Stress & Anxiety
While Adrenal Fatigue is not a is not a medically recognized condition, the phrase is a shorthand for a legitimate issue, HPA axis dysfunction. This issue can cause potentially serious health issues if left unaddressed.
What is HPA axis dysfunction?
The HPA axis is the hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal network, which works to manage stress, energy, and immune responses. While the adrenal gland is a part of the network, it’s not appropriate to isolate its functionality as being the culprit of HPA axis dysfunction in all cases.
HPA axis dysfunction occurs when a patient experiences a prolonged, heightened stress response. This can be related to work pressures, economic situation, unhealthy relationships, and any circumstance that causes elevated stress levels.
- Disrupted sleep
- Chronic fatigue
- Weight fluctuations
- Weakened immune response and heightened susceptibility to infection or illness
- Reduced focus
- Digestive issues
How to Treat HPA axis dysfunction: Your natural cortisol curve
Cortisol production happens in your adrenal glands. The adrenal glands secrete cortisol in a circadian rhythm, meaning it follows our internal 24-hour clock. When well-balanced, you will have high cortisol levels in the morning to help wake up. Your cortisol levels then slowly taper in the afternoon and evening, so you sleep well. Salivary testing at four different times of the day allows your doctor to see what your individual cortisol curve looks like.
In my practice, I find people at various stages of adrenal fatigue, often relating to how long they have lived with high levels of stress. For some, cortisol is elevated throughout the day, or low all day, or has a zigzag pattern, or spikes at night instead of the morning. Typically I use the DUTCH test to help map your cortisol curve as well as look at your neurotransmitter metabolites.
The good news is that simple diet and lifestyle changes along with specific supplement protocols can help restore a normal cortisol curve. Whether you’ve been told you need to raise or lower your cortisol levels, all these practices will be healthy and helpful. For a specific and customized tailored approach to getting back to feeling better, get in touch today.