HPA Axis Dysfunction, aka, adrenal fatigue; it’s all making sense.

Adrenal Fatigue, it makes perfect sense sarahkayhoffman.com

I am an alarmist to my own life.

Early Saturday morning Samarah and I went for a nice, long walk. It was a cool morning with just a slight breeze. Stillness surrounded us, and the only noise I heard was here ‘n there babbles from Sam and the birds chirping.

My heart rate was low, and I did not have any caffeine prior.

It was just…..peaceful.

Stillness. Adrenal Fatigue. It Makes Perfect Sense. sarahkayhoffman.com


About mid-way through the walk, we hit a crosswalk just as a car pulled up. They waved for me to cross, so I quickly sprinted to the other side.

My heart raced for just a few moments.

We kept on walking, but eventually hit a part of the walk where there were more cars, people talking loudly, children screaming and general noise.

I felt my heart start to beat faster. My mind was present with all the noise, and I was generally distracted and uneasy.

It hit me almost instantly during those last few blocks of our walk.

This is how I’ve been living my life for years.

I have been an alarmist to my own life.

Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis

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HPA Axis Dysfunction agutsygirl.com #hpa #adrenalfatigue

Though we commonly refer to it as, “Adrenal Fatigue,” the correct term is Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis dysfunction (HPA Axis Dysfunction for short).

So what exactly is the Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal Axis?

The (HPA axis) is an interactive neuroendocrine unit comprising of the hypothalamus, the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands.

This axis plays a key role in the body’s response to stress.

So what is “Adrenal Fatigue” then?

Chris Kresser states that adrenal fatigue is,

When the body is exposed to stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis (or HPA axis for short) is activated, and a cascade of hormonal changes occur to eventually cause the release of cortisol (our stress hormone) from the adrenal gland. Normally, when a stressor goes away, negative feedback cycles serve to turn off the HPA axis and reduce the release of cortisol. In the modern world, however, many of us are constantly activating our HPA axis.

Essentially, this axis is stressed out.

In “The Modern Lifestyle: A Recipe for Adrenal Fatigue?,” symptoms of adrenal fatigue syndrome are noted as:

  • Waking up unrested
  • Decrease ability to handle stress
  • Brain fog or decreased cognitive ability
  • Dizziness when standing from sitting or lying down
  • Low sex drive
  • Increased severity of allergic responses
  • Low blood pressure
  • Low blood sugar
  • Weakness, and more…

I am/have almost each and every single one of those things.

Upon review of my “Functional Adrenal Stress Profile” medical tests which were conducted, not one level (cortisol and/or DHEA) was in reference range.

As a matter of fact, one of the cortisol ranges has a “normal” range of 1.0-3.0 nM/L. I am at .6. Yes, almost completely bottomed out.

Do you want to learn more about stress, cortisol, and the ramifications surrounding both? Listen in to podcast episode 18, devoted to the topic.

Chronic Stress

From high school on, I have likely been chronically stressed, with a steep climb these past few years and the culmination about the time we got Samarah.

My walk this past weekend reconfirmed how and why I’ve gotten to this place.

There are so many things about my past that I cannot undo. We don’t get the option to turn back the hands of time. If we did, I’d go back and redo so many of the things I did which landed me here.

The only thing I get to do now is grab the day by the hand and do my very best to stop the chaos.

The gut-brain-skin axis is real, and I have a real issue on my hands with it all (from the adrenal fatigue to the thyroid to the SIBO and the outstanding Colitis).

If this were ONLY about food, I’d be healed – once and for all. I can tell you anything about food and diet as it relates to all of the above and autoimmune in general.

But adrenal fatigue is not only about food. In fact, I’d argue that it’s hardly about food.

It’s all making perfect sense. But just because something makes perfect sense doesn’t make it our token to getting better.

Getting better requires intentional actions.

These intentional actions I am now striving for, daily.

If you liked this post on HPA Axis Dysfunction, you might also enjoy:

  1. Is Stress Causing My Digestive Issues?
  2. Am I Sick? Where and How to START?!
  3. The Importance of Shifting from Stress to Happiness


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  1. I am finally being tested for all of this…
    I am sharing your info with my doctor in hopes it can help me. I am so proud of you and I thank you for sharing this…
    My Mom had cancer of the thyroid and had it completely removed… Not sure if you knew that…
    Long time ago… I love you cousin and appreciate all you do to keep healthy and sane.
    I, too, have struggled for years and am now at the point where I no longer can take it…
    Something has to give… Thank you for the help… Xoxo

  2. I always worry about my Cortisol levels – I expect after the last few years they are high. It may also explain my stomach issues – stress is a huge factor for my flare ups. But I have never had this tested. A lot of those symptoms sound like me as well.

    I have been nervous to get mine tested…mostly because I am not sure how I would fix it… What are you doing to help balance your levels? I would love to hear more. And maybe that means I need to get my levels done as well.

  3. Wow, Sarah! This is similar to what I’m going through. I was diagnosed with severe adrenal fatigue (and acute adrenal/renal stress) and am hvaing to learn these same lessons! Years of unrealistic expectations, perfectionism, and people pleasing have taken their toll! Now I’m on a journey towards wholeness and healing.

    Thank you for your transparency and honesty, and for shairng your journey with us. It is encouraging, inspiring, and challenging! Blessings to you on this journey.

  4. I am a fitness instructor struggling with the same thing. Nutrition doesn’t really matter. It’s like this ongoing tired you can’t shake regardless of how many whole foods you consume. Thanks for sharing + glad to have an adrenal fatigue sister. 😉

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