ADRENAL GLAND (continued)
As mentioned in my last article different ‘stressors’ cause an increase of cortisol secretion by the adrenal glands. I referred to a book written by Dr. Charles Moss, M.D., from JollaCalifornia. The book, “The Adaptation Diet” is based on almost 40 years of experience Dr. Moss has accumulated treating thousands of patients. His premise is that what you eat determines how stress affects your health. He teaches how to protect oneself from the damaging effects of cortisol, the main stress hormone. He emphasizes correct eating habits and the use of specialized nutritional supplements in order to stop biomechanical stress. I will review and explain his theories and advice. When reducing cortisol, and losing weight we slow the aging process. So adaptation and reduction of the damage that “stress” causes, are not just about mental/emotional stressors but also the biochemical stress of poor dietary habits.
Dr. Moss points out that a healthy person is one who can adapt to changing and challenging circumstances. This requires a healthy balanced set of physical, emotional and spiritual tools. If one can adapt well then they theoretically can maintain health. He has found that eating habits and nutritional therapies play an enormous role in a patient’s capacity to deal with and adapt to stress. The term for maladaptation, when the body is not healthily dealing with stressful stimuli is called allostatic load. There are numerous markers of allostatic load such as belly fat obesity, fatigue, nerve issues such as anxiety and panic attacks, high blood pressure and/or pulse, brain fog, poor memory, lowered immune system, blood sugar issues, elevated overall cholesterol and the “bad” LDL type, inflammatory processes such as joint and muscle pain, headaches and digestive symptoms such as GERD ( reflux/heartburn). Other signs noted are worsened pre-menstrual syndrome, osteoporosis, mental illnesses such as depression and loss of motivation, facial swelling, allergies, and sexual dysfunction.
An area of our brains involved with memories of stressful events is the hippocampus. There the details and specifics of past experiences are stored. There, also, cortisol and epinephrine output is regulated. Yet is has been discovered that excess cortisol can damage the hippocampus. The result is that over time, with continued stress input, there is a muddled mixture of nonspecific memory and cloudy details of what the stress actually was. This keeps one from being in the present, and perceptions continue to be colored by past stressful events, which perpetuate the stress response. Research has found the in depressed patient the hippocampus is significantly smaller due to damage by overproduction of cortisol. Elevated cortisol levels deplete serotonin and dopamine and norepinephrine, leading to other psychological disorders. So long term stress, whether from life’s challenges or poor dietary habits can lead to maladaptation and the above mentioned damage to vital brain areas.
Dr. Moss mentions three areas through which one can reduce allostatic stress caused by poor dietary choices. 1. Reducing inflammatory foods and increasing anti-inflammatory foods such as omega-3 fatty acids 2. Reducing or eliminating high-glycemic foods such as high-fructose corn syrup, other simple sugars, soft-drinks etc. 3. Identifying and avoiding food allergies and sensitivities such as gluten in many cases and dairy in many cases etc. More details of controlling cortisol production and the stress response will be addressed in the coming issues. Stay tuned!