thyroid health

Adrenal Fatigue or Reductionist Thinking?

adrenal  

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
Fatigue

Difficulty sleeping

Low blood pressure

Clenching teeth

Dizzyness

Arthritic issues

Crave salt

Sweats a lot

Allergies

Weakness

Afternoon crash

Need to wear sunglasses

Anxiety

Weight gain or loss

Difficult to lose or gain weight

Nervousness/anxiety

Constipation

Hair loss

Poor energy/fatigue

Feel cold hands and feet

Mentally sluggish

Morning headaches

Seasonal sadness

Poor sleep

 

 

 

 

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.

Why are polyunsaturated fats and oils so dangerous?

Polyunsaturated fats/ fatty acids or PUFAs have been suggested as being a safe food source for many years and many have even touted as being protective for the heart. Saturated fats have been outcast as the villain as the marketing purse of seed manufacturers often outweighed the gain that could be had by the protective more stable fats of coconut and palm oils.

Because the molecular structure of PUFA’s are less stable than saturated fats when heated they become carcinogenic.  Many studies favoured by the seed industry have favoured the analysis of so called good and bad cholesterol or LDL’s and HDL’s as a marker for the so called healthy effect of vegetable and seed oils.  A factor overlooked as part of this education is that high HDL levels can be interpreted as an auto immune process in action and cancerous states can be correlated with high HDL levels.  Heat alone will not cause PUFA’s to become unstable, overtime these oils can become rancid and when consumed cause lipid peroxidation . Think of all those warehouses of nuts that have been sitting around for months or years before being consumed, which are then often roasted and the PUFA’s within them oxidised.

The problem is that when all of these oils are consumed they cause the production of Reactive Oxygen Species or ROS and lipid peroxidation which causes large amounts of stress to cellular DNA which can be responsible for genetic mutations which can lead to aging, cell destruction and cancers. Ray Peats work on the damage caused by PUFA’s is very well documented.

Many commercially consumed foods such as tortilla chips (which mostly are derived from genetically engineered crops that have been covered in harmful pesticides) have been fried in these oils causing a dabble whammy of oxidative stress and insult to the human organism. People often think that by eating healthily they are able to not worry about small details such as fats and have often been falsely convinced that butter/ghee/ coconut and palm oils and that, high fat diets are the causative link in heart disease and heart attacks.

From a skin health perspective, unstable fats such as PUFA in the skin may be problematic when exposed to excess amounts of ultraviolet light. This recent blog explains the mechanisms.

Dealing with ridding the body of dangerous PUFA’s stored in body fat stores can be achieved with the right diet plan and ameliorating the dangerous effects of lipid peroxidation can be achieved with supplementation such as Vitamin E, B’s,  Asprin  and others.   Below I have highlighted a list of oils  that are ideal for cooking with and the others should be avoided.  To find out more about restoring your body to optimal health please get in touch. Balanced Body Mind

Approximate polyunsaturated fats/fatty acids- PUFA content of various oils and fats:  (taken fromIntegrative/med)

Evening Primrose oil (81% PUFA) Hemp oil (80% PUFA) Flax oil (72% PUFA) Grapeseed oil (71% PUFA) Chia oil (70% PUFA) Safflower oil (75% PUFA) Sunflower oil (65% PUFA) Perilla oil (63% PUFA) Corn oil (59% PUFA) Soybean oil (58% PUFA) Pumpkin oil (57% PUFA) Walnut oil (55-63% PUFA) Cottonseed oil (50% PUFA) Sesame oil (41-45% PUFA) Canola oil (30-37% PUFA) Rice bran oil (36% PUFA) Beech nut oil (32% PUFA) Peanut oil (29-32% PUFA) Pecan oil (29% PUFA) Brazil nut oil (24-36% PUFA, 24% SAFA) Pistachio oil (19% PUFA) Cashew oil (17% PUFA, 20% SAFA) Almond oil (17% PUFA, 8% SAFA) Duck fat (13% PUFA, 1% cholesterol)                 Use but try to go for safer oils below Lard (12% PUFA, 41% SAFA, 1% cholesterol)  Use but try to go for safer oils below Filbert oil (10-16% PUFA) Avocado oil (10% PUFA) Macadamia oil (10% PUFA, 15% SAFA)

Safe cooking oils Goose fat (10% PUFA, 1% cholesterol) Palm oil (8% PUFA, 50% SAFA) Olive oil (8% PUFA, 14% SAFA) Butter (4% PUFA, 50% SAFA) Ghee (4% PUFA, 48% SAFA, 2% cholesterol) Cocoa Butter (3% PUFA, 60% SAFA) Coconut oil (2-3% PUFA, 92% SAFA, 0% cholesterol) Palm kernel oil (2% PUFA, 82% SAFA)