Stress Management/HPA Dysfunction

When a person is exposed to stress in short increments, the body’s response includes stimulation of the sympathetic nervous system and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, leading to the release of cortisol, adrenaline and norepinephrine. These regulate your body’s fight or flight response. These normal responses help you respond to potential threats in short bursts. What happens in situations of prolonged, chronic stress?

In these situations, a person is exposed to continuous release of cortisol and adrenaline into the bloodstream, which, if left unresolved, can lead to a decline in health and chronic fatigue.

HPA Dysfunction, also referred to as adrenal fatigue, non-Addison’s hypoadrenia, sub-clinical adrenal apathy, is a collection of signs and symptoms with the hallmark being chronic fatigue that is not relieved by sleep. It requires the need of excessive caffeine and stimulants to get through the day and is often not recognized by modern medicine, although it affects millions of people, as it is not as readily identifiable as a rash or diabetes.

3 Stages of HPA Dysfunctions

Stage 1. Alarm Phase - Patients in this stage feel restless, irritable and are experiencing stressful situations. The continued state of stress leads to excess cortisol production and if left unchecked can lead to weight gain, sugar fluctuations, insulin resistance, anxiety and insomnia.

Stage 2. Resistance Phase - As a result of ongoing acute adrenal dysfunction or years of mild stress without adequate relaxation, cortisol production becomes erratic. Although cortisol levels remain elevated, patients begin to experience more fatigue, changes in metabolism and even changes in sex drive.

Stage 3. Exhaustion Phase- This the most advanced stage of HPA dysfunction and is associated with a multitude of issues including fatigue, depression, insomnia, hormonal imbalances, increased pain and inflammation.

Most people associate stress with loss of a job, prolonged illness or family death. Emotional stress but chronic stress also occurs as a result of insomnia, poor blood sugar control and inflammation. Addressing each of these 4 key stressors of the body is an important part of restoring HPA harmony and decreasing stress on the body.

HPA dysfunction will no be detected on routine laboratory testing and requires specific testing to make the diagnosis and identify the stage of the dysfunction. Once this is established, a comprehensive stress management approach and adrenal support supplements are utilized to restore the adrenals and you to optimal health.

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