The Hypothalamic Pituitary Axis (HPA) is closely related to inflammatory signaling – meaning, prolonged stress that drains the adrenals, causes inflammation. Glucocorticoids, produced by the adrenal gland, are the body’s most potent endogenous anti-inflammatory agents. The mechanism by which glucocorticoids down-regulate inflammation has led to the development of synthetic glucocorticoids for a wide range of inflammatory conditions. Similarly to synthetic glucocorticoids, endogenous cortisol down-regulates inflammatory pathways within tissues and immune cells. In fact, the inflammatory cytokines IL-6, IL-1, and TNF-α are powerful activators of the HPA axis (in the body’s attempt to counteract and limit the inflammatory response) leading to an increase in cortisol output during times of acute inflammation.

Therefore, adrenal fatigue that is most often produced by prolonged stress can decrease its ability to respond to inflammation. Continued stimulation of adrenal/cortisol production via ramped-up cytokines, especially IL-1, interferes with HPA axis signaling and feedback via the glucocorticoid receptors (GR). This can lead to alterations in GR’s sensitivity, cortisol resistance, and overall adrenal fatigue which impairs the HPA feedback loop contributing to hyperactivity of the HPA axis and continued, unregulated inflammation.

Bottom line:

  • Deal with stress in your life
  • Support your adrenal glands
  • Consider Adaptogenic herbs to help keep hormones balanced