Many people in our busy, hectic world are suffering from some level of adrenal fatigue. We are under chronic stress and we’re suffering from its effects. It can reveal itself in a variety of symptoms from physical or mental fatigue, to gut issues, hormone imbalances, sleep problems, and more.
Adrenal fatigue is not a medically recognized health issue, but HPA axis dysregulation is. HPA stands for your hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis.
The HPA axis the the control center for your body’s stress response. When you get stressed, your hypothalamus in your brain releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CHR), which results in the production of cortisol, the stress hormone, from the adrenal glands. This is a normal response. Your body is designed to do this.
However, in the modern world, your HPA axis is constantly being activated, as you’re exposed to stressors all the time. Examples are financial problems, traffic, work problems, chronic infections, relationship issues, lack of sleep, etc. These chronic stressors can take a toll on your HPA axis, and they make you more likely to develop HPA axis dysfunction.
Whether the stressors you face are psychological or physiological, each time you face them your HPA axis is activated and the stress response begins. As your adrenals pump out more and more cortisol, you become less and less sensitive to its effects. The negative feedback cycles that normally keep the stress response in check get turned off, and you develop what is called “HPA axis dysfunction”.
HPA axis dysfunction describes the state in which your HPA axis no longer works the way it should – instead of only turning on when you’re under acute stress and turning off when you’re not, it is consistently turned on, and the mechanisms that turn it off stop working. When this happens, you are constantly producing cortisol and levels become too high. Eventually, the HPA axis can’t keep up and your cortisol levels start dropping off, becoming too low.
Having the right amount of cortisol circulating in your body is crucial. The “stress hormone” serves many different functions in the body, like keeping inflammation at bay, and is an integral part of the immune system. Without it, you’re not in a good place!
While adrenal fatigue (HPA axis dysregulation) is not life-threatening, the functionally high or low cortisol levels found in those with adrenal fatigue syndrome can cause unpleasant, distressing symptoms and keep you from living life on your own terms.
The good thing is that adrenal fatigue is treatable, but it requires action and lifestyle changes. In order to recover, you must reduce the stress in your life. That may involve turning off your electronics at a certain time each day, implementing self-care activities, or cleaning up your diet.
I recommend making small changes over time. Often times, when we try to make major changes all at once, that causes more stress, and we don’t stick with it. Here are four steps to overcome adrenal fatigue naturally.
The is one of the most important things you can do for your health. If you’re not getting 7-9 hours of good quality sleep each night, then your health is going to suffer. You may not feel it now, but it will catch up to you. Try to wind down around the same time every night and be in bed between 10-11pm. Then try to wake up at the same time every morning. If you have a racing mind at night, then turn off your electronics 2 hours before bed and do a relaxing activity, such as meditation, journaling, or an epsom salt bath. You can also apply lavender essential oil to the bottoms of your feet or diffuse it in your bedroom.
Managing your stress in a healthy way is critical to reverse adrenal fatigue and heal your body. Try doing at least one self care activity each day. Examples include walking in nature, journaling, meditation, prayer, yoga, deep breathing, epsom salt baths, or reading an enjoyable book.
The foods you eat either add stress to your body or they help heal and nourish your body. Focus on consuming healthy, nourishing whole foods. Cut out the processed foods and refined sugar. Make sure you’re getting plenty of clean protein, healthy fats, fresh fruits and veggies.
Certain supplements and essential oils can be very supportive to the body and help reduce stress and support your adrenals. Adaptogenic herbs are very effective in balancing out stress hormones and supporting adrenal function. Additionally, therapeutic-grade essential oils like rosemary and basil are wonderful for adrenal imbalances. Just apply a couple of drops over your adrenal glands 2-3 times per day.
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