Understanding The Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal (HPA) Axis and How To Keep It Energetic and Healthy

Domonique D. Hargrove B.A., M.S., NCEP Certified Trainer, Founder& President of “Slight Edge Performance Program” LLC

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What Is The Hypothalamus-Pituitary- Adrenal (HPA)- Axis?

The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis is our central stress response system. The HPA axis is an eloquent and every-dynamic intertwining of the central nervous system and endocrine system.

The HPA axis is responsible for the neuroendocrine adaptation component of the stress response. This response is characterized by hypothalamic release of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), also called corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF), is a peptide hormone that activates the synthesis and release of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary gland.

What Is Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH)?

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH; also adrenocorticotropin, corticotropin) is a polypeptide tropic hormone produced by and secreted by the anterior pituitary gland. It is also used as a medication and diagnostic agent.

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is a hormone produced in the anterior, or front, pituitary gland in the brain. The function of ACTH is to regulate levels of the steroid hormone cortisol, which released from the adrenal gland.

What Is The Importance Of The Pituitary Gland?

The Pituitary Gland is the major endocrine gland. A pea-sized body attached to the base of the brain, the pituitary is important in controlling growth and development and the functioning of the other endocrine glands.

The pituitary gland is a part of your endocrine system. Its main function is to secrete hormones into your bloodstream. These hormones can affect other organs and glands, especially your adrenal glands.

Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) | Lab Tests Online

Why Is Adrenocorticotropic Hormone Important?

Adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is made in the pituitary gland. It is needed for your adrenal glands to work properly and help your body react to stress. ACTH stimulates the release of another hormone called cortisol from the cortex (outer part) of the adrenal gland.

Corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is released from the hypothalamus which stimulates the anterior pituitary to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then acts on its target organ, the adrenal cortex.

Why Is The Hypothalamus Gland Important?

The hypothalamus is a small but important area in the center of the brain. It plays an important role in hormone production and helps to stimulate many important processes in the body and is located in the brain, between the pituitary gland and thalamus.

The hypothalamus links the nervous and endocrine systems by way of the pituitary gland. Its function is to secrete releasing hormones and inhibiting hormones that stimulate or inhibit production of hormones in the anterior pituitary.

Its overall role is to collect and integrate a huge variety of information from the body and to organize neural and endocrine responses that maintain homeostasis (constant internal environment).

The hypothalamus is a portion of the brain that contains a number of small nuclei with a variety of functions. One of the most important functions of the hypothalamus is to link the nervous system to the endocrine system via the pituitary gland.

The hypothalamusmain role is to keep the body in homeostasis as much as possible. Homeostasis means a healthful, balanced bodily state.

What Is The Adrenal Gland?

The adrenal glands are small glands located on top of each kidney. They produce hormones that you can’t live without, including sex hormones and cortisol. Cortisol helps you respond to stress and has many other important functions. With adrenal gland disorders, your glands make too much or not enough hormones.

Adrenal glands produce hormones that help regulate your metabolism, immune system, blood pressure, response to stress and other essential functions. Adrenal glands are composed of two parts — the cortex and the medulla — which are each responsible for producing different hormones.

The adrenal glands (also known as suprarenal glands) are endocrine glands that produce a variety of hormones including adrenaline and the steroids aldosterone and cortisol. They are found above the kidneys. Each gland has an outer cortex which produces steroid hormones and an inner medulla.

You have two adrenal glands. They’re located on top of each of your kidneys. They’re part of your endocrine system, a collection of glands that produce hormones.

You have one triangular-shaped adrenal gland at the top of each kidney. Each adrenal gland contains an outer adrenal cortex. It’s responsible for producing certain steroid hormones, including aldosterone and cortisol. Each gland also contains an inner adrenal medulla, which produces several other hormones, including adrenaline and noradrenaline.

Aldosterone helps control your blood pressure by managing the balance of potassium and sodium in your body. Cortisol works in conjunction with adrenaline and noradrenaline to help regulate your reaction to stress. Cortisol also helps regulate your metabolism, sugar levels, and blood pressure.

Your adrenal glands are controlled by your pituitary gland, another part of your endocrine system. Located in your head, your pituitary gland is the main controller of your endocrine glands. Abnormal signals can disrupt the amount of hormones that your pituitary gland tells your adrenal glands to produce. This can cause them to produce too little or too much hormone. Hormonal imbalances can result, causing a variety of symptoms and health problems.

How Can I Improve My HPA Axis?

Foods with high omega-3 content include fish, walnuts, flax seeds, and leafy vegetables. Additional healthy dietary choices to support the hypothalamus and optimal brain function include vitamin-rich fruits and vegetables.

The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a set of three systems that encompass the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal gland. Working together, the HPA axis supports a number of important functions within the body, including the stress response, metabolism, immunity, mood and emotions, and digestion

Our Food as Medicine Approach

Choose whole grain, high fiber, and minimally refined forms of carbohydrates. Whenever you eat a food higher in carbohydrates, such as fruit, crackers, bread, rice, potatoes, etc ALWAYS pair it with a food that contains protein and/or fat. This is essential for a slower release of glucose (sugar) into our bloodstream, which will help keep blood sugar levels stable.

Inflammation is a common characteristic with adrenal fatigue and having a solid anti-inflammatory eating plan is essential to reduce the inflammation. Eat a wide variety of colorful fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. These foods provide phytonutrients, such as carotenoids, resveratrol, and flavonoids that have both anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. 

The adrenal glands are involved in our body’s stress response. Integrating stress management techniques into your daily routine will help your body naturally regulate cortisol levels and support healthy HPA axis and adrenal function. Try a daily meditation, gentle movement, deep breathing, calming music, and/or journaling.

Nutrition is the foundation for proper hormone production and optimal function, as it provides the building blocks to create and activate our hormones. To support healthy adrenal hormones, we need the right amounts of amino acids, B vitamins, vitamin C, and magnesium. Aim to include the following foods in your meals at least a few times each week. 

  • Protein: fish, meats, legumes, nuts and seeds, whole grains
  • Folate: green leafy vegetables, legumes, nuts and seeds, oranges
  • Niacin (B3): dairy foods, eggs, nuts and seeds, corn, lean meats and fish
  • Pantothenic Acid B5: cremini and shitake mushrooms, cauliflower, avocado, broccoli, sweet potato, corn, and many other vegetables
  • Vitamin C: many fruits and vegetables, citrus fruits, bell peppers, strawberries, melons, spinach, cabbage, rose hips
  • Magnesium: legumes, green vegetables, quinoa and other whole grains, nuts and seeds

Food and nutrition play such an important role in the development and prevention of disease and therefore enjoy your journey as you discover the power of food as medicine.

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    To ORDER Nutrilite™ Perfect Pack email me at domonique.dhfitness@gmail.com

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References: https://www.frontiersin.org, https://mplsimc.com/2019/07/03/nutrition-approach-for-adrenal-fatigue/, https://www.elitecme.com, https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov

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