THE STRESS AXIS plays a central role in the regulation of adrenal hormones.
CORTISOL is a hormone produced by the adrenal glands in response to ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone) stimulation from the pituitary gland.
Cortisol is released in small amounts in a circadian rhythm and in larger amounts during times of physical and/ or emotional stress.
Cortisol is an essential hormone and levels should vary throughout the day with a sharp increase on awakening and a decline in levels from mid morning with ideally the lowest levels at night.
When functioning normally, cortisol helps us to adapt to challenges by stimulating the release of free fatty acids from fat cells and converting proteins to energy as well as counteracting inflammation.
Cortisol can help control blood sugar levels, regulate metabolism, and assist with memory. During times of stress the adrenal glands work hard and keep pumping out more cortisol.
When emotional and/or physical stress become a chronic state, and the nervous system is in a predominantly sympathetic state, there is the possibility that the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal ) axis becomes dysregulated.
The HPA axis is involved in the neurobiology of mood disorders, burnout, chronic fatigue, fibromyalgia, and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
Constant activation of the HPA axis results in high levels of pro-inflammatory cytokines and glucocorticoids being released.
The adrenal gland continues to work under adrenal fatigue but cannot maintain normal homeostasis.
Over time, the cortisol response becomes blunted and signs and symptoms of metabolic syndrome become apparent.
* Muscle loss
* Insulin resistance
* Suppressed immune system
* Increased inflammatory responses
The finely tuned metabolism becomes disrupted and a gradual increase in unwanted body fat becomes apparent, especially around the belly!
On the other hand, if the adrenals are not able to meet the demands, adrenal fatigue appears and usually develops more quickly than metabolic syndrome, resulting in extreme fatigue or burnout, or possible illness.
TEST, DON'T GUESS!
CAR (cortisol awakening response) is a good indicator especially when assessed with a DUTCH (dried urine test for comprehensive hormones)
Life stressors are with us constantly and are not going to magically disappear unless a beautiful Island awaits..
There are some great adaptogens and certain lifestyle recommendations to assist with these symptoms.
Adrenal and cortisol disorders such as Addison's Disease (adrenal insufficiency) and Cushing's Disease (too much cortisol) are rare disorders and not part of this discussion.