Managing chronic stress and HPA axis dysfunction aka hypocortisolism:
Stress is defined as any disturbance—extreme cold or heat, psychological stress, sleep deprivation, work overload, physical trauma, as well as toxic exposure—that can trigger the stress response.
The HPA Axis
The body’s stress response system consists of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis. Prolonged stress triggers the HPA axis and consists of three stages: alarm, resistance and exhaustion.
ALARM: The initial, short-lived phase is the body’s normal fight-or-flight response to danger, characterized by elevated cortisol levels.
RESISTANCE: The subsequent resistance phase allows the body to continue buffering extended stress exposure, long after the initial fight-or-flight response has dissipated. Hormones released by the adrenals, such as cortisol and DHEA, help support the “resistance” reaction.
EXHAUSTION: Extended periods of stress not only burden the system, creating an imbalance in cortisol and DHEA production, but can result in mental and physical fatigue, nervous tension, irritability and poor memory—all of which are characteristic of stage 3, exhaustion.
What to do?
How to support the body’s resistance to fatigue, improve cognition and balance cortisol and DHEA levels?
1. Lifestyle Modifications
- Sleep Sleep Sleep: Most adults need 8-9 hours of sleep per night.
- Keep blood sugar balanced.
- Manage and/or control your stress as best as you are able.
- Vitamin C
- B vitamin complex
- Essential Fatty acids – Omega 3 fish oils containing EPA and DHA
- Vitamin E
- Adaptogens (Nuadapt)
- Ashwaghanda (withania somnifera) – Improves stress resilience, supporting immune response, regulating the sleep cycle, supporting healthy thyroid function and protecting against exhaustion of the nervous system. 1.
- Rhodiola rosea – Supports the nervous system, mood regulation, mental clarity, work performance and the sleep cycle. Within the central nervous system, Rhodiola has demonstrated an ability to preserve levels of neurotransmitters such as serotonin, dopamine and norepinephrine. 2.
- Eleutherococcus – Improves general health, supports memory and improves physical or athletic endurance. 3, 4.
- L-theanine – Quickly improves stress perception and resilience. Increases serotonin and dopamine production in the brain. Increases alpha brain wave activity which is critical for increasing attention and promoting a sense of relaxation. L-theanine has also been shown to have a protective effect for nerve cells and reduces excitatory glutamate activity in the brain. 6.
- Phosphatidylserine – In studies administering phosphatidylserine (50-800 mg) to subjects under stress (physical, emotional, mental, etc.), it has been found that phosphatidylserine reduces stress-induced excretion of cortisol.
Test your cortisol levels
Saliva testing of Cortisol and DHEA is offered by our pharmacy. Saliva testing is the gold standard for measuring cortisol.
It is an easy, affordable test that can be performed within the comfort of your own home without the need of going to a physician’s office.
Ask our pharmacists about purchasing at-home hormone testing kits.
Adrenal Stress Test Kit Includes:
Adrenal Stress Profile – DS & Cx4
Cortisol Awakening Response Test Kit Includes:
Cortisol Awakening Response Profile (CAR) – DS & Cx6
Here to help.
Contact Morgan Compounding Pharmacy today with questions on how we can help you with recommendations to support your body’s stress response.
- Mishra LC, Singh BB, Dagenais S. Scientific basis for the therapeutic use of Withania somnifera (ashwagandha): a review. Altern Med Rev 2000; 5(4):334-346.
- Rhodiola rosea. Altern Med Review 2002;7 (5):421-423.
- American Botanical Council. American Botanical Council. Eleuthero root. http://www.herbalgram.org. 2002.
- Halstead BW, Hood LL. Eleutherococcus senticosus /Siberian ginseng: An introduction to the Concept of Adaptogenic Medicine. Long Beach, CA: Oriental Healing Arts Institute; 1984:28.
- Yokogoshi H, Kobayashi M, Mochizuki M, Terashima T. Effect of theanine, r- glutamylethylamide, on brain monoamines and striatal dopamine release in conscious rats. Neurochem Res 1998; 23(5):667-73.
- Kimura K, Ozeki M, et al. L-Theanine reduces psychological and physiological stress responses. Biol Psychol 2007; 74(1):39-45.
- Hellhammer, J Fries E, et al. Effects of soy lecithin phosphatidic acid and phosphatidylserine complex (PAS) on the endocrine and psychological responses to mental stress. Stress 2004; 7(2):119-126.