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The HPA Axis Dysfunction Diet: How to Use Nutrition to Support a Balanced Stress Response

by林赛·克里斯坦森, M.S., CNS

Published on

在人类的演变中,我们的身体演变了一种复杂的优雅的系统,可以管理我们对压力的反应。该系统称为下丘脑 - 垂体 - 肾上腺轴,或用于短的HPA轴。虽然HPA轴完全准备好快速有效地响应急性压力,例如我们的祖先可能面临着非洲大草原,但它并没有回应我们在现代环境中所面临的慢性压力源。随着时间的推移,如果你的stress responsecontinues to face an onslaught of stress without reprieve, you may end up with HPA axis dysfunction (HPA-D).

HPA Axis Dysfunction Diet
Whole fruits like strawberries are good sources of healthy carbs (and, in this case, vitamin C), and are part of an HPA axis dysfunction diet. iStock/Kwangmoozaa

While successful recovery from HPA-D necessitates a variety of lifestyle interventions, includingadequate sleepand consistent减少压力实践,您的饮食通常在HPA-D的背景下被忽视。然而,事实证明,营养对HPA轴产生了深远的影响,并且在战略性HPA轴功能障碍饮食中可能会加速您的恢复。Read on to learn how you can use nutrition to support your HPA axis and a balanced stress response.

HPA axis dysfunction has far-reaching effects on your health, but nutrition (along with a variety of lifestyle interventions) can help you recover. Check out this article from nutritionist Lindsay Christensen for steps to following an HPA axis dysfunction diet. #nutrition

什么是hpa-d?

Before we dive into a discussion on how you can use nutrition to support a healthy stress response, it will help us to have a deeper understanding of the body’s stress response system and how it is connected withancestral health

The HPA axis is a network of endocrine organs, hormones, and other signaling molecules that serves as the body’s stress-response system.The HPA axis evolved to help our bodies respond efficiently to acute stressors, such as being chased by a lion, but research indicates that it is poorly equipped to handle the chronic stressors we face today.

通过连续暴露于应力源的HPA轴的慢性激活可以导致HPA-D,或者是HPA轴的无法能力调节激素和下游系统,例如肠道和脑。必威星际争霸至少最初,HPA轴多动激活导致高水平的皮质醇,通常认为身体的主要应力响应激素。然而,随着时间的推移,HPA轴函数也可以缩小,导致皮质醇低,耗尽水平的各种其他激素,包括雌激素,孕酮,睾酮和脱氢庚酮(DHEA)。

Symptoms of HPA-D

I recommend hormone testing, such as the DUTCH Plus test, to look at your overall cortisol pattern and hormonal status. That being said, there are some symptoms commonly seen in either cortisol excess or depletion that may point you in the direction that your body is trending.

Excess cortisol symptoms include (please note that this is not a definitive list):

  • 排卵问题
  • Infertility
  • Gut dysbiosis
  • Leaky gut
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Anxiety
  • 抑郁症
  • Panic attacks
  • Hypervigilance
  • 高血糖
  • Insulin resistance
  • High blood pressure

Conversely, low cortisol levels may contribute to:

Systemically, HPA-D also alters levels of neurotransmitters. These molecules send signals from one neuron to another and are responsible for our mood, cognition, and heart rate. HPA-D often elevates catecholamines, a class of neurotransmitters that includes epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine. It also elevates glutamate, the body’s primary excitatory neurotransmitter that can have toxic effects on the brain when it is too high. Conversely, HPA-D decreases gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABA), the body’s primary inhibitory and calming neurotransmitter, and lowers serotonin, often referred to as the body’s “feel-good” neurotransmitter.

The combination of hormonal and neurotransmitter perturbations triggered by HPA-D has far-reaching adverse effects on the body.It decreases the body’s overall resilience and metabolic reserve; impairs immunity; increases inflammation; and disrupts cognition, metabolism, and the gut microbiome. Chris has previously discussed HPA-D at length in his article “肾上腺疲劳或HPA轴缺陷?” and his podcast, “The Myth of Adrenal Fatigue。“

Seven Steps to Help You Follow an HPA Axis Dysfunction Diet

For long-term recovery, it is crucial that you address the underlying causes of your HPA-D, whether that’s a stressful lifestyle, a chronic infection, or gut dysbiosis. However, nutrition can also serve as powerful adjunct support in your recovery process. Here are seven steps to help you adopt an HPA-D diet.

1. Avoid Eating Processed, Refined Foods that Stress the HPA Axis

While chronic stress is a contributing factor in unhealthy eating behaviors, unhealthy eating behaviors may also perpetuate chronic stress via the HPA axis! A processed Western diet has been found to exaggerate the biological stress response in animals. These effects may carry over into stressed-out humans, as well. (1) Part of the problem may be that the Western diet is rich inhigh-glycemic-index (GI) carbohydrates, which have been found to elevate cortisol. (2) Therefore, the chronic consumption of these high-GI foods may lead to perpetually elevated cortisol, triggering a vicious cycle of chronic stress and unhealthy eating behaviors. (3)

2.避免节食

We live in a very diet-focused culture, where losing weight and looking good is often prized above all else, including actual physiological health! If you are suffering from HPA-D, you musteschew the restrictive diet cultureand focus primarily on supporting your body with nourishing,nutrient-dense foods, as caloric restriction (and carbohydrate restriction) may exacerbate HPA-D. In fact, if you have HPA-D and are on a reduced-calorie diet trying to lose weight, your well-intentioned diet may have the opposite effect, causing you to put on additional body fat due to rising cortisol levels. (4)

If you are struggling with HPA-D and are confused about how best to feed your body, consulting with a nutritionist may help. A functional nutritionist or dietitian can help determine your ideal energy intake,macronutrient ratios, and micronutrient intakes that will best support your HPA axis and your whole body health.

And if you’re struggling to implement the behavior changes needed to support your HPA axis,a health coach may be your key to success

Health coaches work alongside practitioners, nutritionists, and other allied providers as part of a collaborative care team focused on helping people address the root cause of their illness. A coach acts as a facilitator of behavior change, helping their client to build new habits and put their nutritionist’s diet plan into practice. Health coaches provide support and accountability to their clients, giving them the sense of empowerment they need to change their lives.

To find out more about what health coaches do and how they do it, visit theADAPT Health Coach Training Program

3. Don’t Skimp on Carbohydrates, but Be Sure to Choose Nutrient-Dense Carbs

如果您正在与HPA-D斗争,可能不是切割碳水化合物摄入量的最佳时间。初步研究表明低碳水化合物和ketogenic dietsmay increase cortisol; long-term restriction of dietary carbohydrates could potentially lead to chronically elevated cortisol and subsequent HPA-D. (5) Low-carb diet advocates vehemently argue against this concept. While there is indeed some research suggesting that carbohydrate restriction may attenuate stress responsivity by reducing insulin signaling, there is also evidence to the contrary. (6)

However, one study also found that increasing carbohydrates, in the context of a whole-foods diet, reduces critical markers of stress responsiveness, including cortisol and cortisol responsiveness. (7) Anecdotally, I also find that many of my clients with HPA-D do better on a moderate-carbohydrate diet than a low-carb or keto diet. A moderate carbohydrate intake is defined as eating approximately 75 to 100 grams of carbs per day.

我还观察到我的女性客户与HPA-D的斗争更多地用低碳水化合物和keto饮食;这可能是因为雌激素,原发性女性性激素,增强应激反应性,可能会使女性更容易发生HPA-D。(8)

If you want to experiment with adding more carbs to your diet to support your HPA axis, be sure to choose nutrient-dense carbs such as:

  • Sweet potatoes
  • Winter squash
  • Cassava
  • 芋头
  • Whole fruit

You can also try incorporating small amounts of gluten-free grains or legumes if your body tolerates them well. Avoid refined carbohydrates, as these foods exacerbate blood sugar dysregulation, which has been found to potentiate the stress response.

To experience more benefits from an increased carb intake, consider trying carb back-loading.Carb back-loading is an eating practice in which you consume the majority of your carbohydrates with your evening meal, rather than spread throughout the day.This practice reduces blood sugar fluctuations over the day, which are harmful to HPA axis function. It supports the synthesis of serotonin and melatonin in the evening, which may enhance sleep quality.

4.调节你的血糖

Glucocorticoids, including the stress hormone cortisol, and glucose regulation are tightly linked. Fluctuations in blood sugar influence glucocorticoid secretion and metabolism, and vice versa. It is, therefore, unsurprising that blood sugar dysregulation has significant adverse effects on the HPA axis. (9) Keeping your blood sugar within a healthy range over the course of each day (and night) may, thus, aid in your recovery from HPA-D.

There are several steps you can take nutritionally to improve your blood sugar control.The first step I suggest is to remove refined carbohydrates from your diet.相反,专注于营养丰富,Paleo-friendly carbs such as sweet potatoes and whole fruit.

Dietary protein also positively influences glycemic variability, attenuating postprandial blood sugar fluctuations.A good starting point is to aim for at least four ounces of protein at each meal, or a serving of protein approximately the size of the palm of your hand.It is particularly important to eat plenty of protein at breakfast, as this may improve your glycemic control over the day. (10在早餐时,20至30克蛋白质可能是在一天中减弱血糖变异的理想选择。

5. Support Your Gut Microbiome

Emerging research indicates that HPA-D has adverse effects on thegut microbiome。反过来,肠道微生物组可以通过肠脑轴影响HPA轴和应力响应性。(11) Supporting your gut microbiome is, thus, crucial for helping your body restore healthy HPA axis function.

To support your gut microbiome, be sure to eat plenty of fermented foods. As Chris discussed is his article, “The 13 Benefits of Fermented Foods and How They Impact Your Health,” fermented foods are rich in a wide variety of probiotic species and other bioactive compounds with beneficial effects on the gut microbiome. Some of the probiotic bacteria identified in fermented foods have been found to exert beneficial effects on the gut–brain axis, which links up with the HPA axis. For example, several species of probiotic bacteria produce GABA, a neurotransmitter with calming, relaxing properties that is often depleted in HPA-D. (12)我建议您的目标是每天至少一份发酵食品。

Be sure to eat plenty of prebiotic foods, including anthocyanin-rich blueberries and blackberries, onions, garlic, leeks, asparagus, bananas, and chicory root. These foods support the growth of beneficial gut bacteria.

6. Get Enough Micronutrients and Phytochemicals to Support a Healthy Stress Response

各种微量营养素和phytochemicalscan help regulate the body’s stress response.

Vitamin C

Vitamin Cplays a central role in adrenal function, primarily by acting as a potent antioxidant within the adrenal glands. (13) Vitamin C is found in:

  • Broccoli
  • Brussels sprouts
  • Citrus fruits
  • Papaya
  • Strawberries

If you need a more concentrated food-based source of vitamin C, camu camu berry and acerola cherry powders are good options.

Omega-3 Fatty Acids

Omega-3 fatty acidsalso appear to play a central role in HPA axis function. In humans, omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is associated with elevated levels of corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), a peptide hormone that stimulates production of adrenocorticotropic hormone in the pituitary gland, and, subsequently, cortisol production by the adrenal glands. Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency is also linked to elevated salivary evening cortisol. Elevated CRH and salivary evening cortisol are, in turn, associated with HPA-D. (14) Omega-3 fatty acid deficiency may, thus, create a vicious cycle of chronic inflammation and a heightened stress response, causing the HPA axis to go haywire.

相反,欧米茄-3脂肪酸充足可以通过减轻炎症和改善心率变异性来支持更健康,更加弹性的应力响应,这是每个心跳之间的时间变化的量度,这是一种用于测量一个人应力反应的弹性的有用度量。

鱼油要在动物实验中,富含ω- 3shown to alleviate HPA-D triggered by lipopolysaccharides, molecules produced by gram-negative bacteria that are correlated with gut dysbiosis and chronic inflammation. (15)

促使您的ω-3脂肪酸水平并优化应力反应,I recommend that you aim for three to four servings of wild-caught seafood per week。If this isn’t possible, omega-3 fatty acid supplementation through fish oil may be necessary.

是一种强大的矿物质,弹性HPA轴功能。通过扩增CRH的转录,镁缺乏增加焦虑和HPA-D。(16) Conversely, magnesium repletion may normalize HPA axis function by serving as a cofactor in the metabolism of catecholamines, neurotransmitters that are released during the body’s stress response.

镁还引发了脑衍生的神经营养因子,一种神经保护蛋白,其在具有HPA轴多动的个体中减少。(17) Magnesium also reduces neuronal excitability at the N-methyl-D-aspartate receptor and enhances calming GABA neurotransmission. (18)

富含镁的食物包括:

  • Dark leafy greens
  • 杏仁
  • 腰果
  • Pumpkin seeds
  • 鳄梨
  • Brussels sprouts

L-theanine

L-theanine是在绿茶中发现的氨基酸类似物,支持平衡应力应答。(19) In fact, the high intake of green tea by Buddhist monks has been theorized to contribute to their impressively calm demeanor and intense focus during meditation.您可能需要每天喝三杯绿茶,以消耗足够的L-Theanine,足以影响您的HPA轴。Be sure to choose an organic green tea to减少对杀虫剂和其他毒素的接触, which have been found to disrupt the brain’s stress circuitry. (20)

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolatecontains phytochemicals with beneficial effects on the salivary cortisol response. (21) Choose chocolate that contains at least 70 percent cacao and, if you are highly sensitive to caffeine, consider eating it earlier in the day rather than in the evening.

圣罗勒

Holy basil是一种药用植物,具有悠久的印度阿育吠陀医学。神圣罗勒含有独特的植物化学物质,可以通过调节应力响应蛋白CRH,ProOpioMelanocortin和热休克蛋白70来衰减HPA轴多动症。(22,23)

Licorice Root Tea

Finally, if you have HPA-D with low cortisol,licorice root teamay be beneficial because it helps normalize the balance between cortisol and cortisone, an inactive metabolite of cortisol. (24)If you are on any pharmaceutical drugs, be sure to consult with your doctor before trying licorice root tea, as licorice root interacts with a wide variety of medications.

7.吃得头心

Last but not least,eating mindfullymay support recovery from HPA-D by reducing stress-induced eating behavior and cortisol. (25)

考虑到eating is defined as paying attention to an eating experience in the present moment, engaging all your senses, and noticing emotional and physical responses to your meal with curiosity and without judgment. You can integrate mindful eating seamlessly into your day by following a few simple guidelines:

  • Sit down in a chair, at a table to eat, rather than eating while standing or on the go.
  • Avoid watching TV, texting, and answering emails while eating.
  • Give your body a few minutes to relax when switching from a stressful task or scenario (such as intense work) to mealtime.
  • As you sit down and prepare to eat your meal, ask yourself a few questions:
    • Where am I?
    • What is going on around me?
    • How do I feel at this moment?
    • Am I really hungry?
    • What am I thinking about?
    • 这顿饭怎么让我感觉到?

These simple practices can have a profound impact on your eating experiences, and may make you feel calmer, more in tune with your body, and more nourished by your meal.

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