Fatigue and Energy Production
The link between fatigue and the ability to regulate and manage stress is a complex one. Overall, the body’s response is one of tiredness and fatigue, making us more susceptible to other complications.
The adrenal glands are mainly responsible for secreting cortisol and catecholamines (epinephrine and norepinephrine), the hormones involved in mediating stress responses. In addition to causing the depletion of a host of micronutrients, stress can alter levels of cortisol and catecholamines in a detrimental manner.
Maintaining ideal levels of cortisol, referred to as the “stress hormone,” is critical to health. The adrenals secrete this hormone during the body’s “fight or flight” response to stress. Small increases of cortisol are often welcomed, such as those quick bursts of energy necessary in crisis situations for survival reasons, or in helping to maintain homeostasis in the body. However, higher than normal levels of cortisol for prolonged amounts of time, as seen with chronic stress, have been shown to have negative effects on the body. For example, cortisol increases serum blood glucose and insulin levels, inducing dysglycemia and laying the foundation for metabolic syndrome. Over time, elevated cortisol levels have detrimental repercussions on the adrenal glands, causing them to “burn out” so that they no longer can produce sufficient quantities of cortisol for the body to handle stress.
The HPA Axis
The HPA axis is an interdependent, tightly-linked endocrine unit which makes up a major peripheral limb of the body’s stress system. The hypothalamus and pituitary form the central part of the HPA axis, whose main function is to control reactions to stress, maintaining stress-related homeostasis. It is the combined system of neuroendocrine units (the nervous and endocrine systems as they function together) which regulate the adrenal gland’s hormonal activities.
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