Research appearing in the journal Psychosomatic Medicine (2005;67 (Supplement 1): S26-S28) helps to make the connection between the HPA (hypothalamus, pituitary, adrenal) axis and severe depression. The researchers tested the HPA axis by giving the subjects dexamethasone (a synthetic glucocorticoid) and measuring plasma cortisol levels at different times on the following day. Dexamethasone works to reduce the release of cortisol by the adrenal glands. Dexamethasone accomplishes this by suppressing ACTH (adrenocorticotrophic hormone) in the pituitary. If the suppression of cortisol does not occur with dexamethasone, the assumption is that the HPA axis is hyperactive.
Corticotropin releasing factor acts to increase ACTH secretion. In the corticotropin releasing factor stimulation test corticotropin releasing factor is given as an IV and ACTH and cortisol levels are measured every half-hour for two to three hours. In a normal, healthy individual, the test will increase ACTH production. Depressed individuals tend to have a lower ACTH level, but the cortisol level does not decrease. They also find high levels of corticotropin releasing factor, possibly as a response to stress. When clinical symptoms are resolved, HPA issues like adrenal hypertrophy and hypersecretion of corticotropin releasing factor also resolve.
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.
I had a patient who was experiencing adrenal burn out the other day and her Adrenal Stress Index saliva test showed depressed cortisol 3 out of the 4 times that is was checked throughout the day. Depression was a key symptom she was dealing with. She had been masking the problem by living daily on Adderall and diet pop which has worsened her condition of the years. Caffeine is one of the most abused substances in the United States because people are plain and simply put, burned out. Most traditional doctors don’t know how to address this problem and therefore now Adderall has become the new Speed of our day. It’s becoming over prescribed and abused not only among teens but many adults now as well. Do you have under active adrenals or know the symptoms?
Weakness and fatigue
Low blood pressure
Ridged or weak nails
Tendency for hives
Brown spots or bronzing of skin
Weakness after colds/flus
The Adrenal-Thyroid Connection