Restoration of metabolic process- lowering the adrenal load.
Sugar, fat and other mal-aligned factors.
Saturated fat is bad for you, so they said but it clearly wasn’t. Now it’s sugars turn. Sugar causes diabetes, cancer and many other modern conditions, if you are to believe many of the memes on social media. Well no, it doesn’t. Cancer for example is usually created from a specific defect to the respiratory apparatus of the cell. In English that means part of the cell that utilises oxygen. Sugar or Sucrose whose primary constituents are both Fructose and Glucose are readily available carbohydrates and the brain/central nervous system require plenty. Have you ever noticed that brain fog creep in when on that low carb diet? The reason? Restricted carbohydrates equals reduced cognitive process’s. Yes we can generate glucose via oxidation of fat, in the form of ketosis and you can also break down protein to generate glucose too, but these methods are less than efficient forms of energy generation and long-term utilisation of these systems is not ideal.
Sugar produces energy and when processed with oxygen is much more efficient than glycolysis or energy production without oxygen (anaerobic). In those who have damaged metabolism, there is a reliance on the production of energy in this manner, lactic acid is often produced even at rest. Therefore trying to exercise at intense levels poses a problem for those with both adrenal and metabolic issues.
Give the body what it needs? Got cravings? You know those ones where you are dying for some food, starchy carbohydrates, a sugary drink? There are no demons at work here, just a simple case of biology, carbohydrates are a primary fuel source for the body. Want to avoid coming crashing down? Avoid having 3 big meals a day and maintain blood sugar levels by eating frequently. Some do better than others but allowing 4-6 meals a day and noting how you feel is a step in the right direction. Maintaining a body temperature of 37 degrees and a pulse rate of 70-85 beats per minute is ideal. This has been well documented in the work of thyroid researcher Broda Barnes and the work of Ray Peat PhD.
Eating readily available carbohydrates such as ripe digestible fruits, protein and saturated fats (in the right amounts) such as coconut oil help to maintain blood sugar levels throughout the day without the resultant elevations in cortisol, which affect adrenal regulation issues.
Stressful situations often warrant the use of supplements such as Vitamins A, B6, C, magnesium and potassium. In particular sugary foods, which should include fruit, maple syrup and honey are ideal choices to diminish the stress response (even table sugar could play a therapeutic role in lowering stress).
Salt is also a powerful anti-stress compound. During stress sodium is often passed more rapidly from the body. Sodium spares magnesium. If you drink too much water the level of sodium excretion increases, which further decreases available magnesium. The research on lowering salt intake is inconclusive but what is known, is that when a low sodium state exists, aldosterone, a hormone that is used to regulate both salt and blood pressure elevates in response. It would come as no surprise that in a low adrenal state, feeling dizzy when moving from seated to standing exits due to poor blood pressure regulation. Craving salt is a mechanism to improve such a situation.
The current mind set regarding exercise and wellbeing is
Increased exercise + Low carb and raw foods = Health
And in the short term, markers suggest that this could be favourable. So how do you tell if this working for you long term? The monitoring of both pulse and body temperature give a great insight into optimal biological function. Here are some of the symptoms, which combine both compromised cortisol and thyroid function.
- Cold hands, feet and nose
- Energy crashes
- Poor wound healing
- Poor sleep
- Constipation or alternation between constipation and diarrheoa
- Weight gain
- Skin issues
- Low libido
Intense exercise + low carb/raw food diets= compromised metabolism.
Historically in many, changing both the way you eat and completing more exercise may have worked previously, but as you push the markers of exercising more and eating less or certainly eating foods that do not support your activities. You may see many of those symptoms above start to creep into your daily life. There’s no doubt that eating well and exercising are productive pursuits for optimal body function. However for many the lines are blurred as to what actually is a healthy diet. Consumption of large amounts of grains, margarine and low fat foods were being touted as healthy a decade or two earlier, now look at the research condemning that approach. The following information seems to be heading a similar route.
For the health conscious exerciser today a diet high in raw green vegetables, green juices, seeds nuts, fish oils, low carb, low starch seems to be the zeitgeist but is it that healthy? From a biological perspective the answer would be no. Eating these foods over a long period of time not only increases the stress response but may actually damage how our body’s cells actually function. Increasing available energy from easily digestible foods helps to assimilate energy for production. In contrast foods such as many raw green vegetables, nuts, seeds and vegetable oils, not only irritate the bowel, sit and accumulate bacteria damaging the intestinal lining, but also provide less than optimal nutrition, which will lower metabolic rate.
Moving is important, no doubt, but exercising to within an inch of total fatigue can be detrimental, especially so when dealing with issues related to both adrenal and metabolic based issues. Finding the right type of exercise and even stepping back and focusing on exercise that doesn’t produce high levels of lactic acid, causes hyperventilation and the loss of carbon dioxide should be considered in the short term. The goal of improving metabolic function, restoring deep sleep and raising energy should always predominate over the loss of body fat reduction. It’s a tricky issue to get your head around for some, but when you start to feel great again. You’ll understand why.
On Dubai Today this morning, Keith Littlewood, our regular health, fitness and well-being expert from Scandinavian Health and Performance in Dubai joins us to take your questions.
Here is the first part of my article, which published in the May 2014, Womens Health and Fitness Magazine.
Adrenal fatigue or reductionist thinking?
Often, being given a distinct diagnoses that can relate to modern living can make sense to us, a modern condition that makes sense of the hectic lifestyle and the symptoms that we have been experiencing. Over the last decade there has been much literature on a so called ‘Adrenal fatigue’, whose symptoms are wide reaching from fatigue, digestive dysfunction, weight and sleep issues.
Walther Canon and Hans Seyle, probably the most prominent scientists to study and interpret the mechanics behind, adrenaline, cortisol and the stress response, showed that when rats were exposed to high levels of stress, they developed issues such as ulcers, intestinal bleeding and then finally death. The common suggested auto immune diseases that are becoming more prevalent, such as intestinal hyper-permeability or leaky gut can therefore be interpreted as symptoms of chronic stressors.
The premise of adrenal fatigue works something along these lines.
- You are exposed to stress
- You produce stress hormones (Alarm phase)
- Your body returns to normal
- You become stressed again on a regular basis
- You enter the adaptation phase
- You constantly maintain the stress response through permanent exposure
- The adrenal glands become exhausted
- Suggestion that you have adrenal fatigue or exhaustion phase
There are many problems with this interpretation and deduction of adrenal fatigue, and how many practitioners treat this reductionist diagnosis. If your adrenals were truly fatigued, you may not actually be with us anymore and ultimately be dead. Cortisol which is produced by the adrenal glands, is the primary hormone that directs immune function, inflammation and is involved in virtually all aspects of body function. Certainly the terms hypocortisolemia, too little cortisol and hyper, too much cortisol make sense, and that is what a typical adrenal stress test tells us. Are we producing too much or not enough cortisol , on that particular day, based around a suggested norm?
Cortisol does go up and down, and probably outside of suggested arbitrary norms especially if you experience or engage in the following:
- Excessive physiological or structural stress, intense exercise without adequate rest.
- Psychological stress
- Diet or fail to eat enough calories, eating too much may also contribute over time
- Eat a so called healthy diet based upon current guidelines
- Fail to get adequate sleep.
- Chronic exposure to environmental pollutants
The longer one stays in a state of chronic stress the more compromised all aspects of body function become. This can ultimately result in hormone, immune and metabolic systems dysfunction.
The positives from treating the aspects of adrenal fatigue are a compliance of those suffering from the suggested condition, to address aspects of why they have got to this current state of affairs. Overworking, too much or too little exercise, not enough sleep and psychological stress recognition can be aspects that can be changed with great effect.
To create effective change, should we not consider other aspects of function that would treat the root cause, rather than plaster over the symptom? Lets take a look at the cross over between symptoms of both adrenal and thyroid dysfunction, which have roots in energy and digestion. You may start to notice that there are many symptoms that you may experience a mixture of both and to highlight adrenal fatigue alone is problematic. The thyroid gland supports energetic process’s and when this becomes compromised we call on the adrenal glands to act in a supporting role. Addressing energy, metabolism and digestion, should be the target of any lifestyle or therapeutic interventions.
|Adrenal symptoms||Thyroid symptoms|
Low blood pressure
Sweats a lot
Need to wear sunglasses
Weight gain or loss
|Difficult to lose or gain weight
Feel cold hands and feet
However treating adrenal fatigue in isolation with adaptogenic herbs, restriction of sugar and other stimulants as is often the case, may be unwarranted and most importantly ineffective in resolving these issues. Treating any system in isolation is reductionist and often gives you at best, reductionist results. The complex interaction of the Hypothalamus-Pituitary-Adrenal-Thyroid-Gonadal axis is a system that helps our body manage many global aspects of our body’s function and therefore addressing adrenal balance leaves a gaping hole in your treatment strategy. Consider that the adrenals and in particular cortisol production can be a slave to the your environment, nutrition, exercise and other lifestyle choices. Take stock, address what may be affecting your stress hormone production, If these factors can be changed do so. Stress is a double-edged sword. We need a certain amount of stress to improve our physiological function. Constant exposure to stress decreases our biological state.
Raising biological wholeness such as energy levels, cognition and increasing balance throughout the hormonal system can give much better results than focusing on the adrenals. Remember that the adrenals and ultimately cortisol production elevate in response to, what you eat, or fail to eat, the environment, psychological and physiological stress. All of these aspects are changeable. In the next article I suggest some strategies that can be used to improve energy and lower adrenal stress.
In the past few months I have had the pleasure of working with Amna Al Haddad. She is a motivated, strong woman with a goal of training for the 2016 Olympics in Rio. When I first met Amna she was a little disappointed with her progress and felt like she had hit a wall with her training.
Initially the goal was to tweak her energy levels by analysing her metabolic rate and modifying diet to get the optimal amount of energy, to improve performance. When people participate at high level sports they can often become very strong through compensatory mechanisms. Using bio-mechanical assessments and motor control evaluations such as SFMA and Neuro Kinetic Therapy, we were able to change the way that Amna’s nervous system communicated with the appropriate muscles and present some strategies that kept them optimal.
Understanding the difference between mobility versus stability issues is key.This ensures that movement remains great and injuries are reduced.
It’s been great to see Amna hit some new PB’s and stay motivated for her goals ahead. Really looking forward to see her excel over the next few years as it has been a pleasure working with someone so motivated to achieve their targets.
“Working with Keith in the past few months have been absolutely great. My performance, energy levels, and stability definitely increased after our treatment sessions. My muscles have been compensating a lot, often causing a lot of dysfunction and irritation that has affected my weightlifting and strength levels.Keith understands the human body in a different way than what I have seen before from a performance consultant; he can immediately show you how to activate a muscle and restore its strength, reduce pain, and more in just a few seconds! BUT..you have to do your homework to reinforce the new movement patterns.”
Amna Al Haddad, UAE national Olympic Weightlifter
If you haven’t yet met someone who has recommended you either some form of diet or a type of exercise, you are unique, in fact a real rarity, and somewhat lucky.
The fitness and wellness industry is awash with much dogma, often created by short term ideologies, that in long term may be harmful to ones health. A friend sent me a link to a simple yet effective graph from Keith Norris’s blog on chasing performance goals and their impact on health. This got me thinking about the fields that I work in and how much of the recommendations are riddled with dogma and lack critical thought processes.
There’s often a reason for this dogma existing and for many it is due to the anecdotal gains that can be experienced in the short term. Here are just a few reasons why:
- High carb to low carb
- Eating grains to not eating grains
- High meat eater to vegetarian
- Sedentary to high intensity exercise
- Modern SAD to Paleo
- Regular diet to juicing
There are plenty more and the point to be made is, some positive gains can be made in the short term, change to metabolic markers, restriction in excessive calories, weight loss and a variety of other markers. From the diagram above you can observe that whenever there is a change to the input of a system, change can occur and especially when there has been little variance in the past. As change occurs and an almost linear increase in perceived health markers also occur, a Zone of Optimisation and resultant dogma often ensue.
‘This really worked for me, and it will do for you, trust me!’
Is the problem for many people, those often short term gains, on the way up on your performance curve, may actually start falling sooner than you think.
For the performance exerciser, poor movement, compensation and ultimately pain will ensue.
For those to the new diet, great results could turn into stagnation, weight gain and a host of metabolic disturbances.
Is it working for you? Well do you:
- Have good digestion?
- Have deep restorative sleep?
- Balanced energy?
- Healthy libido?
- Balanced emotions
- Good stress response
If you don’t, you may just be coming down from that peak of physiological and biochemical gains. When might it happen, 1, 2 or even 5 years down the line perhaps? Hysteresis or a systems memory can be changed with ease if there exists, little underlying metabolic damage and a reduction of factors that increase resistance to repair that system. Supporting metabolic processes should be first and foremost.
Understanding that fitness is not always a healthy pursuit and paying attention to markers that increase vitality should be a goal, and be pursuant to any fitness goal.
Move, play, eat, digest and sleep well.
What’s your gut telling you: why your digestion holds the key to your health. IBS? Bloating? Far from being isolated digestive disorders, these are now being linked with everything from osteoporosis to depression. Keith Littlewood from Balanced Body Mind joins us to answer your questions about performance, digestion and much more.
On Dubai Today’s “Eye on Health” Suzanne is joined by Keith Littlewood from Balanced Body Mind. Paul Frangie joins us in studio to talk about how we can pair wellness with cooking healthy food.
Are you feeling the burn? 4 reasons why you have acid reflux (or just reflux).
I don’t know how many clients I saw last year who came to me with reflux. You know that burning sensation in the windpipe. It’s not that nice to have it and I have experienced it myself and got rid of it too. Not with the oh so many proton pump inhibitors ( PPI’s are acid lowering drugs, that don’t address why there is a specific reflux type symptom) that Dr’s seem to prescribe in a vague attempt to get rid of the unwanted symptom. This is a brief synopsis of why you may get reflux type symptoms and not discussed at great length.
In my experience there are four specific reasons why individuals get GERD or Gastro-Esophegeal Reflux Disease and in pretty much most cases do not warrant the use of PPI’s such as Nexium or Omeprazole which have many side effects including digestive dysfunction. Here they are:
- Identified Helicobacter Pylori infection.
- Dysfunctional diaphragm
- Food irritant of digestive tract
Helicobacter Pylori infection-
H pylori infection is one of the most common digestive tract infections that I have seen (probably second to a parasite called Blastocystis). It is prevalent in both developed and developing countries and responsible for gastric ulcers. This pesky helix shaped bacteria burrows deep into the gastric mucosa and has the ability to shut down the production of hydrochloric acid. Hey but hang on, I though that I had been prescribed medication to stop me producing more stomach acid? Yep! Go figure, in some cases reflux type symptoms may even be alkaline refluxing through the pyloric sphincter.
Below the pyloric sphincter it should be a case of the acidic stomach contents triggering the digestive enzymes but that doesn’t happen in cases such as H-pylori and others and therefore digestion is compromised. Ok, I am getting side tracked so back with the H-pylori. The medical approach is to treat with triple therapy, which is two rounds of antibiotics and PPI’s and there are even quadruple rounds of treatment now. Guess what? H-pylori is becoming resistant to antibiotic use! Don’t get me wrong I think antibiotics have their place and should be used accordingly but to keep increasing doses is a recipe for disaster.
In 99% of H-pylori infections I have seen this resistant critter eradicated with a few different types of natural supplements and I have seen this in scores of clients with this infection. Much more effective than antibiotics and PPI’s which have unwanted side effects to the digestive system. I had this just last year and it was gone pretty quickly with the right approach. Given that it can be passed by hand to hand contact, kissing, zoonosis or contact with pets, drinking water and food are just some of the ways that you can contract it.
I have written many times on the need for optimal respiratory mechanics for management of pain and movement dysfunction but the diaphragm has another key role in the management of the pressure of the esophageal sphincter which can control reflux..
There have been several studies on the use of diaphragm modulation and its effect on GERD. http://www.rehabps.com/REHABILITATION/Poster_GR.html
In a nutshell get someone who can help to improve diaphragm function and improve its effect on management of the digestion system. If it doesn’t work, try any of these four points and I am almost certain that you will eradicate reflux without the need for courses of medication. That said, you should always discuss medication cessation with your Doctor first. If you mentioned any of these approaches you will either be greeted with raised eyebrows or a satisfactory nod depending on how your Dr views this type of treatment.
Foods as an irritant to the digestive tract.
This is an anecdotal tale initially and then feeds into other factors. For me personally if I eat bread daily then I get back bending reflux symptoms. I can’t tell you whether it is a reaction to gluten or yeast but I know that when I cut it out it goes within two days. Some clients have found that when they do the same with coffee, wine or any other number of different foods they too have a cessation of symptoms, if the food as an irritant is the potential source.
Some people can argue that certain foods are quite acid and you should attempt an ‘alkalanising’ diet. In my opinion this is hog wash as alkaline and acid environments within the body are managed by complex systems involving respiration, kidneys and the digestive system. Being too alkaline poses similar problems to being too acidic. Its true that eating lots and lots of meat can produce ammonia and you may notice that in the urine but anybody who spouts alkalinity is the way to health should be viewed with scepticism. Cutting down on high protein diets may just be your best bet.
The simple approach to this is, if you eat a food on a regular basis and you notice that you get reflux….cut it out! Does it go? No then it’s not the issue.
Stress is a killer, we all know that one don’t we? Well then it wouldn’t be that far fetched to say that stress decimates the digestive system. If you are one of those people who races your food down, rushing to work, eating at your desk, eyeing the figures and not truly eating your food then your digestive system is going to become ill fast and so are you.
Digestion starts….in the brain! It was shown nearly a century ago that failure to think about eating fails to produce gastric juices responsible for breaking down nutrients. The work of Walter Cannon demonstrated the failure of the digestive system when constantly exposed to stress both acute and chronic.
An easy place to start is to think about what you are eating and enjoy it. That’s pretty easy right? Remember that both too much and too little acid in the stomach can pave the way for reflux type symptoms. Slow down. Give the body and mind a chance to digest your food, not only will you enjoy it, it is key in dealing with digestive dysfunction and reflux type symptoms.
If you know anybody suffering with reflux that mention these four points to them. They might just help to get rid of the problem for good.
Cannon, W.B. Bodily Changes in Pain: Hunger, Fear, and Rage: An Account of Recent Researches Into the Function of Emotional Excitement. D Appleton and Company. 1920
Here’s why I decided to use homemade formula
The world in which we live often creates an acceptance of certain conditions. However some conditions should not just be accepted as acceptable.
As a father for the second time we had to accept that we would have to use formula for our new born due to some complications. No sooner had we started and our son developed spots, rashes and was generally a cranky little man despite being fed Organic formula. But it was organic, why should this happen? Oh but it is normal for children to get milk rashes and spots many people say. Is it? Why is it? If I were to see such conditions on an adult, I would be suggesting that something is just not right and you should get that looked at.
So why is it that we accept that rashes, irritability and skin conditions are acceptable on new born children?
A possible thought might be that the wide spread acceptance of poor quality formula that has a whole list of undesirable additives could be the very cause of these unwanted symptoms. I must add that of course breast feeding is the best. No doubt but in some cases, sadly it is just not possible to do so, so support has to be administered by whatever means exist.
We initially chose an organic milk formula due to the non-organic versions contained genetically modified soy products, a host of vegetable oils (many GM too) and many chemically derived nutrients. I am driven in my occupation to get the best information available out to my clients and the knowledge seeking public and I have to state that genetically modified products SHOULD NEVER be allowed in any persons food especially new born children.
The use of vegetable oils in formula to provide polyunsaturated fatty acids is not only contentious its inclusion is based upon poor rationale for nutrition guidelines. Saturated fat that is found in a mothers breast milk is highly nutritious and replacing with polyunsaturated fats can pose many problems particularly when these oils have the capacity to go rancid which causes stress to cellular function and energetics.
This is well documented and for further information the work of Ray Peat will provide the reader with much information. The inclusion of these PUFA’s is often recommended as they are so called Essential Fatty Acids. The argument on the use of these EFA’s still rages on but it has been proven that deficiencies of B6, and biotin may give the perception of fatty acid deficiency.
Here’s another clincher. Much of the recommendations regarding PUFA’s in breast milk is based upon data where we have steadily increased vegetable oil consumption. So observations of these fats in breast milk correlates with consumption not production. So should we have such elevated levels of these fats in baby produce?
With that in mind I decided to make my own Homemade formula. My only place of reference to begin this task was by looking and traditional nutrition guidelines and I looked at a recipe recommended on the Weston A price website. (Weston A. Price was a dentist who documented traditional health and diets compared to modernised diets, well worth a read of some his stuff).
The ingredients still contained amounts of PUFA’s so I decided to replace most of these fatty acids with saturated fats from coconut oil and ghee with the exception of olive oil. Here’s how to make it.
One thing that I am not telling you to do, is to go and stop what you are doing. This is a decision that we as parents made, we thought was best for our son. Its clear that Omega 3’s do play some part in balance but the proliferation in both Omega 3 and 6 in many foods are not necessarily healthy and carry there own issues. Blanket nutrition is not working for many and taking time to find out what works can be a rewarding experience. As for our son….he is not cranky anymore, his rashes have gone and he is sleeping through the night at 7 weeks of age. We are pretty happy.
Always seek the advice of a professional regarding nutritional issues particularly when dealing with infants nutrition.
Additional references can be posted. If you want to read the scientific studies that I am basing my opinion on please ask.