We are often asked, what makes functional medicine different from traditional medicine? What type of testing does Rejuvenate MKE do that makes functional medicine different? And what in the world is the “HPA axis”? In this article, we are taking a step back to explain what the HPA axis is, and why its role is so important in what we do in functional medicine.
The HPA axis, or hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, is a complex system in the body that plays a crucial role in the stress response. It involves the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands, which work together to regulate the release of hormones that help the body cope with stress.
In functional medicine, the HPA axis is a key area of focus because of its impact on overall health and wellness. By understanding the HPA axis and its role in the body, the providers at Rejuvenate MKE can identify and address underlying imbalances that may contribute to a wide range of health issues.
Understanding the HPA Axis
The HPA axis begins in the hypothalamus, a part of the brain that helps regulate many bodily functions, including hunger, thirst, and body temperature. When the hypothalamus perceives a stressor, such as a threat or challenge, it releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH).
CRH signals the pituitary gland, which is a small gland located at the base of the brain, to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then signals the adrenal glands, which are located on top of the kidneys, to release cortisol, a stress hormone that helps the body cope with stress.
Cortisol has many functions in the body, including regulating blood sugar levels, suppressing inflammation, and supporting the immune system. However, chronic stress can lead to dysregulation of the HPA axis and disrupt cortisol production, which can contribute to a wide range of health issues.
The Role of the HPA Axis in Functional Medicine
In functional medicine, the HPA axis is a key area of focus because of its impact on overall health and wellness. Dysregulation of the HPA axis can contribute to a variety of health issues, including anxiety disorders, depression, chronic fatigue syndrome, and autoimmune diseases.
At Rejuvenate MKE, we use a comprehensive approach to evaluate the HPA axis, including various tests and assessments to identify any dysregulation or imbalances. In our clinic, we utilize saliva testing to measure cortisol levels as well as other hormone levels and insulin resistance, to evaluate of stress and inflammation in the body.
Based on the results of these evaluations, we may recommend lifestyle interventions, such as stress reduction techniques, dietary changes, exercise, and supplementation, to support the HPA axis and improve overall health. We may also use targeted therapies, such as adaptogenic herbs or hormone replacement therapy, to help restore balance to the stress response system.
By addressing the root causes of dysfunction in the HPA axis, functional medicine aims to not only alleviate symptoms but also promote long-term health and wellness.
In summary, the HPA axis is a complex system in the body that plays a crucial role in the stress response. In functional medicine, understanding the HPA axis and its impact on overall health and wellness is essential for identifying and addressing underlying imbalances that may contribute to a wide range of health issues. By focusing on the HPA axis and supporting the stress response system, our practitioners can help patients achieve optimal health and wellness.
Note: The information provided in this article is for educational purposes only and should not be considered as medical advice. Consult with a qualified professional for personalized recommendations and guidance based on your specific situation.