The Broken Brain Podcast with Dr. Zandra Palma

Wired, Tired, and Stressed? How Understanding Your HPA Axis Could be the Key to Achieving Optimal Health with Dr. Zandra Palma

Download MP3

Have you ever heard of the term “adrenal fatigue”? We commonly associate this term with the feelings of extreme fatigue, hormonal dysregulation, and other physical symptoms that can occur from chronic stress. Dr. Zandra Palma feels that this term is actually inaccurate but that we can look to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis for the cause of these discomforts. 

On today’s Broken Brain Podcast, our host, Dhru talks to Dr. Zandra Palma, a Functional Medicine physician with a background in internal medicine and anesthesiology. Her interest in root-cause medicine began in college when she studied human evolutionary biology at Harvard University. Zandra attended medical school at Columbia University, College of Physicians and Surgeons. She wrote her thesis in the field of contemplative care after an apprenticeship with New York-Presbyterian Hospital Chaplain Seigan Glassing, who taught her how to integrate mindfulness-based practices into the care of terminally ill patients. She completed her Functional Medicine training in the Kresser Institute’s ADAPT fellowship.

In this episode, Dhru and Dr. Palma talk all about the importance of the HPA axis and how if these systems experience dysfunction, it can affect every aspect of your health. More importantly, Dr. Palma discusses how to support your HPA axis, reduce stress, sleep better, and feel great. While HPA dysfunction affects many different systems and has a multitude of symptoms, even if you’re not affected, the first steps to recover and begin healing can benefit everyone. “Soft” interventions, like massage, meditation, sleep, rest, relaxation, and self-care can play a significant role in getting your stress under control and supporting your HPA axis.

In this episode, we dive into:

  • Description of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and why the term “adrenal fatigue” is not accurate (2:08) 
  • Events that cause HPA dysfunction (7:00)
  • Symptoms of HPA dysfunction (9:37)
  • What happens when our stress response system is always “on” (11:20)
  • What conventional medicine doctors learn about the HPA axis in medical school (18:55)
  • An example of a patient with HPA axis dysfunction (20:28)
  • How to begin diagnosing HPA dysfunction (22:28)
  • How the thyroid, gonads, and HPA axis are connected (25:41)
  • How Adverse Childhood Events (ACEs) affect the HPA axis (31:10)
  • Where to start when assessing HPA axis dysfunction (32:41) 
  • The powerful benefits of “soft interventions” (38:36)
  • How stress affects your blood sugar more than what you eat (43:45) 
  • How more is not always better when it comes to exercise (45:11)
  • What in your environment can affect your inflammation levels and HPA axis (48:03)
  • How crucial sleep is to supporting your adrenals (52:30)
  • More about the study of evolutionary biology (57:44)
  • How to find out more about Dr. Zandra (1:05:13)

For more on Dr. Zandra, be sure to follow her on Instagram @zandrapalma_md, on Parsley Health’s IG @parsleyhealth, and on Facebook @zandra.palma. Check out her website here and learn more about Parsley Health’s Care Anywhere program here.

To learn more about Ziva Meditation, listen to this podcast and check out the website here. For more podcasts on the topic of mold, check out this one. For more podcasts on ACEs, listen to this one, and to find the ACEs quiz, go here. To find out more about Grounded Beauty, visit this website.

To learn more about Dr. Zandra’s favorite books, check out A Path with Heart by Jack Kornfield, Buddha in Blue Jeans by Tai Sheridan, and You Are Here by Thich Nhat Hahn.

Wishing you health and happiness,
Mark Hyman, MD
Mark Hyman, MD


Mark Hyman, MD

Mark Hyman, MD is the Founder and Director of The UltraWellness Center, the Head of Strategy and Innovation of Cleveland Clinic's Center for Functional Medicine, and a 13-time New York Times Bestselling author.

If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.


If you are looking for personalized medical support, we highly recommend contacting Dr. Hyman’s UltraWellness Center in Lenox, Massachusetts today.

Send this to a friend