I had mentioned on my social pages the release date of the Summer Edition of my newsletter, and it was partly due to seminars on the subject of stress I still had to listen to. The BioCare Webinar, entitled: “Energy Crisis: How to Stay Energised”, was one of them. It was very instructive and very pertinent to the subject I am addressing since last year. And I am very glad to be right on track and coming up with the same argument.
The seminar started by explaining why so many of us are profoundly fatigued, with low energy “sufficient to undermine quality of life and day-to-day functioning”, and why Obesity and the Metabolic Syndrome are on the increase.
The speaker gave definitions I think are just perfect: “We can conceptualise stress as external physical events to which we must adapt to function and survive, or internal – psychological and anticipatory (i.e. perceiving stress about something that hasn’t happened yet).” “Allostasis – our ability to adapt to stress – is the maintenance of stability through change and a fundamental process through which organisms adjust to events.” “Chronic Daily Stress may lead to ‘Allostasis Overload’. The Human body cannot maintain overload for very long without consequences such as impairment of the regulatory function of the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal Axis. Potentially, there is disruption to energy, cognition, adaptation to stress, motivation, mood and increased anxiety”
To ensure a balanced and appropriate response to stimuli, including stressful ones, we have executive mechanisms that regulate our overall state of ‘arousal’ or ‘activity’.
GABA (Gamma-Amino-Butyric Acid), which has an overall calming and inhibitory effect on parts of the brain and Glutamic Acid (Glutamate), which is excitatory, are two opposing neurotransmitters that regulate our overall levels of inhibition/stimulation.
Key mediating structures that respond to GABA stimulation are the Amygdala, Hippocampus and medial Prefrontal Cortex – involved in motivation, emotion, learning, and memory.
These executive systems exert a major influence on the Hypothalamic-Pituitary-Adrenal (HPA) axis, partly governing autonomic nervous response
The Amygdala and the Hippocampus
The way we perceive fear, is originating from the Amygdala, memorising all the past experiences to create a library of fears, to ensure our survival. The Amygdala, which Stephen Langley so nicely pointed out, is not logical, and does not need to be, as long as we stay alive and away from danger (fear and stress may originate from childhood experiences or the time a highly stressed mother was pregnant, flooding the baby with Stress Hormones via the placenta. Growing up the kid’s brain will always look for danger. And the Amygdala is great at inventing stress. It can originate from thoughts or fantasies).
“During stress, excitatory neurons in the Amygdala fire rapidly, leading to a feeling of panic or fear. GABA balances the excitatory action of Glutamate by reducing nerve impulse transmissions and has an inhibitory effect on excess sympathetic response by directly inhibiting Corticotropin Releasing Factor (CRF) and Adrenocorticotropic Hormone (ACTH) secretion.
GABA thus has a calming effect on our emotions and prevents us from becoming overwhelmed in stressful situations. Low levels of GABA are associated with anxiety, depression and insomnia.” Explained the speaker, confirming all the information piled in all the articles I have written in this 3-parts newsletter
“The endocrine system governs when, how and where energy is metabolised.
Healthy endocrine function exerts a huge impact on energy homeostasis and hormone imbalances can result in impaired energy production.
− Regulation of blood glucose
− Adrenal hormone regulation
− Thyroid hormone regulation
− Blood sugar regulation
Glucagon and Insulin exert opposite influences as part of a feedback system that keeps blood glucose levels stable:
- Increase in glucose stimulates Insulin, increasing uptake of glucose and amino acids from blood into cells.
- Glucose not used directly for energy is stored as Glycogen in the liver and muscles. When Glucagon stores are full, glucose can be converted to Fatty Acids and Triglycerides.
- Insulin inhibits Glucagon secretion, blocking the conversion of non-carbohydrate energy sources into glucose.”
The abnormal control of blood glucose levels is termed Dysglycemia, which is heavily influenced by diet and the actions of insulin and glucagon. The way we manage blood sugar has a direct effect on daily energy levels and it is with no surprise that Dysglycemia is linked with fatigue and the development of long-term chronic disease, which are usually the result of (silent) inflammation.
But, it goes much further: as well as the obvious symptom of Dysglycemia and fluctuating energy, “other symptoms include cognitive and mood disruption (irritability, anxiety, depression, mood swings, poor concentration), fat deposition around the middle, cravings, addictions, drowsiness, sleep disturbance, poor stamina and excessive sweating.” Just imagine how you (and your brain) feel when all you want is coffee and a cupcake (or a Mars bar) to be yourself again!
“The Adrenals glands are critical backup systems that help to manage our response to a range of stressors. The key adrenal hormones are Cortisol, DHEA, Adrenaline, Aldosterone, and the sex hormones, Testosterone and Oestrogen. Cortisol is secreted in a circadian rhythm with increased levels in the morning, followed by a gradual tailing off until about midnight.” (see Alessandro Ferretti article for further details)
DHEA and Cortisol are opposite and exert opposite effects. The most important function of DHEA is to counteract the negative effects of prolonger high Cortisol levels such as immune suppression; inhibited digestive function; damage to brain cells, Amygdala and Hippocampus, through over stimulation; damage to the blood vessels due to vasoconstriction and high levels of blood sugar, which is very toxic when present in the blood.
Adrenaline (Epinephrine) is largely responsible for the immediate reactions we feel when stressed. It triggers immediate sympathetic nervous response and burst of energy ready for ‘fight or flight’. As well as acting in its regulatory capacity, Cortisol will also contribute in these acute situations as a maintainer of the sympathetic response, by taking over Adrenaline. Cortisol will keep on being produced until the source of stress has been identified and dealt with.
“Continual over-activation of the stress response, without relaxation and recovery can eventually cause harm. Hormones can become depleted or out of balance with each other or they may lose normal circadian rhythm.
Symptoms: fatigue, depression, irritability, confusion, aches and pains, cravings (salt, sugar), poor temperature control, postural hypotension.
Anxiety and disturbed sleep especially if cortisol is too high due to overstimulation.
As a generalisation, adrenal stress can begin with hyper-cortisol secretion, progress to a pattern of ‘inverse cortisol’ secretion, whereby cortisol is low in the morning and then increases during the day through use of stimulants to then disrupt sleep, and can progress to complete adrenal exhaustion (probably rarely – disrupted adrenals is more likely).”
The Thyroid is another vitally important regulatory gland that affects many aspects of metabolism. Thyroid hormones control how quickly the body metabolises energy at the cellular level by increasing ATP (the body energy currency) production in the mitochondria (the power plant of every body cells). “Thyroid activity can alter basal metabolic rate by as much as 50% in either direction.” Explains the speaker.
Thyroid Hormone T4 is synthesised from tyrosine and iodine, then it is converted to T3 by body enzymes (mainly Selenium-dependent, but also Zinc, and Copper).
The conversion of T4 to T3 is affected by: “high free radical activity, heavy metal toxicity, chronic illness, mineral deficiency, low protein and/or excess carbohydrates, excess fatty acids, excess cortisol, diabetes and compromised liver function.”
As explained in my Thyroid article, sometimes the body converts T4 to ‘Reverse T3’ (RT3) to conserve energy. RT3 is the body’s emergency break. It can block thyroxin receptors, prevent T4 to enter the cells, and cause symptoms of hypothyroidism even when thyroxin levels look adequate on testing. The symptoms are usually the same as Primary, or Secondary, Hypothyroidism.
Hypothyroidism linked to underperforming Thyroid (also due to Pituitary dysfunction, which can also be from a growing tumour), or lower release of Thyroid Hormone, has multiple, diverse symptoms, including:
− “Tiredness, slowness in body and mind, headaches, muscle aches, cramps and weakness
− Sensitivity to cold, cold hands and feet, weight gain, constipation, and depression.
− Dry and scaly skin, thinning hair and brittle nails, high cholesterol
− Infertility and irregular periods
− If untreated, low-pitched and hoarse voice, dull facial expressions and a puffy-looking face, thinned (or partly missing) eyebrows, slow heart rate.”
“At the heart of many problems is often a blood sugar regulation issue caused by the challenges of the modern diet.”
Registered Naturopath, Nutritional Therapist, Iridologist, Lecturer, NLP practitioner and Personal Performance Coach.