What is HPA Axis Dysregulation?
By Matt Cusano, Clinical Director
The HPA Axis is a set of three systems.. the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and
the adrenal gland. Essentially, it is a neuro-endocrine system, meaning it deals with
both the brain and hormones.
The HPA Axis regulates multiple processes in the body including stress response,
digestion, hormone output, mood, and emotions.
A prolonged period of chronically high stress can then lead to HPA Axis dysfunction.
HPA Axis dysfunction is when your brain and adrenal communication break down.
Your adrenals can misfire hormones or become unresponsive to signals from the
brain. People who experience this dysfunction often endure reoccurring gut health
issues, imbalances of both their sex and thyroid hormones, blood sugar
dysregulation, as well as autoimmune disorders. This dysfunction can also lead to an
improper or lackluster response to HRT therapy as well, leaving patients still feeling
sub-optimal regardless of increased dosing.
With this dysfunction, your body situates itself to a “new normal” that is very fragile
to stressors. Think of this as walking on thin Ice.. one false move (too much
accumulated stress) and the ice breaks.
So far, it is unclear whether or not this can be rectified, or if this state of stress
fragility is continuous for the remainder of our lives once it’s occurred. Anecdotally,
clients who have suffered this dysfunction have not “healed”, but rather, adapted to
a new way of life, far more conscious of stressors and how far they can push their
bodies. Athletes in particular, have to take a much more conservative approach to
how they strategize diet, training, stimulant and PED usage, as all these items can
add up to too much accumulated stress and not only cause health complications,
but greatly impair physique progress.
In order to avoid HPA Axis dysfunction, it’s important to be conscious of your current
lifestyle and actions. Understand that like a car motor, you can only redline for so
long before there is long term damage.