The Integrative Therapeutics blog is your destination for staying current on topics within the integrative medicine community.
// Lise Alschuler, ND
I find myself thinking and talking about cortisol a lot these days. It’s actually a nice back to the future kind of thing as I remember getting very excited about cortisol when I was in school in the mid-90’s. One of my very first lectures was on the topic of stress, the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis, and cortisol. After hacking my way through the jungles of clinical practice for the next 20 years, I find that I have made my way right back to cortisol.
// Tori Hudson, ND
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis interacts with sleep in a multiplicity of ways and a growing body of research suggests reciprocal associations between sleep and activity of the HPA axis. Normal sleep architecture is characterized by cycles of light sleep, deeper slow-wave sleep and REM sleep. Light sleep includes stage 1 and stage 2 sleep. Stage 1 sleep has mixed frequency theta, slow rolling eye movements and slightly reduced eye movement and chin electromyography (EMG). Stage 2 has mixed frequency electroencephalogram (EEG). Deeper slow-wave sleep includes stages 3 and 4. Stage 3 sleep is characterized by 20-50% delta EEG and stage 4 has greater than 50% delta EEG.
// Lise Alschuler, ND
The hypothalamic pituitary adrenal (HPA) axis is our central stress response system. The HPA axis is an eloquent and every-dynamic intertwining of the central nervous system and endocrine system. This system works in a fairly straight-forward manner. The HPA is responsible for the adaptation component of the stress response. This response is characterized by hypothalamic release of corticotropin-releasing factor (CRF). When CRF binds to CRF receptors on the anterior pituitary gland, adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) is released. ACTH binds to receptors on the adrenal cortex and stimulates adrenal release of cortisol.
// Erin E. Ducat, DC, CSCS, CCSP and Corey Schuler, MS, DC, CNS
In any sport, successful performance requires a planned approach to training and recovery. Poor or inadequate sleep affects athletic performance, recovery, and may have systemic effects. Many studies have evaluated sleep deprivation, a prolonged period of sleep loss such as a whole night or longer; however, sleep restriction, the partial disturbance of the sleep-wake cycle, is more akin to real world experiences of athletes. The following article is a sample of the evidence of sleep restriction in athletes that can help decision-making regarding the use of sleep support habits and/ or agents.
// Corey Schuler, MS, DC, CNS
Assessing stress is complicated business. Many disciplines are asking profound and perhaps age-old questions about the differences between men and women and how they go about dealing with stress. Learn more about gender differences in dealing with stress now.
// Christy Williamson, MS
As you read this article, take a moment and consider the amount of radiation that is pulsing through your body. Wait…What? In today’s world, we are constantly bombarded with something called electric and magnetic fields (EMFs). Learn more about EMF and how it ties to many of the things you use today.
// Christopher T. Arick, DC, MS
Clinicians may have heard the term ACTH resistance being tossed around clinical seminars and conferences related to adrenal function. These may all be descriptors or variants of ACTH resistance as an aspect of clinical presentation. Learn more about ACTH resistance and how it relates to lifestyle health, stress, and the regulation of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis.
// Corey Schuler, MS, DC, CNS
Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) is a member of the Lamiaceae (Mint) family. The purported therapeutic actions of lavender are as a carminative which means it affects gastrointestinal gas production.* It also affects muscle tension and mood.* Lavender is thought to dilate capillaries and increase blood circulation via topical application and inhalation.The mechanism of how oral lavender works, however, is a matter of conflict. Read about this conflict and more on how Lavender works.
// Corey Schuler
While the adrenal glands are often pointed to as responsible for handling the normal stress response, they may instead be target organs of two intersecting systems. The hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is the endocrine response to stressors producing adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) from the pituitary gland with measurable changes in levels of plasma cortisol and salivary cortisol as produced in the adrenal cortex. The sympathetic-adrenal-medullary system produces epinephrine and norepinephrine and measurable changes in heart rate are seen. It is important not to oversimplify this relationship as HPA responses habituate to repeated stress exposure. In effect, the body responds better and better to the same stressor. The sympathetic system shows rather uniform activation patterns with repeated stress exposure.1
// Corey Schuler, MS, DC, LN, CNS
The hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis is a highly adaptive system and measuring it can be difficult. A biochemical and a clinical tool combined may be more useful than just one or the other. The cortisol-awakening response (CAR) is a marker of circadian rhythm as well as HPA axis function. It is suspected that a sudden rise in cortisol helps to mobilize energy in the transition from sleep to wakefulness.1 Upon wakening, cortisol production and measurement in saliva peaks within the first 30-45 minutes.2 In 15-25% of individuals, a rise in cortisol is not observed.3 However, it should be noted that one study suggested that absence of CAR may be due to sampling error as instructions are prone to non-compliance for collection of saliva in the early morning.4