Adrenal Dysfunction – Do You Have It?
For most of our patients, chronic stress is a major component of what we work on. Stress plays such an important role in the maintenance of proper health, and when we are exposed to chronic stress, we can cause disruption in what is called the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
The HPA Axis
The HPA Axis is an intricate part of the nervous system that connects our brain, the central nervous system, and our endocrine system (responsible for hormones and their production). It controls our response to stress, and regulates our immune system, mood, energy, and even digestion. When exposed to stress, acute or chronic, this can cause a disturbance in the HPA system, leading to adrenal dysfunction from cortisol imbalance.
Cortisol Imbalance & Adrenal Disfunction
Cortisol is our main stress hormone, produced by the adrenal glands that sit on top of our kidneys, that are responsible for that “stress response”. So what are signs of cortisol imbalance and how can we support it?
4 TYPES OF CORTISOL IMBALANCE WHICH LEAD TO ADRENAL DYSFUNCTION
1. CHRONICALLY ELEVATED CORTISOL
- Higher than normal cortisol production due to prolonged exposure to stress
- Symptoms: feeling tired but wired, insomnia, anxiety, carb & sugar cravings
- You feel jumpy, over stimulated, chronically restless and stressed! 😬
2. STEEP DROP IN AFTERNOON CORTISOL
- Morning cortisol is normal, but drops rapidly in the afternoon
- Symptoms: Mid-day energy drop, sleepiness, caffeine & sugar cravings, low exercise tolerance and poor recovery from workouts
- You feel absolutely tanked and have that major afternoon dip in energy afternoon and really crave a pick me up at that time (hello, coffee!) ☕️
3. ELEVATED EVENING CORTISOL
- High evening and night cortisol production
- Symptoms: tired but wired, mind racing at night, second wind of energy in the evening, cant get to sleep or wake up often, carb & sugar cravings, irritability, low exercise tolerance
- You feel tired all day, but when you go to lay in bed, you feel wide awake! You have a racing mind, and end up tossing and turning all night. 🤯
4. CHRONICALLY LOW CORTISOL
- Adrenal exhaustion and depletion
- Burnout pattern with overall low cortisol
- Symptoms: tired all the time, constantly catching colds/sick, many allergies, major carb, sugar and processed food cravings, sleep disturbances, overall irritability and exhaustion
- You feel absolutely flat-lined all day, and feel like no matter how much sleep you get or much coffee you drink, you are still exhausted. You are just burnt out. 😴
Do any of these resonate with you? Luckily, naturopathic medicine can help.
Depending on which phase you are in, there are specific treatments!
- Best time to eat and what type of foods are best to eat
- Best time to exercise and what type of exercise
- Best morning and evening routine
- What nutrients may be missing
- What herbal interventions may be recommended to support proper function (decrease or increase cortisol)
Book today to learn more about Adrenal Dysfunction, including your specific adrenal & cortisol function! 🔎
Article Written by Dr. Shannon McGuire, ND