I recently wrote about my Adrenal Fatigue story. Essentially it’s my experience with chronic-stress and how I discovered I have HPAD (Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal axis dysfunction) a.k.a. Adrenal Fatigue. My journey involved multiple opinions, several doctors and lots of testing. For the purpose of this post, I wanted to dive deep and explain what exactly Adrenal Fatigue is in my own words as best I can and share some resources I’ve found to be super helpful.
Adrenal Fatigue Explained
When the body is exposed to stress (physical or emotional), the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (or HPA axis for short) is activated, and a cascade of hormonal changes occur to eventually cause the release of cortisol (our stress hormone) from the adrenal gland. Normally, when a stressor goes away, negative feedback cycles serve to turn off the HPA axis and reduce the release of cortisol.
When we’re exposed to chronic stressors over a long period of time, our adrenals pump out more and more cortisol as we become more and more resistant to its effects. The negative feedback cycles that normally keep things in check get turned off, and our health suffers as a result. Things like hormone imbalances, vitamin deficiencies and auto-immune disorders are common among those who suffer from HPAD. Know this info, it is no surprise that I also have low Thyroid and low Vitamin D levels.
Examples of stress on the body: getting stuck in traffic, working two jobs, eating an inflammatory diet, having gut issues like IBS, illness, overtraining, sleep and circadian rhythm disruption.
“Adrenal Fatigue” is a syndrome, not a disease, which means it is a collection of symptoms. Each of these symptoms can be connected to a deficiency in one or more of the hormones produced by the adrenal glands. Symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome are numerous and include: fatigue, lack of energy, heightened anxiety or anxiousness, decreased ability to handle stress, irritability, weakened immune system, cold hands and feet, brain fog, abnormal periods, weight gain around mid-section and more.
For me, my journey included finding a good naturopath in Portland and lots of in-depth testing. This included an extensive hormone + cortisol panel so that we could see exactly where my imbalances were to effectively treat my specific needs. Treating HPAD is not one size fits all — every case has its specific needs and treatment plan — due to things like root cause, imbalances and deficiencies. It’s important to seek medical attention if you’re experiencing symptoms.
If you’re curious about exercise and Adrenal Fatigue, I recently wrote an Instagram post on the topic. You can find it here.
My Favorite Resources:
- Book: Woman Code
- Book: The Hormone Cure
- Book: The Adrenal Reset Diet
- Podcast: Revolution Health Radio
- Podcast: Ultimate Health Podcast
- Podcast: Mind Body Green