Stress (pt. 2)
Aldosterone, the mineral hormone
Aldosterone is a mineral corticoid that is made in the part of the adrenal glands called the cortex. It is the major hormone controlling mineral and salt levels, especially sodium and potassium, and consequently, fluid balance within our bloodstream. It goes up when we are under stress. When it is high, aldosterone releases minerals from cells and moves them into the blood. As minerals are pulled into the blood they attract water, water and minerals are then excreted through the kidneys which causes the volume of the blood to increase causing high blood pressure. This can cause loss of minerals (electrolytes) and loss of electrolytes can cause salt cravings. This loss of precious electrolytes is one of the side effects stress has in the body which affect the heart directly. If you are on a low salt diet, the problem is exacerbated even more. James Wilson N.D., D.C., Ph. D. recommends to take kelp to replenish the sodium and potassium levels in the body. Kelp, he says, contains both potassium and sodium in the right proportions in an easily assimilated form. The ‘Heart and Body Extract’ has kelp as one of its active ingredients which makes it a great way to replenish these two electrolytes when you are under stress.
Aldosterone is a very powerful hormone and it only takes a little bit of this hormone to raise blood pressure significantly. A common medical strategy for lowering blood pressure is blocking the body’s aldosterone with ACE inhibitors. But Ben Fuchs believes there are toxic side effects with these kinds of drugs, and he believes we can control our blood pressure ourselves (we will discuss later on how).
When you are under chronic fatigue the body releases a lot of this hormone aldosterone so you can become deficient in it. This is what is called adrenal fatigue, which causes the opposite effect, low blood pressure or hypotension and dizziness. Aldosterone is not only made in the adrenal glands but also on the skin, so stress can show on our skin in the form of puffiness (because the body retains more water), oiliness, dark spots (hyperpigmentation), skin will age faster and wrinkle more.
The youth, beauty and fertility hormones
When we are under too much stress, our adrenals are working overtime to make the stress hormones cortisol and aldosterone and therefore they are not making these youth and repair hormones. This means the body can survive under stress but it will not repair itself, we will age faster and lose our youthful appearance.
The youth and fertility hormones are testosterone, progesterone, estrogen and DHEA. All of them drop as we age but also with stress. They have the important job of helping to balance cortisol by limiting its possible detrimental effects on cells and act as hormonal antioxidants. A drop in these sex hormones accounts for many degenerative processes of aging more than anything else. With age, cortisol levels remain steady while testosterone and DHEA diminish.
DHEA is a steroid hormone that is a precursor to eighteen different other hormones in the body. It is critical for health as evidenced by its effects in the body: increased life span, reduced body fat, increased immunity, energy and well being, improved sleep patterns, ability to relax and therefore ability to improve hypertension and degenerative diseases. Its levels naturally drop with age but stress makes it drop even more. Studies have shown, Stephen Sinatra explains, that low levels of DHEA cause a higher risk of heart attacks for men under 50. Both men and women therefore can benefit from supplementation. However, a low dose of 10 mg for women and 20 or 25 mg for men 4-5 days a week is recommended and not higher as DHEA can have a testosterone increasing effect and cause facial hair, deepening of the voice, oily skin, etc. As with any hormone, caution is the key because hormones are very potent substances in the body. Dr Sinatra recommends it for those patients that complain of exhaustion which can be of itself a risk for heart disease. He even recommends it for those people with allergies as these can burden and depress the immune system.
Low blood sugar as a stress factor
Low blood sugar (hypoglycemia) and adrenal fatigue go together. A low level of glucose can cause sugar cravings which can be explained from a physiological point of view as follows: when the adrenals are fatigued the levels of cortisol are low, this prevents the body from getting glucose for energy. This is further complicated because when we are under stress cells need more energy so there is more insulin. Insulin opens up the cells’ wall membranes to take in more glucose so more energy is available to cells. Without enough cortisol though, fats, protein and carbohydrates cannot be converted into glucose for energy. The increased demand for energy cannot be met and low blood sugar is the end result.
Stress and adrenal fatigue are a real bad combination, even the smallest of stresses increase the demand for energy but the overtaxed adrenals cannot provide enough cortisol to produce this energy. Adrenal fatigue causes thinking to be confused and muscles to be weak, so the body could not ‘fight or flee’ in a real danger situation. In times of increased stress this can lead to death. In today’s society people tackle this low blood sugar situation by eating something sweet, which helps temporarily but then plunges the body back into low blood sugar, not realizing that low blood sugar is a major stress to the body that further drains the adrenals, throws cortisol and insulin levels into turmoil as well as the nervous system and the entire homeostasis of the body. Low blood sugar usually occurs around 10 a.m., 2 p.m. and 3-4 p.m., not accidentally work breaks are scheduled at these times. The author James Wilson asserts “we have a nation of hypoglycemics. 60% of people suffering from hypoglycemia go on to become diabetics” Hypoglycemia without the proper diet high in fats and protein, encourages overeating when food is available. If you are hypoglycemic and are under stress it would be a great idea to increase your intake of good fats and protein to keep energy levels steady.
I don’t recommend anything unless I have tried it myself. Being hypothyroid and having some episodes of hypoglycemia, I wanted to see how the cayenne in the Heart and Body Extract would help me with low blood sugar. I found out it has a sustained energy effect and keeps the blood sugar from dropping too low.
Stress cells in the digestive system
According to Ben Fuchs, stress cells are located in our digestive system. Because the digestive system is the port of entry of foreign invaders (food) it carefully watches for potential poisons. Eating in itself, even if it’s healthy food, is treated by the body as a suspicious invader and is a cause of stress. Food will obviously be more a cause of stress when is the wrong food, and a stress response always follows: sweating, cramping, headache, nausea, etc.
This is why it is so important to watch what we eat. We need to both remove the offenders from our diet and increase the number of high quality foods we consume. Being undernourished is a stress by itself. A good nutritional supplement program is one of the best ways to reduce the body’s sympathetic stress response. High calorie, processed foods are particularly burdensome. A balanced diet can help you fight stress, specially the B vitamins. The ‘Female Balance Extract’ and the ‘Male Virility Extract’ from Healthy Hearts Club have a high dose of the B vitamins. Similarly, the ‘Detoxifier Extract’ is a great combination of herbs that can be used to purify the blood by eliminating toxins and therefore eliminating stressors for the body.
Avoid foods that aggravate stress like sugar, fried foods, refined and processed foods, eat fresh and unprocessed foods, eat sprouts and fermented foods, keep your colon clean by drinking enough water and eating enough fiber rich foods. Coffee, soda pops and junk foods of all kinds, white rice, flour they all increase body acids and deplete the body of minerals so they should be avoided. Similarly alcohol and smoking should be avoided.
What I think is important to understand about stress is that when we are under stress our bodies run through nutrients a lot faster, specially the B vitamins, but also iodine. Under stress we need to support our body even more than in regular circumstances. Poor diet is a stress in itself and reduces the adrenals’ ability to respond to stress. Poor diet can continually drain the adrenals or prevent them from recuperating properly after a trauma. High doses of vitamin C in divided doses and 50 mg a day of zinc picolinate are great for the adrenals too.
The ‘Stress Extract’ from The Healthy Hearts Club is a wonderful combination of herbs that have been proven for centuries to help you relax. It contains mistletoe which, as we have seen, is not only relaxing but anti-cancer. It also contains valerian which soothes the nerves, quiets heart palpitations, relaxes muscles, relieves anxiety, eases hypertension, calms hyperactivity, insomnia, depression, diabetes and cools inflammation. Valerian root targets the higher brain centers, suppressing and regulating the autonomic nervous system. It slows the heart rate while increasing the power of each beat, making the action of the heart more efficient and less strained. It regulates the heart beat so it can be used for heart palpitations.
Relax, you are in control
Since we might not always be able to change our circumstances, changing how we perceive our stressors and learning to relax can be critical to our health. Herbert Benson, MD, coined the term the ‘relaxation response’, referring to a set of specific internal changes that occur when your mind and body are calm. The body, he said, can shift from the sympathetic to the parasympathetic nervous system just by choosing an activity that you enjoy: breathing, heart rate and oxygen consumption slow down, muscles relax, the brain generates slower alpha waves and blood pressure drops. The adrenals stop being stimulated so they can rest and the tissues of our body become less sensitive to stress hormones secreted by your adrenal glands. Every part of your body has a chance to return to normal and recuperate instead of being constantly on red alert.
Spending 60 seconds a day practicing deep breathing can be particularly helpful in turning on the “rest and digest” nervous system. Deep breathing is also great for relaxing and slowing down the heart. When we are stressed we tend to breath shallow and fast, and this increases the heart rate and blood pressure. Moderate exercise is a great stress reliever too.
The ‘Heart and Body Extract’ will help you by relaxing you and keeping the blood moving, it will also strengthen your immune system.
James A Wilson recommends reframing, which is changing how you see something so you can change how your body responds to it. This is one of the most effective ways to lessen the stressful effects of an unavoidable difficult situation he says, this allows you to adapt yourself to the situation for the better.
To sum up, stress if left untreated can become a dangerous downward spiral, stresses can accumulate even if they are different in nature. Learning how to manage stress can add years to your life and save your life.