wrong or even realize what they consider feeling “normal” is far from the possibility for a much more vibrant life.    

 

The "HPA axis" is a quick way of describing the incredible physiological communication and response that occurs between three components -  hypothalamus - pituitary - adrenal” – three intricately connected systems including the central nervous system (hypothalamus) and 2 endocrine glands (pituitary and adrenal gland). 

 

The hypothalamus and pituitary are the size of an almond and peas and are located at the base of the brain. The adrenals, two walnut sized glands sit atop the kidneys. 

 

This system works as a team to help regulate your stress response, mood, digestion, immune system, sex drive, energy levels and metabolism.  When strained, this system can weaken and is not able to do its job effectively.  This can lead to the overproduction of Cortisol and Epinephrine/Norepinephrine – your main stress hormones and has been commonly referred to as “adrenal fatigue” (although it is more accurately described as HPA axis dysfunction).

 

Did you know that “adrenal fatigue” affects much more than the adrenals?

The HPA axis was not designed for constant/persistent stress. Constant stress taxes the HPA axis to a point where the adrenal glands are not longer appropriately signaled to respond as needed, resulting in a state of cortisol levels not meeting demand. 

 

Common symptoms (but not limited to) of HPA axis dysfunction are:

 

HPA axis dysfunction can affect many hormone and neurohormones in the body. But the main hormones affected – and those that could be tested to diagnose this condition are:

 

There are several things that can tax the adrenals and lead to dysfunction. The short list of causes of HPA axis dysfunction includes: 

This is a common condition that is rampant in our modern culture.  So many of us are stressed out by our modern lifestyles that it would seen that supporting the adrenals is often a good place to start whenever hormones appear to be an issue. 

 

In part 2 of this series, you will learn about the thyroid gland. This powerhouse of a gland produces hormones that regulates the body’s metabolism; the process of creating and using energy. 

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Author
Image of Sharon F Sharon Fowler, NBC-HWC Sharon Fowler is an Integrative Institute of Nutrition trained and certified Integrative Health Coach with additional certifications in gut and hormone health.

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