How do I manage stress?
To help you best manage your stress, it’s critical to understand what stress is and how it can impact your body. Only then can you start to recognise it, acknowledge it, then implement strategies to manage it.
Stress v Stressor (2 min read)
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a complex, dynamic system that helps regulate the body's response to stress. It is a feedback loop that starts in the hypothalamus and ends in the adrenal glands.
The HPA axis pathway is activated when the hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) in response to stress signals. CRH then stimulates the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH), which signals the adrenal glands to produce and secrete cortisol. Cortisol, a steroid hormone, helps the body respond to stress by increasing heart rate, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels.
The HPA axis pathway also includes negative feedback mechanisms that help to regulate cortisol levels. Cortisol signals the hypothalamus and pituitary to decrease the production and release of CRH and ACTH, respectively, helping to maintain appropriate levels of cortisol in the bloodstream.
Disruptions in the HPA axis can lead to imbalanced cortisol levels and a chronic stress response, which has been associated with numerous health problems such as anxiety, depression, cardiovascular disease, and decreased immune function.
Adaptogens may interact with the HPA axis by modulating cortisol levels and reducing the stress response. Some research suggests that adaptogenic compounds may have a balancing effect on the HPA axis by helping to normalise cortisol levels and reducing the physiological stress response.
The HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis is a complex network that regulates the body's response to stress. The hypothalamus releases corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which stimulates the pituitary gland to produce adrenocorticotropin hormone (ACTH), which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to produce and release cortisol, the primary stress hormone.
Adaptogens are believed to interact with the HPA axis by modulating the release of CRH, ACTH, and cortisol. Some adaptogens reduce the release of CRH and ACTH, leading to a reduction in cortisol levels, while others increase cortisol levels under conditions of stress. By modulating the activity of the HPA axis, adaptogens may help to regulate the body's response to stress and support overall health and well-being.
The exact mechanisms by which adaptogens interact with the HPA axis are not fully understood, but it is believed that they may target specific enzymes and signalling pathways within the hypothalamus, pituitary gland, and adrenal glands. In addition, some adaptogens affect neurotransmitter systems, including the neurotransmitters responsible for regulating the HPA axis, such as dopamine, norepinephrine, and serotonin.
It is important to note that more research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms by which adaptogens interact with the HPA axis and modulate stress, and that individual adaptogens may have different effects on the HPA axis and on stress responses.