HPA Axis Dysregulation (a.k.a. Adrenal Fatigue)

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What is HPA axis dysregulation?

The type of low level but chronic stress that we experience in modern life can be destructive to the resilience of our body’s own stress response system, the HPA (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal) axis. HPA axis dysregulation occurs when constant or frequent stressors disrupt the natural rhythms of cortisol and other hormones. HPA axis dysregulation is typically referred to as “adrenal fatigue,” yet abnormal cortisol levels stem from deeper issues in the brain and central nervous system, rather than a result of the adrenals being “fatigued.” HPA axis dysregulation is important to address because it impacts all other systems of our body, including the gut, brain, heart, thyroid, reproductive system, etc. It’s important to work with a practitioner to address any underlying causes. Natural herbs and supplements that heal and support the HPA-Axis can be helpful when recommended by a practitioner.

Symptoms

Because the HPA axis affects all other aspects of health, the possible symptoms are infinite. Here are some symptoms that are more directly related to it:

  • Low energy/fatigue (especially in the morning)

  • Brain fog or poor memory

  • Low thyroid

  • Cold intolerance

  • Poor digestion

  • Sweet or salty food cravings

  • Sleep disruption or insomnia

  • Hormone imbalance

  • Compromised immune system

  • Blood sugar imbalance

  • Systemic Inflammation

  • Muscle weakness

  • Low blood pressure

  • Decreased ability to handle stress

  • Anxiety or depression

  • Moodiness or irritability

  • Compulsive or addictive behavior

Potential stressors that can disrupt the HPA-Axis include:

  • Over-excercising or lack of movement

  • Environmental toxins

  • Emotional stress or percieved stress

  • Blood sugar imbalance

  • Toxins in the diet or malnutrition

  • Lack of sleep

  • Exposure to artificial light & lack of exposure to natural light

  • Poor gut health or digestive issues

  • Chronic pain or inflammation

  • Drug or alcohol consumption

Diet Tips for Healing the HPA Axis:

  • Eat a nutrient dense diet with whole, unrefined, organic foods

  • Do not skip meals or go too long without eating

  • Eat 3 meals a day, plus snack if needed

  • Avoid large amounts of sugar or refined carbohydrates at one time (to avoid blood sugar spike)

  • Eat enough whole food carbohydrates, especially at night

  • Eat plenty of healthy fat and protein sources

  • Use digestive bitters or digestive enzymes if needed with meals (to increase nutrient absorption)

  • Use real sea salt on all your meals

  • Avoid caffeine, alcohol, tabacco, and processed/artificial foods

  • Eat mineral rich foods like seaweed, dark leafy greens, and shellfish

  • Eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables

Lifestyle Tips for Healing the HPA Axis:

  • Keep exercise gentle

  • Get plenty of rest

  • Get at least 8 hours of sleep every night

  • Keep a consistent sleep schedule

  • Avoid artificial light at night, wear blue-blocking glasses for screens, sleep in a dark room

  • Get exposure to natural sunlight especially in the morning

  • Avoid exercise at night and get movement in during the morning

  • Remove unnecessary emotional and physical stressors

  • Spend time with loved ones

  • Practice mindfulness and stress reduction (yoga, meditation, reading, breathwork)

  • Process and release any stored trauma or stuck negative emotions

Food Allergy Addiction Cycle

It is easy to get caught in an addictive cycle with foods that we have mild immune responses to. When we eat these foods, it triggers a stress response which causes a disruption in metabolism and increases our cortisol (stress hormone) and dopamine (happy neurotransmitter) levels. This initially boosts our mood and makes us energized but then leads to a drop in hormone and neurotransmitter levels causing inflammation, nutrient depletion, cravings, and mood disruption. We can develop an immune response to any type of food, but the most common immune-provoking foods are: grains, commercial dairy, nuts and seeds, corn, soy, eggs, other allergenic foods, sugar, GMO foods, processed foods, refined carbohydrates, alcohol, and foods with added chemicals. We are also likely to develop an immune response to any food that we repeatedly consume, especially when leaky gut is present.

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The stress response coincides with an immune system response, which sees the food particles as foreign invaders and produces inflammation. Repeated immune response contributes to:

  • Increased intestinal permeability (leaky gut)

  • Imbalance of gut bacteria

  • Compromised immune system

  • Weight gain or loss

  • Cognitive impairment

  • Systemic inflammation

  • HPA-axis dysfunction (insomnia, fatigue, anxiety)

  • Hormone imbalance

Cognitive symptoms:

  • Depression

  • Anxiety

  • Sadness

  • Irritability

  • Anger

  • Mood swings

  • Brain fog

  • Inability to concentrate

  • Poor memory

  • Mental fatigue

Steps to address food sensitivity:

  • Completely eliminate food from diet for 3-4 weeks

  • Reintroduce the food and be aware any adverse response

  • If there is no response, ingestion can be continued moderately or occasionally (repeated exposure causes higher concentration of antibodies)

  • If there is a response, continue to eliminate the food and until you can tolerate it

Food allergies usually suggest a deeper issue with the immune system or gut, so it’s best to consult a practitioner to address any underlying causes.

Nutrient Dense Paleo Burger

This recipe is crafted to boost cognitive function, increase energy, support gut health, reduce inflammation, replenish your mineral reserves, and fulfill your paleo burger dreams.

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Recipe

Ingredients:

For the patty

  • 1⁄4 lb. of pasture raised or organic chicken liver

  • 1 lb. of grass-fed beef

  • 1 tsp. organic dry thyme

  • 1⁄2 tsp. organic ground turmeric

  • 1⁄2 tsp. organic ground ginger

  • 1 tsp. sea salt

  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil

For the rest

  • 1 medium organic Japanese sweet potato

  • 1.5 cups organic dino kale

  • 2 organic avocados

  • organic mustard to taste

  • sour kraut to taste

  • 4 tsp. black sesame seeds

  • 2 tbsp. coconut oil

  • 1 tsp. sea salt

For the cashew cheese

  • 1 cup soaked cashews (at least 3 hours)

  • 2 tbsp. nutritional yeast

  • 2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice

  • 1⁄2 tsp. salt

  • 1⁄4 cup water

  • 1⁄4 tsp. fresh ground pepper

Instructions:

  • Preheat the oven to 450, cut the sweet potato in slices about 1⁄2 inch thick and break the kale up into burger-sized pieces

  • Place the sweet potatoes and kale on a pan with parchment paper, then drizzle them with melted coconut oil and salt to taste

  • Bake the kale for about 8 min, and bake the sweet potatoes for about 20 min

  • While the veggies are baking, cut the liver up into very small pieces, add it to the beef along with the spices and mix well

  • Heat 2 tbsp. coconut oil in a pan on medium-high heat and form the meat into 4 patties

  • Sear the patties for 4 minutes on each side, then turn the heat down to medium-low, cover the patties, and let them cook for another 3-4 minutes each side

  • While the patties and sweet potatoes are cooking, cut up the avocado and blend all the ingredients for the cheese in a blender until desired consistency is reached

  • Use the sweet potato for the base to build you burger the way you like it!