HPA Axis Dysfunction
07 Aug 2020
What is our HPA Axis?
Behind the scenes of work, social and family life our poor bodies are struggling to keep up with this exciting and busy life we all lead. Particularly at this time of year, we keep battling one busy day after
another and don’t give our bodies the chance to rest and rejuvenate. Unfortunately remaining in a state of constant arousal for a long period of time can cause a little havoc on the body.
HPA dysfunction occurs when we have prolonged and intense periods of stress. Whilst there may not be any obvious signs or symptoms of being sick, there is an overall feeling of being ‘unwell’ or no matter how much sleep we get we are still always tired. As evolution would have it, the body cannot tell the difference between ‘stress at work’ or the stress of ‘running from the tiger’. A constant state of stress in the body disrupts the communication of our Hypothalamus, Pituitary and Adrenal glands (HPA axis) that regulate the release of stress hormones. When our HPA axis is unable to respond effectively to the demands that stress places on the body, the body enters a state of fatigue. I like to think of HPA axis dysfunction as ‘fatigue that is not relieved by sleep’ or ‘Wired and Tired’.
Symptoms of HPA axis dysfunction include:
- Difficulty getting up in the morning, even after a decent nights sleep
- Feeling overwhelmed and or anxious
- Trouble bouncing back from acute stress or illness
- Craving high sugar, white carbohydrates e.g. bread and salty foods
- Feeling awake late in the day rather than earlier in the day or getting a ‘second wind’
- A general ‘unwell’ feeling
So how can we dissolve that tired feeling and get our energy back?
- Eat nourishing and wholesome meals – when stressed, our bodies use up nutrients at a high rate so eating nutrient-rich foods is important
- Reduce foods that cause further stress and inflammation on the body such as processed sugar and alcohol
- Identify the stressors – become aware of what is causing stress in your life so that you can make positive changes
- Mindfulness – avenues such as meditation can help us to change our thought pattern and focus on the positive things
- Sleep – a good nights sleep allows the body to heal and replenish
- Breathe – stop and take 3 deep ‘belly’ breaths when you find yourself in a stressful situation throughout the day – breath in through your nose for 4 seconds, hold for 5 seconds and breath out through your mouth for 6 seconds and repeat.