The process of inflammation is a primitive response to threats from our environment the fist stage of healing and protection may be inflammation . There are basically two types of inflammation , Acute and Chronic. Basically acute inflammtion sudden exposure to a stressor whilst chronic occurs with prolonged exposure.
Cortisol is a hormone thats produced in the body as a esponse to stress however it is also released during waking in the morning, and during exercise. It functions in the body in numerous processes it is part of the antinflammatory response , glucose metabolism and the response of the immune system . There is also a natural ‘switch ‘ in our bodies which ‘brakes’ production . Overproduction can affect our general health it may
- slow wound healing
- disrupt sleep
- create blood sugar imbalances.
- Begin the process of Chronic Disease
As part of the Fight or Flight mechanism of response to stress it works as follows:
1. An individual is faced with a stressor.
2. A complex hormonal cascade ensues, and the adrenals secrete cortisol.
3. Cortisol prepares the body for a fight-or-flight response by flooding it with glucose, supplying an immediate energy source to large muscles.
4. Cortisol inhibits insulin production in an attempt to prevent glucose from being stored, favoring its immediate use.
5. Cortisol narrows the arteries while the epinephrine increases heart rate, both of which force blood to pump harder and faster.
6. The individual addresses and resolves the situation.
7. Hormone levels return to normal.
Current thought is that we may indeed be ‘chronically inflammed’ because of the overproduction of Cortisol, this may be a response to modern living which is information bombarded, over stressful , toxin challenged and fed with inadequate nutrition. Indeed our ‘sugar rich’ diets may be in part contributory to the problem .
Whole-Body Effects of Elevated Cortisol
Blood Sugar Imbalance and Diabetes
In the event of stress the obvious solution for a stressed organism is to find more energy for fight or flight, cortisol is an excellent precursor for the production of rextra gllucose , it can start off a process known as ‘gluconeogenesis’ which starts off the process for more glucose . This of course makes the pancreas work much harder as it consequently increases insulin production to meet the increase in glucose levels . This may lead to a stressed pancreas and loss of control of blood glucose levels as they swing up and crash down. Once there is too much glucose in the body then it is stored around the girth as fat and can raise ‘visceral fat levels’.Cortisol also aids the development of fat cells and their local secretion of even more cortisol for the system to deal with. In these circumstances there may also be a ‘starvation’ opf glucose in the cells because its not actually getting into the cell so this may then lead to a ‘signal’ to the brain to eat more food, the net result then is overeating and increased weight production.
What may keep the cortisol production switched on is our lifestyle factors and poor diet which makes the body think it still needs to produce this useful chemical which then can set up long term destructive processes.
Cortisol activates the sympathetic nervous system, which in turn supresses the parasympathetic nervous system of course this disturbs digestion and can lead to ulcers, leaky gut syndrome and the food to ferment in the stomach instead of proceeding through the digestive process.
As we’ve seen, cortisol constricts blood vessels and increases blood pressure , increase production of fats , reduces the body’s ability to repair daily internal damage from general function . The perfect situation then to develop chronic illness in the cardiovascular system. Leading to heart attacks and Hypertension.
- chronic fatigue syndrome,
- thyroid disorders,
- fertility problems
Assessing Cortisol Levels
The adrenal stress index (ASI), a salivary test, is the preferred test for adrenal function and a well-accepted, non invasive, reliable indication of cortisol levels. Gives a good reading and is relatively inexpensive.
Really more difficult than it sounds, throughout the internet a lot of ‘lip service’ is given to techniques that achieve this , its not so easy to changes factors tat may be fundamental in your life regarding lifestyle or relationships.
The Anti-Inflammatory Diet
There has been much research in this area and the American College of Cardiolgy have produced a diet termed the anti inflammatory diet , it has the folowing advice and characteristics.
• high glycemic load;
• saturated and trans fatty acids;
• alcohol in excess;
• insufficient intake of micronutrients and antioxidants;
• a low-fiber diet;
• a sedentary lifestyle
To minimize inflammation, the following are recommended:
• a low glycemic load diet; ie a diet that produces sugars slowly like Low GI ( see previous post ) Diets that are a little more protein rich are useful addition , a good guideline is a palm size protein source, 3 times daily.
• elimination of trans fats and minimal intake of saturated fats;
• alcohol in moderation or not at al
Vinegar once a day with a meal – this was one of the findings and advice from the American College , it seems that it reduces blood glucose levels after a meal.
• boosting consumption of whole plant foods to maximize intake of fiber, antioxidants, and phytonutrients: with vegetables, fruits, whole intact grains, nuts, seeds, and beans; ( in fact in in most simplest form it advises a salad portion once per day to reach this target)
• meeting recommended intake of omega-3 fatty acids (may be best measured as a ratio to omega-6 fatty acids);
• regular exercise
- probiotics, if warranted.
Research completed by Dr Charles Raison focuses on inflammation & depression in response to illness and stress. He aims to translate neuro-biological findings into novel behavioural interventions, without the use of psychiatric medicines. These interventions include teaching ‘compassion meditation’ as a preventive health strategy and using anti-inflammatory medicines for treatment-resistant depression. The interests of the lab are with trying to help fight depression, and other mood altering states without the use of psychiatric drugs by harnessing our body’s own power.
In summary we should :
EAT 5 A DAY AS RECOMMENDED BY GOVERNMENT GUIDELINES (TAKE A MULI VIT PILL TO COVER ANY ‘GAPS’)
EXERCISE REGULARLY – THE 150 MIN A WEEK WALKING PROGRAMME IS AN EXCELLENT START FOR MOST PEOPLE
DRINK 2 L OF FLUID PER DAY
3 SMALL PORTIONS OF PROTEIN PER DAY
I PORTION OF VINEGAR PER IF TOLERABLE
JUST GIVE UP SUGARY STUFF R HAVE ONCE PER WEEK ONLY
REDUCE OR STOP COFFEE INTAKE
EAT GOOD FATS EVERY DAY – GOOD FISH OIL TABLET OR VEG ALTERNATIVE , MAKE SURE ITS ORGANIC OR THE FISH OIL IS FILTERED FOR MERCURY AND DIOXINS