HPA Axis Dysfunction and Symptoms

HPA Axis Dysfunction and Symptoms

HPA Axis Dysfunction and Symptoms

Adrenal fatigue is probably the most common phase that my clients start with when they begin work with me.  They have studied and researched what adrenals are, they understand that they are glands that sit on top of the kidneys and their importance in the stress response.  From there, what I have noticed is that they then feel the adrenals are the prime culprit of all of their distress and/or symptoms. Adrenal fatigue in my opinion is a new epidemic and it is so much more than just a pile of symptoms.  

The symptoms that come along with adrenal fatigue are many and range drastically.    Anxiety, depression, detachment from reality, headaches, stomach issues and so on.

In the beginning women start with an emotional overload while researching.  They begin searching for the symptom that is most bothersome to them. Only then, while reading, they realize that they also do have the odd bloated stomach, indigestion, rash and so on.  This leads them into an altogether different platform of research as they begin to look at candida, mthfr, lyme, chrons, SIBO and so on.

After spending countless hours on research on this platform, they may run across a random post or opinion that someone has about the adrenal glands.  After a whirlwind of emotional up and downs thinking that they finally found the root of their issues, they are amongst yet another methodology of illness…. adrenals…

One connection that I noticed in my years of teaching was that a common denominator with those suffering for a chronic period of time was that they all seemed more sensitive in general.  They all seemed to be empaths. They not only had symptoms but had an emotional connection to the symptoms as well. The trauma that occured in their lives seemed to have hit on a very deep level and healing emotionally or energetically from that trauma seemed far out of reach.  We all have trauma, but I began to wonder how and why some were able to process this trauma better than others.

Diagram of the HPA axis

Adrenal fatigue can cause many symptoms.


What are the Adrenal glands and HPA axis?

The adrenal glands do not work solo.  The adrenal glands themselves are the size of a walnut, triangle shape and there are 2 glands that sit on top of each kidney.  These glands make and release cortisol, estrogen and testosterone and help to regulate function of every tissue, organ and gland in the body to keep balance during stress.

One book that I recommend is ADRENAL FATIGUE by James L Wilson.  You can find it HERE

Stress = Cortisol…

Cortisol has benefits such as it acts as an anti inflammatory and anti oxidant so it is useful for allergies or autoimmune issues.  That means that cortisol is used in eating foods, converting food proteins and lipids to energy sources, distributes fat around the waist and face (along with other areas).  Normalizes blood sugar, heart function and digestive function as well. Source

Cortisol even affects blood sugar because it works with the insulin in your body to keep healthy levels of blood sugar into cells for energy.  

Makes sense right… Stress = release of cortisol = raise in blood sugar = needed energy

Related Post:  How To Improve Leaky Gut

What if cortisol is low??

Boil a pot of water and don’t add fresh water = slowly empty pot.  

Low level cortisol = low level blood sugar = hypogylcemia = sugar craving

Adrenal glands have 2 main parts that have different functions

  1. Outer (Adrenal Cortex)
  2. Inner (Adrenal Medulla)

Adrenal Cortex (Outer part) = 2 types of corticosteroids – glucicorticods (signaled by the hypothalamus/pituitary gland) and mineralcortcoids (signaled by the kidney).  Source


Hypothalamus says release corticotrophin releasing hormone, then the pituitary says got it and releases adrenal corticotrophic hormones.  The adrenal than say, ok, and make corticosteroid hormones!

The 2 types of glucocorticoids:

  1. Hydrocortisone 
  2. Corticosterone.
    • Hydrocortisone (cortisol) deals with fat, protein and carb conversion into energy and helps control blood pressure and heart function.
    • Corticosterone with with hydrocortisone to aid with the immune responses and helps to reduce inflammation. Source

Remember mineralcorticoid?  The main hormone is aldosterone and this is signaled by the kidney.  Helps with salt balance and controlling blood pressure.

Yup, blood pressure is directly related to your kidney!

The medulla of the adrenal does not perform vital functions but it is really important.

The medulla is signaled by the nervous system when stressed.  Remember the neuro hormones back when we talked about the hypothalamus. Source


  1. Epinephrine (adrenaline)
  2. Norepinephrine (noradrenaline)
    • Epinephrine is fast and reacts to stress by increasing heart and blood rate.  It also increases blood sugar.
    • Norepinephrine can actually cause high blood pressure because it constricts blood vessels

                      A great book to read and one I highly recommend is THE BODY KEEPS THE SCORE by Dr. Bessel van der Klok.  This book focus’ on brain, mind and body in the healing trauma.  You can find it HERE

So, let’s put it all together

HPA = Hypothalamus, Pituitary gland, Adrenal glands


This is where the Vagus Nerve comes in!

The nervous system and endocrine system connect via this HPA axis!!!!  YUP! It is all starting to pull together.  Let’s go over the three organs and what they do now.


This guy is an almond-sized gland that links the endocrine and nervous systems. It sends messages from the brain to the pituitary gland and also to adrenals. (source)

It is responsible for many hormones, such as:

    • Oxytocin
    • Thyrotropin-releasing hormone
    • Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH)
    • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
    • Gonadotropin-releasing hormone

Pituitary Gland

The one is about the size of a pea and sits at the base of the brain near the hypothalamus. It is referred to as the “master gland” because its hormones control the thyroid, adrenals, ovaries, and testes.

It is responsible for hormones like:

    • Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH)
    • Thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH)
    • Prolactin
    • Growth hormone

Adrenal Glands

This gland is about the size of a walnut and sits on top of each kidney.  This is a powerful gland as it controls the “fight or flight” response. Both of the glands have 2 parts:

  1. Adrenal cortex
  2. Adrenal medulla.

The adrenal cortex is basically the outside of the gland and the medulla is the inside.  

The Cortex is responsible for: Source

  • Hydrocortisone, a.k.a. cortisol
  • Corticosterone
  • Aldosterone
  • DHEA and other sex hormones

The adrenal medulla is responsible for:

  • Adrenaline, a.k.a. epinephrine
  • Noradrenaline, a.k.a. norepinephrine Source


Connecting the vagus nerve and HPA  — WHAT IS HPA AXIS DYSFUNCTION?

Another book that I have found helpful HEALING DEVELOPMENTAL TRAUMA  by Laurence Heller Ph.D and ALine LaPierre Psy.D.   This book focus is on how early trauma affects self-regulation, self image and the capacity for relationship.  You can find it HERE

“Depersonalization disorder may be associated with dysregulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, the area of the brain involved in the “fight-or-flight” response. Patients demonstrate abnormal cortisol levels and basal activity.” (Source)

The Hypothalamus, pituitary gland and the adrenals all work synergistically to regulate mood, immune support, libido, metabolism and digestion to name a few. Source

What Causes Leaky Gut?

What Causes Leaky Gut?


Why is Gut Health soooo important?

Gut health is imperative. Often the starting point of most symptoms. It is important for everyone, it is one of those things that we all have in common. Maybe your ultimate goal is weight loss, maybe you are exhausted all the time or have no energy to do the things that you used to or so badly want to, stomach pain, gassy, it always leads back to the state of your gut.

Of course, we all know that the gut is were certain things happen. We learn the basics at an early age. Food goes in, poop comes out. However, as easy as that sounds, it is much more complex and many are suffering due to the lack of gut care. Use of antibiotics, a stress (who doesn’t have some level of stress…?), environmental toxins and food choices are seriously affecting your overall health. Loads of ladies tell me that they eat the cleanest diet and yet they still have a chronic list of symptoms. The thing is that your gut needs to not only digest the food you eat but also and more importantly absorb it. Eating healthy food is just a portion of what you need to be doing to stay healthy. Eat as many cucumbers as you want but if your stress is uncontrollable and you are releasing excessive amounts of cortisol, it won’t due you any good. Same goes for supplements, or mostly I call, expensive pee… I see countless women purchasing loads of supplements looking for the next fix to their symptoms but if the body cannot absorb them; expensive pee.

What do you mean my gut is leaky?

Referred to as leaky gut, simply put means that the lining of your intestine, the section that acts like a barrier has become compromised and is not doing its job. Think of it like a fence that you put up to keep the neighbors kids out of your yard but a bunch of screws came loose over the winter and they keep crawling through to play. Those holes from the loose screws now let large particles to slip through the gut membrane and enter into the bloodstream. This is not ideal because the body does not understand and assumes that those particles are bad and turns on an immune response which then leads to a whole pile of issues such as food allergies and many autoimmune conditions.

What causes Leaky gut?

The way that foods are being processed plays a large role. The additives, pesticides, chemicals are not easily absorbed and so they can cause small tears in the lining. Grains especially are being processed in away that the body is unable to break them down and as weakening our digestive function. Sugar, aka white death is a massive trigger food as well. Refined foods, antibiotics, drinking alcohol, and of course stress are all culprits. I believe most women have many signs and signals from the body before they are willing to pay attention to their gut health and by the time that the do.

Ok, so how do I know if I have leaky gut?

The easy symptoms to identify by are bloating, diarrhea, gas, burping, constipation or diarrhea but those are the easy targets. Almost any symptom can be brought back to gut health. Why? Because symptoms are a reflection in most cases of inflammation and inflammation starts in the gut with those tears and particles escaping. Many people think that once they are in this cycle that they will never get better but I don’t believe that.

How can I test to see if I have leaky gut?

Almost everyone at some point will be considering what testing they should or can have done. If you suspect that you have leaky gut, you have several options if testing is something you want to pursue.

Don’t worry, you don’t have to have a colonoscopy or an endoscopy to check it out.
1. OATS test
2. Comprehensive Stool Analysis
3. Urine test – Lactose/Mannitol test
4. Blood test checking for IgG and IgA antibodies

How Do I Heal my Leaky Gut?

The biggest factor to consider here is the length of time that you ignored those signs and symptoms and double or triple it. It takes time to repair damage and most people give up before they are halfway there.

TIPS to start rebuilding the gut lining.

1. Avoid all processed food. NO sugar, NO gluten and NO dairy. These are the 3 basic major inflammatory foods. Once you run an IgG test you can remove an trigger foods as well.

2. Focus on healthy fats such as avacodo, coconut and nuts. Chicken stock is the BEST option. Boil for under 4 hours if concerned about histamine.

3. More often than not, as in always, stress is the leading contributor. You may not want to admit it and think that once your body is all better, you won’t feel stressed but you can chase the chicken and still won’t get anywhere until you work on your stress.

4. Supplements. This is very different for everyone but a good starting point is L-glutamine, probiotics and cod liver oil. L-Glutamine is great because it plays a role in rebuilding the structural lining of your gut. Probiotics replenish your good bacteria and push out all the bad stuff. Cod liver oil is getting more popular now and provides omega 3 fatty acids, which target inflammation and helps to lower it.

5. Work with a coach. Build a health team. SO many think they can do all of this on their own until it is too late and they are in the doctor’s office. The other thing I see often is once feeling better, women stop all the hard work they put in and wonder why they feel bad again. Hire someone professional and pay the same way you would to maintain your car to help you build a regime that works for you.

If you are looking for a coach to guide you with this, I can help!

Join my FREE Facebook Community Here:

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How to pick a supplement

How to pick a supplement


…Vitamins, Minerals, Herbs, Oh My…


Once someone has narrowed down that they need a certain supplement, how the heck do they decide which one to choose?

It is so hard with all of the products available to know which ones are the best quality and furthermore, if they even contain the ingredients that they state…

Here are some TIPS to help you out.


1.  Test It!

There is a neat test that you can do at home to see if a supplement is breaking down the way it should. The supplement must dissolve properly or really, why bother even taking it? So, just put the supplement into a cup of body temperature water, which is roughly 99 degrees.

Do this while watching a good show because it needs to be stirred for about 30 minutes (stuff doesn’t sit still in your body once you swallow it after all)… The other key is to try and keep the water at the 99 degrees (again, your innards stay the same temp roughly). At the end of 30 minutes, the supplements should have broken apart/down and now a powder or fully dissolved.

During that time, the pill should completely break apart, with its contents either turning to a powder or dissolving in the water. If you do this with a chewable, enteric-coated or timed-release pills it won’t really work for obvious reasons…


2. Check out the bottle for a third-party certification:

A third party certification indicates that the supplement has undergone quality testing as well as provides reviews and confirms ingredients.


3. Check wording:

Wording like “proprietary” formulas/blends.

Those are the words that tell you that the company does not need to tell you how much of each ingredient is in that product and that can be dangerous… and also a waste of your time and money if you are looking for a specific ingredient.


I challenge you to take a look at your current supplements and give these 3 steps a try.  I even made a easy to follow worksheet for you that will give you a lay out to follow! 

You can access that right below, just tell me where to send it!


5 Foods That Can Help You Sleep!

5 Foods That Can Help You Sleep!

5 FOODS That Can Help You Fall Asleep

For Anxiety-Related Insomnia

Tossing and turning ALL night.  Been trying to sleep for 4 hours.  Can’t seem to stop thinking.  Don’t even no what you are thinking about anymore.

Health really suck sometimes. I am not one to pretend that it doesn’t. Nope… ask anyone of my clients.

I share a lot of my own journey with others and the things that I have gone through have been awful.  Some worse than what other people have gone through and some don’t touch the surface of what others have gone through.

Why am I saying that?

Because at some point I notice we negotiate of symptoms. You know… I shouldn’t feel bad because at least I don’t have ________ or noone understands because they don’t have what I have.

Education is important here and understanding that the brain cannot weigh the amount of hurt it is going through when in paralyze state.

Because when you are in paralyze state the brain CANNOT tell the difference between trauma. It cannot tell the difference between emotional and physical trauma.


When you get triggered, the brain doesn’t know that you aren’t in the trauma itself. This would be why you are getting triggered in the first place. If the brain wasn’t reacting the mind would be able to say everything is ok and it all end there.

This is how my ptsd works for me. Nope, not a doctor… Just a mom, women and wife that has been diagnosed with ptsd on multiple occasions.

  • When my daughter went to brownie camp all weekend this weekend. My body went into paralyze because my brain signaled that she could be dying just like she did at birth. (pronounced deceased and brought back).
  • When me son falls and cries, my body goes into paralyze because my brain thinks he is going unconcious again from the vaccine I let him get at 18 mths.
  • When my mom talked to me at my niece’s wedding shower today, my body went into paralyze because my brain thought she was leaving again like she did when I was 14 years old.


Non of these thing were happening again and I have done enough mindset work around each one to be able to recognize, process, accept and rewire. This allows me to continue on having a fantastic day!

That was not something that I could do years ago. My brain/mind/body connection would have been shot by example 3, I would have told my husband (with full belief) that I was sure I was dying, I would have come home and crawled into bed and spent the rest of the day hyper aware of my symptoms. I would have likely been assessing each symptom on google to continue my despair.

So, what is it that is happening when in these triggers?

The HPA axis is getting triggered via the hypothalmus down the vagus nerve and setting of the nervous system.

Read more about that in this post I wrote:  HPA Axis Dysfunction and Symptoms


Health Mindset and Tools That Can Help With Health Induced Anxiety and depression!

Health Mindset and Tools That Can Help With Health Induced Anxiety and depression!

  • What is health induced anxiety/depression? 
  • Do you have to have a serious event/trauma happen to have health induced anxiety/depression?
  • Tools that you can use to help? 
  • My book recommendation to start with.
  • How triggers affect your health.

Lets face it, having health issues really sucks.  Having chronic (which by definition is longer than 6 months) is hard enough but than couple that with the fact that maybe you have children, a job, errands to run, family to take care off and it is really only a matter of time before your mental health takes a beating as well.

What is health induced anxiety and depression?

 When my daughter was born she almost died.  Actually, she was pronounced deceased and brought back.  To give you an idea of just how bad it was, she lost 96% of her blood, had 2 transfusion and was pronounced deceased.  It wasn’t until after an intern asked if he could inject her heart with epinephrine did her heart beat again.

That was what saved her life and I will FOREVER be grateful to that intern.  It was also the moment when I realized never underestimate the new guy, even when they are just learning they may have something life saving to offer.

She was “chilled” as they called it on a cooling bed for 72 hours after her heart started back up.  I got to see her when I was just waking up briefly as they took her over to cheo, but the first time I really got to see her she was while being chilled.

Chilled is what I felt…  My insides felt like they immediately froze and I lost all sense of time as I sat in the wheelchair staring at my baby, naked and screaming from the pain of laying on an ice cold bed.  The concept they tried to explain being that if they could cool her system, the inflammation would stay low in her organs.

All I could do was star as they tried to makes sense of what I was seeing.

I was put under a general anesthetic but in the midst of the chaos they forget to freeze me and so when I woke up, I experienced horrific pain.  Between seeing my baby, not sure if she would survive the night and the pain I was feeling; everything inside me broke.

That was the only way that I could describe it.

As time went on and she and I healed, I became invested in health and I began to study what happened to me.

Not the symptoms nor the specifics of the event but rather what happened to me that day inwardly.   I had a lot of health issues prior, I understood medical terms that they were throwing around, I had suffered pain and surgery before but something happened that I couldn’t explain.

The moment when all the feelings became numb, I couldn’t find enough air, I felt all the nerves in my body tingle at the same time.  I wanted to know what happened to me in those moments.

I escaped into learning about the nervous system and the effects it has on the mind/body.  As a result, I have become more and more convinced that this is infact where chronic issues are stemming from.

Not everyone has to have a serious event happen for the nervous system to check out either, chronic lingering symptoms can do the same thing.

Every doctor that I saw told me it was anxiety and depression, along with post-partum and ptsd.  It was certainly all of those things, BUT I wanted to know why/what happened in those moments that lead to me feeling broken for so long afterwards.

What happened felt like it was on such a deep level.  I would explain it as heart breaking or soul crushing.  I felt something so internally deep that it was into my core and I couldn’t find my way back to the surface.

I had enough medical backing to know all about what was technically happening and I had gone through loads of trauma in the past to various degrees but this was the first time I felt as though my entire system gave up and gave in…

I researched all the ways that I could get better or be better…  I just wanted to be “normal” again.  You know what I mean if you are here reading this blog likely.  You have likely experienced something similar that you can but cannot describe all at the same time.

I knew what the doctor where telling me was true.  I had serious (as in living a lot of my time crying in a closet so that my kids wouldn’t see) anxiety and depression.  I knew I had ptsd and post-partum but honestly, telling me it over and over was not helping.

I even had one doctor tell me it was all in my head…  Been there?  Could there be anything worse to hear, like you were somehow doing this to yourself?

Even with my decade of education, I couldn’t justify being told that.  I have a whole post that you can read on how the HPA axis works in communicating with mind/body that I encourage you to read when you are done this post.  It will explain what “it is all in your head” actually means and NO, you are not making it up or creating it on purpose…

The nervous system is affected by so many variables.

You don’t have to have a one and done horrific event take place either.

    • Your mom leaves home
    • Sexually abused
    • Bullied
    • Chronic illness
    • Toxic environment

There are countless ways that the nervous system can be affected by and some you may not even recognized until it is too late and your system is worn down.


Triggers directly affect the nervous system


We have heard of so many people continuing on the same patterns their entire adulthood. But why? 

I feel that this is because we are actually attracted and also attract fundamental parts of our inner trauma.

We talk about trauma and triggers etc. One could spend forever going into why a person is the way that they are and how they got there. We make continual connections that tells a person you are the way that you are because this happened to you….

Not overly helpful and likely not something that you didn’t already know. Now, the person is left with the inability to believe in themselves and therefor develop a lack of trust in themselves.

So, where are we left off…  Here are a few options that are available, there are many more but these can offer a good start.  What works for you, may not work for someone else so trial and error is par the course when looking for what works well for you and that is absolutely ok!



Available Options That Can Help:


  1. Medication, talk therapy, cognitive therapy
  2. Tapping
  3. EMDR
  4. Neuro Feedback
  5. Writing


    • Tapping on various acupressure points on the body.


    • Can last a long time and common for adult trauma. Eye movements that stimulate the brain (right/left).

Neuro feedback:

    • This can take many sessions. Changing the way that the brain thinks using biofeedback.


    • Speaking and writing come from different sections of the brain and by writing things down we can begin to process what we then see.


Great book that can help understand what is going on:


Dr. Bessel van der Kolk says in one of his video lectures that more soldiers die when they return from war than they do at war. He deals with PTSD. Video of him speaking is a great watch as well!

Dr. Van der Kolk suggests finding words for trauma is not enough but rather to have real change it involves teaching the body that those things have past.  You can find his book

If you are looking to get started on health mindset asap you can grab a copy of my free health mindset course here << Click Here >> 

Would like to put 4 products here off amazon that can help people