Friday, May 01, 2015

The Stress Syndrome

Here is the promised post about Adrenal Fatigue aka HPA Axis Dysregulation {fancy, huh?} ... the universe must have been banging it's head against the wall with me the past few months ... "FOR THE LOVE OF GOD WOMAN, LISTEN TO THE SIGNS!" But in true Kate fashion, I stiff-armed and avoided the red flags and continued down the rabbit hole....And now here I am.

But you know the funny part, this is exactly what I needed.  I am discovering that helping people with adrenal fatigue may be what I would like to "specialize" in once I have my own practice.  But that's still a few months away, so I digress...

There is SO MUCH information I could write about for this post.  SO I'll start with the basics and then link to some awesome resources at the end.  Remember that podcast I referred to in the previous post?  Yes, that was released yesterday and my mind was blown multiple times.  My test results from my gynecologist (who told me I was "normal" until I looked at the numbers myself) finally make sense.  {I can't wait to help others feel the same way!!}

What is Adrenal Fatigue?
Adrenal fatigue = HPA Axis Dysregulation; "HPA" stands for Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal.  Together, these three act as a center for control of your stress response, ultimately resulting in the release of a hormone called Cortisol.  This is SUPPOSED to happen.  Your body needs a way to respond to the stress in your life.

But if you think about our modern lifestyle, we are constantly in a state of stress. We no longer have to "just" run from the lion, we have various, but consistent, stressors coming from all directions: family, work, health, exercise, money, lack of sleep, etc.  We all respond to stress in different manners.  Stress does not just have to be the feeling of "I'm so stressed." For example, Overtraining with exercise is a stress that people misinterpret to be a "healthy" stress.  But yes, you can overtrain...and it looks different for everyone!  This is just one example.

When you build and pile on all these stressors over time, your poor HPA axis eventually stops responding to that activation signal.  This is its way of protecting itself.  Just like there are different levels of insulin resistance (hypoglycemia - insulin resistance - pre-diabetes - diabetes), there are different levels of adrenal fatigue, as well.

What are the signs and symptoms of AF?

The signs and symptoms of AF can vary from individual to individual.  Like I mentioned before, we are all unique when it comes to our response to stress.  Consider the following questions:

  • Are you tired for no reason?
  • Do you lack energy?
  • Do you need coffee or caffeinated drinks to keep your going?
  • Do you have trouble waking up in the morning?
  • Are you still tired after you sleep?
  • Are you feeling run down or sick?
  • Do you crave salty and sweet snacks?
  • Do you have a decreased ability to handle daily stress?
  • Are you experiencing depression or less enjoyment in your life?
  • Are you light-headed if you stand up quickly?
  • Is your memory less accurate?
  • Are your thoughts less focused?

I link to Dr. Wilson's awesome text below, but you can also take his online quiz here.

What can I do?!

Learn more.  That is where I would start.  You can also take a test to find if you have adrenal fatigue.  It is always best to truly make sure you know you are experiencing this particular syndrome before you start treating it (which is why I am not going to list too many specifics here).  As Chris Kresser says, "Test, don't guess."  There is a saliva test that is described and can be purchased here.

Also check out this article for some great suggestions for simple lifestyle changes :)


It's just the beginning. Adrenal fatigue is likely something your conventional doctor does NOT recognize.  It is a syndrome, not a disease. There are various reasons why they may dismiss the idea, but I'm not here to say anything bad about any community because we all serve our purpose...but I do encourage those of you reading that think you may have AF to talk to someone who will listen!

Feel free to get in touch if you have questions or need help moving in the right direction!

Additional Resources:
* Adrenal Fatigue: The 21st Century Stress Syndrome by James L. Wilson, N.D., D.C., Ph.D.
* Balanced Bites Podcast #188
* Laura Schoenfeld's Program - Paleo Rehab

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