Welcome to my first blog post! This week: Could It Be Your Adrenals?

As a naturopathic physician and practitioner of functional medicine, it is my intention to identify the root cause of your symptoms.  Evaluating the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, or HPA-axis, is fundamental in my approach to your care. Let me tell you why:

When our bodies experience a stressful event, there is a cascade of biochemical processes beginning in the brain and ultimately leading to the stimulation of your adrenal glands. Stress can take the form of pain, trauma, low blood pressure, low blood sugar, exercise, fear, loss, anger, bereavement; all of these stimulate the adrenal glands to release cortisol.

Cortisol raises blood sugar and retains water. Keeping our blood sugar elevated ensures that our brains remain fueled and retaining water ensures our organs maintain blood perfusion during times of stress.

Under normal circumstances, our bodies have an innate feedback system that ‘turns off’ the cortisol switch. However, chronic stress causes the ‘switch’ to remain on and cortisol levels to remain elevated. This leads to health problems: blood sugars remain high, fat gets distributed to the belly, we become resistant to insulin, retain fluid, have high blood pressure, proteins break down, hormone production is inhibited, and the immune system is suppressed! Not good.    

Take this quick quiz to assess your adrenal function:

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  • Cannot Fall Asleep?

  • Cannot stay asleep?

  • Crave salt?

  • Slow starter in the morning?

  • Afternoon fatigue?

  • Dizziness when standing up quickly?

  • Afternoon headaches?

  • Headaches with exertion or stress?

  • Weak nails?

  • Perspire easily?

  • Excessive perspiration or perspiration with little or no activity?

  • Under a high amount of stress?

  • Weight gain when under stress?

  • Wake up tired even after 6 or more hours of sleep?

If you said ‘yes’ to more than three questions, HPA-axis dysfunction may be an underlying imbalance. Schedule an appointment if you are interested in assessing your adrenal gland function, and stay tuned! Next week I’ll be discussing our available testing options.

~Dr. Heather