We often hear the term “ adrenal fatigue” being thrown around in the health and wellness world lately. What really IS adrenal fatigue? And should it even be called that?
Adrenal fatigue is usually described as our adrenals being “exhausted” or having a lack of energy. But what really might be the cause of this imbalance? Take a closer look below at some important points I’ve learned over the years throughout my studies and the importance of the HPA axis.
- Our brain and our endocrine system (hormones) communicate together to create a sustained stress response. This lets us adapt to
a newbalanced homeostasis after a stressful event or situation ( fight + flight)
- The HPA axis ( hypothalamic pituitary adrenal axis) is the core of this neuroendocrine system. The HPA axis includes a group of hormone-secreting glands ( hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenal glands)
- Hormones released from the pituitary gland ( in the brain) travel down to the kidneys where the adrenals are.
- The HPA axis is the core to regulate our stress response.
- When we experience something stressful, the hypothalamus (in the brain) releases a hormone called corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)
- CRH signals the pituitary gland to release a hormone called ACTH ( adrenocorticotropin) into the bloodstream.
- ACTH travels down to the adrenals which pump the release of cortisol. (Stress hormone)
- This release of cortisol helps the body deal with stress. It mobilizes energy like glucose so we have enough energy to deal with stress.
- However, if cortisol is released TOO much, it’s sensed by receptors in the brain ( hypothalamus and hippocampus) which leads to the shutting off of the stress response creating a negative feedback mechanism.
- Therefore, disrupted cortisol output does not necessarily result from fatigued adrenals but rather from a dysregulation within the HPA axis!!
Ways to help your HPA axis stay balanced and not overworked:
- Laughter; surrounding yourself with friends and family who have a positive impact on your life. This stimulates our happy hormones and lets that excess cortisol take a breather for a bit
If you have any further questions regarding this topic, feel free to thread your questions below! Would love to hear from you!