Many of the signs of stress are relatively straightforward and easy to see. In fact, most people inherently know when they are under too much stress. These more obvious signs include feeling stressed out, feeling overwhelmed with responsibility, high blood pressure, anxiety, agitation, heartburn, and difficulty falling asleep. There are many less obvious signs like difficulty staying asleep, headaches, weight gain, difficulty losing abdominal fat, heart palpitations, indigestion, bowel disorders, constipation, diarrhea, abnormal hair loss, acne, and shingles to name a few.
You know that stress is a problem when your mind is occupied with things that your body is not presently facing. When you are thinking about the past or future too much and neglecting the present moment. You also know stress is a problem when you get stressed out by relatively small or unimportant things. Remember the sayings, “don’t sweat the small things”, and “don’t make mountains out of molehills”. If you are doing these things and have difficulty changing it is time to seek help from a counselor, life coach, or physician.
In Traditional Chinese Medicine and many other traditional medical philosophies emotions are not seen as good or bad. Since all emotions exists they are seen to serve purpose. In Western cultures, we often think of emotions like anger, sadness, fear, and regret as being “bad”. However, the traditional belief is that these emotions are just as important and functional as “good” emotions like happiness, satisfaction, and joy. All emotions “good” or “bad” have the same potential problems. When they are in excess or deficient they lead to emotional and energetic imbalance.
Emotional imbalance leads to anxiety, depression, and other emotional disorders. In TCM philosophy it is important to honor emotions, process them, and then let them go. This prevents us from neglecting emotions and it prevents emotions from lingering. The Traditional Chinese approach to stress management and emotional health can be very helpful for many people.
A good physical exam should look for the signs of stress like high or low blood pressure, abnormal orthostatic blood pressure, the response of the pupils to light, rapid or thready pulse, abnormal hair loss, poor wound healing, and digestive disturbances.
Orthostatic blood pressure is extremely valuable to check. This is the change of blood pressure when a patient goes from seated to standing. When the adrenal glands are able to produce adrenaline appropriately blood pressure increases. However, when the adrenal glands are not working properly blood pressure will drop upon rising.
Blood tests are not very useful for identifying stress. However, certain blood tests can give some valuable information for the health of organs that are often injured with chronic stress. It is very important to investigate the health of the thyroid gland and the conversion rate of thyroid hormones. However, many people who suffer from thyroid conditions do so unknowingly because the proper testing was not conducted.
A thorough thyroid panel includes TSH, Free T3, Free T4, and TPO. TSH identifies how well the pituitary gland is communicating with the thyroid gland. Free T3 and Free T4 identifies the levels of each of these hormones and gives a very good indication for how well T4 is converting to T3. TPO is a marker for autoimmune thyroid disease. The most common form of hypothyroid is autoimmune and it is very important to routinely test for this so that it is not overlooked.
Saliva testing is the most accurate way to identify imbalances in adrenal gland hormones and sex hormones. An adrenal gland panel should include at least 4 samples identifying cortisol levels. This shows the amount of cortisol in the system at 4 specific times in the day and compares your levels to the ideal. An adrenal gland panel should also include DHEA. Low levels of DHEA are a major sign of adrenal gland fatigue or exhaustion and often indicate problems with sex hormone production.
A sex hormone panel can identify the toll stress has taken on sex hormone production. This can be very important for women, especially women looking to conceive or women experiencing menopause-related complications. A sex hormone panel should include estrone, estradiol, estriol, progesterone, and testosterone. Imbalances in any of these sex hormones can be treated with natural agents.
In next week’s column we will investigate the natural treatments for stress management.
Cortisol is a hormone that is absolutely crucial for life. Without it we would not be able to survive. However, when we live in chronic strain, worry, and stress the adrenal glands produce relatively high amounts of cortisol. The problem with cortisol is that our bodies are not meant to be exposed to these relatively high amounts for long periods of time. However, many people who have stress as an obstacle to cure are experiencing the negative effects of cortisol.
1. High cortisol decreases immunity. Cortisol is a corticosteroid and like prednisone, cortisone, and beclomethasone, it inhibits the actions of white blood cells. Initially, this usually leads to increased susceptibility to infections. Eventually, this may actually lead to long stretches of time without colds because the immune system is so weakened.
2. High cortisol increases abdominal fat deposition. For reasons still unknown, high levels of cortisol induce the body to lay down adipose tissue in the abdomen and upper back/neck. In fact, for those people affected it is next to impossible to lose abdominal fat without addressing stress.
3. High cortisol breaks down muscle, bone, and connective tissue. Cortisol is a gluconeogenic hormone. Gluconeogenesis is a process that creates sugar from existing tissue. Cortisol promotes the breakdown of muscle, bone, and connective tissue in order to increase blood sugar for the brain.
4. High cortisol inhibits thyroid hormone activation. The thyroid gland makes 2 major hormones; thyroxine (T4) and triiodothyroine (T3). It predominantly makes T4, which is actually an in-active hormone. T4 is carried in the bloodstream and eventually hits a receptor on or in a cell and becomes activate to T3. High cortisol inhibits this conversion and thus creates a form of hypothyroid.
Cortisol is a hormone that fluctuates during the course of the day with the circadian rhythm of the body. However, stress can greatly affect the way cortisol is produced and secreted and result in significant changes from the optimal circadian rhythm. Upon rising each morning cortisol levels are about at their highest. In fact, relatively high cortisol levels are one of the things that wakes us up in the morning. As the day goes on cortisol levels should gradually decline until they hit a trough around 8-10pm. They will stay low during deep sleep and gradually begin to increase around 4-6am until you awake.
Stress significantly impacts the production and secretion of cortisol during the day and night. Chronic stress not only elevates cortisol levels during the stressor but may also lead to cortisol spikes during the evening and overnight. High cortisol in the evening is one of the major reasons for insomnia, frequent waking, and night sweats.
Natural treatments to restore healthy cortisol levels are crucial for anyone suffering from the effects of elevated cortisol. Stress management techniques are extremely important and may include deep breathing, meditation, or yoga. Adaptogenic herbs, B complex vitamins, vitamin C, magnesium, glandular extracts, and homeopathic remedies support the adrenal glands and help restore the circadian rhythm. Consult your naturopathic physician for a specific plan to evaluate and address your cortisol levels.
In next week’s column we will investigate the signs that stress is contributing to your health concerns. We will also examine the lab tests that can help determine the physiological impact of stress on the body.
In last week’s column we investigated the most important nutritional supplements for optimal weight loss and body composition. We learned that a multivitamin-mineral supplement is crucial for providing a broad spectrum of essential nutrients required by the body for optimal weight. A good multi should also include adequate amounts of chromium for blood sugar control and vitamin B5 for the burning of fat for energy. We learned that essential fatty acids make the foundation for our hormones and cell membranes and this plays a crucial role for body composition. We saw that the green tea extract EGCG increases metabolism and promotes weight loss. Finally, we learned the importance of supporting the adrenal glands in order to prevent spikes in cortisol, a hormone that promotes weight gain and the breakdown of lean muscle mass. In this week’s article we will investigate the use of Acupuncture, Neural Therapy, Intravenous Nutrient Infusions, and Prolotherapy to support healthy weight loss and body composition.
Acupuncture and Neural Therapy
Acupuncture and Neural Therapy are very successful at helping people lose weight. They both work in very similar fashions. Both treatments are wonderful for handling stress and restoring a healthy nervous system. When stress is processed effectively and the nervous system is in balance, the body begins to function much better. Stress hormones like cortisol are no longer produced in excess and this allows weight, especially mid abdominal fat to be burned. A balanced nervous system also promotes healthier organs and detoxification.
Intravenous Nutrient Infusions
Intravenous Nutrient Infusions are a fantastic way to rapidly improve the nutritional state of the body. These treatments involve the infusion of vitamins, minerals, homeopathics, and amino acids into the venous system. This direct route into the body ensures optimal utilization by the cells of the body and allows the use of much more potent doses than can be tolerated orally. Intravenous infusions play a significant role in our weight loss program because they are extremely effective at supporting the adrenal glands, optimal hormone production, and detoxification.
Prolotherapy is a treatment that treats chronic pain. You may ask how it plays a role in weight loss. The answer is that chronic pain often prevents people from being able to take part in exercise and daily activities that promote weight loss. Imagine you have chronic knee or back pain to the point where you can no longer be active without aggravating the pain. This pain becomes a bondage that prevents you from not only losing weight, but also enjoying many of the things that you would like to enjoy.
Prolotherapy is a natural treatment that stimulates the repair of injured ligaments, tendons, and connective tissue. When these tissues become torn or over-stretched they create areas of instability in the joints of the body. When the joints become unstable muscles become chronically tight and bones begin to grind into one another. Prolotherapy involves the injection of a sugar solution into the damaged areas to stimulate your own body’s healing. Prolotherapy promotes the restoration of healthy joints and thus helps reduce or eliminate chronic pain. Prolotherapy has helped many of my patients to become active again and improve their weight and body composition.
This article concludes the series on Naturopathic Treatments for Weight Loss and Body Composition. If you would like to read previous articles please contact Dr. Barlow at 250-448-5610.
In last week’s column we investigated the most common problems with the most common weight loss plans. We learned that losing weight and becoming healthier do not always happen together. Many weight loss plans promote too much muscle mass breakdown, which in the long run leads to a less healthy body. We also learned that many of these plans are not based on a sustainable lifestyle. In fact, many are a temporary solution that leads to temporary results. Finally, we learned that many of these diet plans are based on artificial foods devoid of essential nutrients and plentiful in artificial flavours, colours, and sweeteners. In this week’s article we will discuss the most important nutritional supplements to help support healthy body composition changes and weight loss.
A good broad-spectrum multi is crucial for optimal health and weight loss. The vast majority of the foods we eat are deficient in the most important nutrients required for optimal health. When going through a weight loss program the demands on the body increase as do the requirements for vitamins and minerals. It is important to take a multivitamin that provides the optimal daily allowance for the vitamins and minerals.
Vitamin B5 is a B vitamin that plays a crucial role in burning fat and losing weight. It is important to ensure that Vitamin B5 is included in a multi. Chromium is a trace mineral that promotes optimal insulin balance. It is a key component of the glucose tolerance factor and helps prevent insulin resistance.
Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids are required by every cell of the body for the production of hormones and cellular membranes. Essential fatty acids from raw nuts, seeds, and cold water fish are the preferred source of fat in the body. However, when these types of fat are deficient or suboptimal the body uses whatever it can. High consumption of trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and saturated fats leads to altered cell membranes and hormone production. Optimal consumption of essential fatty acids and limited consumption of the unhealthy fats promotes healthy cells and a collection of 100 trillion healthy cells goes a long way to promote a lean healthy body.
One of the keys to successfully losing weight and improving body composition is to increase lean muscle mass. The higher your lean muscle mass the higher your metabolic rate will be and the more fat you will burn. Optimal protein consumption is required to increase your lean muscle mass because muscle is made of protein. Optimal protein consumption is also important for balancing blood sugar. Protein consumption at each meal or snack promotes the optimal release of sugar into the blood and prevents insulin spikes. Carnitine is an amino acid that promotes the beta-oxidation (burning) of fat for energy. Protein powders are a great source of this amino acid and help provide easily digestible and high quality protein.
Green tea contains a nutrient called EGCG, which is a potent antioxidant. EGCG is also thermogenic and increases the body’s metabolic rate. Therefore, it can be an important nutrient to promote healthy weight loss. Green tea has much less caffeine in it than coffee and black teas. Therefore, drinking green tea is a wonderful way to support optimal health and promote weight loss.
Adaptogenic Herbs – Adrenal Support
High levels of stress, especially over many years lead to a high production of cortisol. This hormone leads to weight gain, specifically mid abdominal fat deposition. Cortisol decreases metabolic rate by inhibiting the activation of thyroid hormone and promoting the breakdown of muscle tissue. High cortisol production as a result of chronic stress takes a significant toll on the adrenal glands. As the adrenal glands burn out fatigue typically becomes a problem.
Adrenal support and adaptogenic herbs can play a vital role in the recovery of the adrenal glands. As the adrenal glands recover energy increases, making exercise and all the other aspects of weight loss more realistic to accomplish. If you feel like your energy has been taken away from you adrenal support may help you recover and successfully lose weight.
In next week’s column we will investigate the importance of detoxification for stimulating and supporting weight loss. We will discuss the use of acupuncture, neural therapy, homeopathic medicine, and intravenous therapies that promote optimal detoxification.
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