Archive for stress
Adrenalectomy Improves Diabetes in Mice
It is well accepted that chronic stress resulting in the overproduction of cortisol (on of the body’s stress hormones…) alters insulin sensitivity in a negative fashion. This animal study builds on this foundation. Remember that chronic stress has deleterious effects on just about every aspect of human physiology. However, if your endocrinologist comes after you with a knife, better run for the hills–not only do you avoid the scars, but exercise is a wonderful way to manage chronically elevated cortisol…
Abnormal Cortisol Metabolism, Tissue Sensitivity to Cortisol in Glucose Intolerance
Cortisol is the body’s stress hormone. It was designed to produce a heightened state of awareness in our bodies when a predator was near. Unfortunately, in today’s high stress society, there are no predators to identify and our bodies can enter into a state of chronic stress with hypercortisolemia. This elevated cortisol, much like insulin, wreaks havoc on many aspects of physiology. Here we see additional confirmation that cortisol produces abnormal glucose metabolism (and hence increased insulin resistance), obesity and hypertension. Yes, stress does kill. Slowly…
JCEM — Abstracts: Andrews et al. 87 (12): 5587
Adverse Effects of Modest Sleep Restriction on Sleepiness, Performance, and Inflammatory Cytokines
I know I’m guilty here. We all know that sleep is very important and is a stress on the body, but to increase inflammation is definitely news to me. And considering that inflammation plays a role in just about every chronic disease we know of, getting a good night’s sleep becomes even more important. I would like to see if the use of drugs for sleep, such as Ambien, would avoid the increase in inflammatory markers since is does interfere with the deepest levels of sleep.
JCEM — Abstracts: Vgontzas et al. 89 (5): 2119 -
Work stress and risk of cardiovascular mortality
It is well known that chronic states of stress lead to increased cortisol levels, and this increase in cortisol wreaks havoc on most body systems. One way it does this is by increasing insulin levels, producing abdominal obesity and increasing risk of heart disease. Insomnia, difficulty focusing and hormone disruptions can also be added to the list of detrimental effects of hypercortisolemia. Anyone care to take up a collection for billboards advertsing “stress kills?”
bmj.com Abstracts: Kivimäki et al. 325 (7369): 857 -
Click here for more information.
Dehydroepiandrosterone and allopregnanolone protect sympathoadrenal medulla cells against apoptosis via antiapoptotic Bcl-2 proteins
Before your eyes glaze over from the long title–this one is important. DHEA and allopregnanlone are produced in part by the adrenal glands. However, under times of stress, the production goes down so the adrenals can produce more cortisol to help the body deal with the stress.
This study finds that these two compounds actually protect the cells of the adrenal gland. So–more stress means less protection to the cells that produce compounds that protect themselves. Kind of convoluted, huh? This would definitely suggests that adrenal support during times of stress is critical to long term ability of the adrenals to do their job.
PNAS — Abstracts: Charalampopoulos et al. 101 (21): 8209 -
Stress-induced structural remodeling in hippocampus: Prevention by lithium treatment
I thought this article was very interesting considering how much our approach to psychiatric disorders have shifted away from the simple approaches to a much more complicated, drug ridden approach. Lithium was used for decades as a treatment for bipolar disorder but has now fallen out of favor and replaced with new drugs that affect the central nervous system. Interestingly, lithium was also used for many years as a treatment for diabetes because of its insulin sensitizing properties. Might this protection to the hippocampal region be mediated through its effects on insulin? Incidently, many of the side effects associated with lithium treatment come from using the carbonate form, which is less bioavailable than other forms of lithium.
PNAS — Abstracts: Wood et al. 101 (11): 3973 -
Increased antigen and bacterial uptake in follicle associated epithelium induced by chronic psychological stress in rats
Okay, so we’re not all rats. But this does suggest, and common sense will tell you, that chronic stress can have some serious, negative, long term side effects.
In this study, the altered GI permeability will result in stuff getting past the GI tract into the body that should never get in. Now the immune system and liver have to deal with these invaders, and many times the liver is already overloaded from our chemical-laden lifestyles.
Gut — Abstracts: Velin et al. 53 (4): 494 -
There are factors that play massive roles in your risk of heart disease. Stress is one factor. Luckily, you can do Transcendental meditation for anxiety.
Stress from work. Stress from family. Stress from school. It never seems to end and seems to have become ingrained in today’s hectic lifestyle.
Keep in mind that stress is a programmed protective response. It creates underlying physiological changes that ensure our survival. Short term it may cause the breakdown of muscle to keep a constant source of glucose in the bloodstream so that the brain has fuel and you can stay alert. Imagine if a sabre toothed tiger was known to be in the area. Not a good time to drop off for a nap, so you can see how the release of cortisol (the body’s stress hormone) to keep sugar in the bloodstream can keep you alive for the next few hours.
On the other hand, stress signals can be passed up the food chain. Drought could change the grasses in the area. Animals eating the grasses would recognize these signals within the plant and the animal’s body would respond with its own protective changes. We then eat the meat from the animal and the message passes to us. Our bodies may undergo adaptive changes, such as storing more calories as body fat to prepare for the coming famine.
So you can see, stress keeps us alive. Or rather, it was designed to keep us alive when dealing with a clearly defined threat. That does not define stress in today’s society. Sure, when we are in a life threatening situation your body will release adrenaline and we can see how this could save your life.
But, in every other situation in today’s lifestyle does not have a clearly defined threat. Worse, there is rarely a clearly defined end point, either. This wreaks absolute havoc on your health.
It is possible that stress related problems are the leading cause of death in the US today. Consider the research that finds that taking sleep medications are associated with over a half MILLION deaths per year. While the study did not suggest this, stress can absolutely contribute to sleep problems (and is probably the leading cause of sleep disorders) and it is likely that the use of sleep medications was a marker for people who were over-stressed. The stress is what is killing this many people per year.
If you have stress in your life, you need to rearrange your thinking. It’s killing you and setting your kids up for health problems (read my previous blog post on this topic). While this is not an easy solution, you need to first understand that it’s not an option. Doing otherwise IS going to kill you. It’s that clear cut.
In the meantime, you need to manage your stress. Exercise can be very effective. I know that personally, for those few times that I have felt overwhelmed by stress, hiking very aggressively has always help to burn out the stress inside, leaving my problems to be faced academically, without emotional filtering.
Transcedental Meditation can be one of the most powerful tools to calm your brain. Previous studies that I have reviewed have shown very strong protective benefits of meditation. The pinnacle of meditation is Transcendental Meditation, or TM.
In this particular study, participants who had heart disease (secondary prevention) were trained in transcendental meditation over the course of 12 hours of courses and followed up for a period of 5 years. Before we go over the results, you need to understand that these patients already had problems. Without the addition of meditation, drugs like Lipitor and blood pressure medications are usually used to try to prevent progression of heart disease and prevent death. Frankly, they don’t do a very good job and have been trumped by much more fun interventions like dark chocolate.
So what kind of results did those who practiced Transcendental Meditation achieve?
- 48% overall lower risk of death. (Tweet this)
- 24% lower risk of dying from heart disease, having a heart procedure or being hospitalized for heart disease. (Tweet this)
- Those who do Transcendental Meditation according to the recommendations were more likely to survive the longest.
The bottom line is that, if you have been diagnosed with heart disease (or, frankly, if you are on your way to heart disease), taking a passive role and just using medication is going to get you half-ass results. The ONLY way to live a long and healthy life is to make significant changes. In the case of this study, it meant learning to manage your stress using a powerful meditation technique.
Of course, not all of us have the time and money to undergo Transcendental Meditation training. But there are CDs, shorter online courses and biofeedback devices like the Resperate that you can take to learn skills in meditation that will dramatically benefit your health.
If you have adopted any type of stress management techniques in your life, what have you tried and what kind of benefits have you seen?
Once again, American Family Physician provides an objective, complete review of a natural product. Ginseng is considered an adaptagen, meaning that is has the potential to brings things back to normal. In this case, “things” refers to the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis. Ginseng has shown benefit in modulating our body’s response to stress. Too much stress and ginseng slows the enzymes that are overworking to produce cortisol; not enough adrenal activity and ginseng speeds up the enzymes to support healthy adrenal function.
Panax ginseng – October 15, 2003 – American Family Physician.