"STOP CALLING IT ADRENAL FATIGUE, IT"S HPA AXIS DYSFUNCTION.
We"re relatively casual with our use of the word stress but few of us truly understand its full impact on our lives. Even when we"re not aware we"re experiencing it, our bodies are carrying out the mechanics of a stress response as we proceed with the business of daily living. Previously described as adrenal fatigue, we now know that the full effect of chronic stress goes beyond just the adrenal glands. It affects the entire HPA axis, which is why when it comes to the insidious and far-reaching effects of stress, it"s HPA Axis Dysfunction that we need to understand.
What is the HPA axis?
The HPA Axis describes the interaction between the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. The main function generally attributed to the HPA axis involves the body's chain reaction to stress as follows:
The hypothalamus triggers our fight-flight-freeze response which stimulates the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) into the bloodstream. ACTH then causes the adrenal glands to release cortisol. When cortisol reaches peak levels in the blood, the hypothalamus responds by turning off the stress response.
What does that mean for you exactly? It means there is a myriad of ways this chain reaction presents in the body, all of them worth noting and worth learning so that you can understand how your body works and better discern signals of distress.
A stress response means an increased heart rate, increased blood pressure, and the body"s immune response shutting off. It means blood flow to the prefrontal cortex is deprioritized, weakening your ability to use adequate judgement. Blood flow to the gut is also deprioritized, decreasing your ability to digest and absorb nutrition. Your blood sugar goes up to fuel the muscles responsible for the fight-flight response, increasing your risk of insulin resistance. There is pupil dilation, muscle stiffness, a 30 point drop in IQ and finally, bronchial dilation, which can make it hard to breathe and is sometimes described as "air drowning." These are just some of the known effects on the body during a stress response. They may not be fun to read but are empowering to know."
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