Adrenal Fatigue - aka HPA Dysfunction

Adrenal Fatigue - aka HPA Dysfunction

Normal adrenal gland function is required for an appropriate response to stress [1].  Stress, acute and chronic, is common in our hectic lifestyles.  Over time, stress exhausts our body and contributes to a variety of chronic illnesses such as high blood pressure, immune suppression, diabetes, fatigue, anxiety/depression, just to name a few.  Continued stress contributes to adrenal fatigue/adrenal exhaustion or HPA (Hypothalamus, Pituitary, Adrenal) axis dysfunction.    

The adrenal glands are one of the most important organs that respond to stress by producing a variety of hormones.  During extended periods of stress, 'adrenal fatigue' can set in and the adrenals are incapable of doing their job properly, this can lead to changes in cortisol output [2, 3].   

Stress presents in many forms:

  • Mental/emotional challenges
  • Chronic injuries/pain
  • Blood sugar dysregulation
  • Hormonal fluctuations

 Chronic stress does not give our adrenal glands and our body the chance to recover.  Adrenal hormonal output can decline or be dysfunctional and lead to adrenal fatigue in this chronic state of stress.    

Symptoms of Adrenal Fatigue include:

  • Fatigue
  • Insomnia
  • Anxiety or depression
  • Mental fog or poor memory
  • Inappropriate response to stress.  
  • Irritability or mood swings
  • Muscle/Joint pain or weakness
  • Blood sugar imbalance

 The adrenal glands produce a variety of hormones.  They secrete cortisol in a 24 hour cycle, with a peak in the morning and levels tapering off as the day continues.  Low levels of cortisol can leave someone feeling fatigued and high levels can leave you feeling wired.  Our body reaches out to us through many signals and symptoms, paying attention to them and addressing them will keep the body functioning optimally.  Left untreated adrenal insufficiency can play a role in contributing to: arthritis, chronic fatigue, depression, anxiety, fibromyalgia, IBS, and hypothyroidism.

Here are five ways to improve your adrenal function:

  • Proper nutrition and supplementation to address vitamin and mineral deficiencies
  • Avoid food that reduce the adrenal function – refined sugar, simple carbohydrates and caffeine
  • Remove obstacles to good health – food allergies/sensitivities
  • Regulate your sleep – consistent sleep and wake times
  • Light exercise - increasing in intensity and duration as the body allows

There are stressors you can't control, don’t worry about them right now.  Focus on the stressors you can control and start making small shifts in your routine - these will have a powerful impact.  A product like Zip, with B Vitamins, Vitamin C and apoptogenic herbs would be extremely beneficial in supporting your body in times of stress*. 

  1. Dunlop BW, Wong A. The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in PTSD: Pathophysiology and treatment interventions. Prog Neuropsychopharmacol Biol Psychiatry. 2019 Mar 8;89:361-379. doi: 10.1016/j.pnpbp.2018.10.010. Epub 2018 Oct 17. PMID: 30342071.
  2. Liao J, Brunner EJ, Kumari M. Is there an association between work stress and diurnal cortisol patterns? Findings from the Whitehall II study. PLoS One. 2013 Dec 3;8(12):e81020. doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0081020. PMID: 24312516; PMCID: PMC3849138.
  3. Heim C, Ehlert U, Hellhammer DH. The potential role of hypocortisolism in the pathophysiology of stress-related bodily disorders. Psychoneuroendocrinology. 2000 Jan;25(1):1-35. doi: 10.1016/s0306-4530(99)00035-9. PMID: 10633533.
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