Dr. Laura: Long Term Effects of Cortisol and Stress

Cortisol is released in a daily rhythm, but also in response to stress. Ever wonder what are the long term effects of cortisol (stress) in the body?

picture from  philosophytalk.org

Long term danger can be perceived in the form of anything that takes away our freedom, feeling unloved, feelings of insecurity, projecting into the future something that is not true, as if it were and  fear-based memories for future survival so as to avoid any repeat of traumatic events.

Cortisol is not all bad, it has some daily and life-saving functions. The problems lies when the body gets stuck in fear gear, cannot return to its natural state of homeostasis and subsequently has difficult with rest and digestion.

Normal Cortisol Function

Cortisol hormone produced by the adrenal glands. It is released twice a day with blood levels peaking in the morning, and rising slightly again in mid afternoon.

Throughout the day, cortisol:

  • Helps provide energy; maintains blood glucose
  • Suppresses nonvital organ systems to provide energy to the brain, nerves and muscles
  • Is a potent anti-inflammatory hormone
  • Prevents widespread tissue and nerve damage associated with inflammation

Short Term Stress Response

In response to a moment of physical or emotional shock or trauma, the body releases three main chemicals: epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol. In the short term, these chemicals trigger a series of events in the body to promote survival including anti-inflammatory actions and activation of energy to flee from the danger. Short term response has a clear purpose to better outcome (safety, life).

Once the epinephrine, norepinephrine and cortisol are released into the blood flow,

  • heart rate increases
  • blood pressure increases
  • respiration rate increases
  • arteries vasoconstrictor & release sweat.
  • pupils dilate
  • Pro inflammatory response so as to destroy antigens, pathogens, or foreign invaders; adrenoreceptor antagonists have been shown to inhibit stress-induced inflammation and cytokine production by blocking the proinflammatory effects of norepinephrine.

Long Term Cortisol Danger

Body’s release

When the brain feels you are in danger on an ongoing basis, cortisol release goes into overdrive. This can be things that threaten our survival like financial concerns, relationship problems, too many commitments, feelings of bitterness towards others, anger, resentment, being unhappy with yourself, lack of faith, hope, love, fear of loosing something you treasure… the list can go on.

Basically the body gets stuck in some type of survival mode. It is then difficult to re-establish to its natural balance.

Medications

Long term medications that end on “-sone” are often producing similar effects to cortisol in the body. These are drugs that suppress the immune system like prednisone, hydrocortisone.

Cortisone type drugs are used to treat pain, allergic disorders, skin conditions, ulcerative colitis, arthritis, lupus, psoriasis, or breathing disorders.

Be sure to also be aware of information on cortisone drug side effects. 

  • Osteoporosis
  • Muscle wasting
  • Hypertension
  • Hyperglycemia
  • Hyper irritability
  • Depression
  • Weakness
  • Vascular fragility including easy bruising
  • Striae or redish stripes over the lower abdomen (thinning of the skin structures)
  • Suppressed immune system, make it easier to get infections
  • Central obesity

If you feel like you are “always on” , have difficulty digesting food or feel “tired and wired”, chances are you are running the meter up on cortisol. As you can see the long term effects are not favourable for good health.

Have Hope

Don’t give up hope, however. The first step is to recognize what is stressing you out. This is more than relationships, it can be pain, inflammation, poor diet, lack of sleep, poor coping mechanisms or genetic wrinkles.

Resolution doesn’t happen overnight but can be improved on a steady course of treatment over time.  Treatment will look at things like sleep hygiene, a healthy diet, the right amount and type of exercise,  and new perspectives on managing yourself in relationships with yourself and others.

The Last “Peace”

Need more peace in your life?  Join me at Goodness Me! on Sept 19th in a presentation on Anxiety Antidotes.

 

References:

Constanzo LS. 2011. BRS Physiology Fifth Edition. Walters Kluwer|Lippincott Williams & Wilkins. Philadelphia.

Hannibal KE, Bishop MD. Chronic Stress, Cortisol Dysfunction, and Pain: A Psychoneuroendocrine Rationale for Stress Management in Pain Rehabilitation. Physical Therapy. 2014;94(12):1816-1825. doi:10.2522/ptj.20130597.

Wright H. 2009. A More Excellent Way. Whitaker House. Pennsylvania.

Why wheat makes me eat…constantly

Wheat Makes Me Eat

Before I knew I had serious gluten issues, I always wondered why when I ate cereal or bread, I just couldn’t seem to stop. I always wanted more and was never really satisfied. Since I have been off gluten for more than 5 years, I can say that I can eat a salad with meat, fish or poultry with some great olive oil and be totally satisfied. What gives?

The research that I found today really zeros in on one reason why this constant and never ending craving for food can occur.

It’s not about will power

Weight management is not about will power.

It can be about the choices in the kind of food you eat.

Foods like gluten, for example can uncouple your natural mechanism to tell you that you are full.

Digested wheat gluten inhibits satiety

Leptin is a hormone released in digestion.

Leptin is responsible for sending a message to the brain that we have had enough to eat.

When leptin signals to the brain are impaired,  weight gain and obesity is often a result.

Recent research illustrates that  wheat gluten prevents leptin from binding to its own receptor, thus preventing the brain from receiving the signal that you are full.

Want to learn more information on gluten sensitivity?

If you are interested, email drlaura@forwardhealth.ca

From the heart, mind and research of Dr. Laura M. Brown, ND

 

 

Five Health Benefits of Standing Desks

Shared by Dr. Phil McAllister

Spending more of your day standing could reduce the risk of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer

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There was a time when standing desks were a curiosity—used by eccentrics like Hemingway, Dickens and Kierkegaard, but seldom seen inside a regular office setting.

That’s changed, in large part due to research showing that the cumulative impact of sitting all day for years is associated with a range of health problems, from obesity to diabetes to cancer. Because the average office worker spends 5 hours and 41 minutes sitting each day at his or her desk, some describe the problem with a pithy new phrase that’s undeniably catchy, if somewhat exaggerated: “Sitting is the new smoking.”

Much of this research has been spurred by James Levine, an endocrinologist at the Mayo Clinic. “The way we live now is to sit all day, occasionally punctuated by a walk from the parking lot to the office,” he recently said during a phone interview, speaking as he strolled around his living room. “The default has become to sit. We need the default to be standing.”

All this might sound suspiciously like the latest health fad, and nothing more. But a growing body of research—conducted both by Levine and other scientists—confirms that a sedentary lifestyle appears to be detrimental in the long-term.

The solution, they say, isn’t to sit for six hours at work and then head to the gym afterward, because evidence suggests that the negative effects of extended sitting can’t be countered by brief bouts of strenous exercise. The answer is incorporating standing, pacing and other forms of activity into your normal day—and standing at your desk for part of it is the easiest way of doing so. Here’s a list of some of the benefits scientists have found so far.

Reduced Risk of Obesity

Levine’s research began as an investigation into an age-old health question: why some people gain weight and others don’t. He and colleagues recruited a group of office workers who engaged in little routine exercise, put them all on an identical diet that contained about 1000 more calories than they’d been consuming previously and forbid them from changing their exercise habits. But despite the standardized diet and exercise regimens, some participants gained weight, while others stayed slim.

Eventually, using underwear stitched with sensors that measure every subtle movement, the researchers discovered the secret: the participants who weren’t gaining weight were up and walking around, on average, 2.25 more hours per day, even though all of them worked at (sitting) desks, and no one was going to the gym. “During all of our days, there are opportunities to move around substantially more,” Levine says, mentioning things as mundane as walking to a colleague’s office rather than emailing them, or taking the stairs instead of the elevator.

Failing to take advantage of these constant movement opportunities, it turns out, is closely associated with obesity. And research suggests that our conventional exercise strategy—sitting all day at work, then hitting the gym or going for a run—”makes scarcely more sense than the notion that you could counter a pack-a-day smoking habit by jogging,” as James Vlashos puts it in the New York Times. The key to reducing the risk of obesity is consistent, moderate levels of movement throughout the day.

Scientists are still investigating why this might be the case. The reduced amount of calories burned while sitting (a 2013 study found that standers burn, on average, 50 more calories per hour) is clearly involved, but there may also be metabolic changes at play, such as the body’s cells becoming less responsive to insulin, or sedentary muscles releasing lower levels of the enzyme lipoprotein lipase.

Of course, all this specifically points to danger of sitting too much, not exactly the same as the benefit of standing. But Levine believes the two are closely intertwined.

“Step one is get up. Step two is learn to get up more often. Step three is, once you’re up, move,” he says. “And what we’ve discovered is that once you’re up, you do tend to move.” Steps one and two, then, are the most important parts—and a desk that encourages you to stand at least some of the time is one of the most convenient means of doing so.

Reduced Risk of Type 2 Diabetes and Other Metabolic Problems

The detrimental health impacts of sitting—and the benefits of standing—appear to go beyond simple obesity. Some of the same studies by Levine and others have found that sitting for extended periods of time is correlated with reduced effectiveness in regulating levels of glucose in the bloodstream, part of a condition known as metabolic syndrome that dramatically increases the chance of type 2 diabetes.

A 2008 study, for instance, found that people who sat for longer periods during their day had significantly higher levels of fasting blood glucose, indicating their their cells became less responsive to insulin, with the hormone failing to trigger the absorption of glucose from the blood. A 2013 study [PDF] came to similar findings, and arrived at the conclusion that for people already at risk of developing type 2 diabetes, the amount of time spent sitting could be a more important risk factor than the amount of time spent vigorously exercising.

Reduced Risk of Cardiovascular Disease

Scientific evidence that sitting is bad for the cardiovascular system goes all the way back to the 1950s, when British researchers compared rates of heart disease in London bus drivers (who sit) and bus conductors (who stand) and found that the former group experienced far more heart attacks and other problems than the latter.

Since, scientists have found that adults who spend two more hours per day sitting have a 125 percent increased risk of health problems related to cardiovascular disease, including chest pain and heart attacks. Other work has found that men who spend more than five hours per day sitting outside of work and get limited exercise were at twice the risk of heart failure as those who exercise often and sit fewer than two hours daily outside of the office. Even when the researchers controlled for the amount of exercise, excessive sitters were still 34 percent more likely to develop heart failure than those who were standing or moving.

Reduced Risk of Cancer

A handful of studies have suggested that extended periods of sitting can be linked with a higher risk of many forms of cancer. Breast and colon cancer appear to be most influenced by physical activity (or lack thereof): a 2011 study found that prolonged sitting could be responsible for as much as 49,000 cases of breast cancer and 43,000 cases of colon cancer annually in the U.S. But the same research found that significant amounts of lung cancer (37,200 cases), prostate cancer (30,600 cases), endometrial cancer (12,000 cases) and ovarian cancer (1,800 cases) could also be related to excessive sitting.

The underlying mechanism by which sitting increases cancer risk is still unclear, but scientists have found a number of biomarkers, such as C-reactive protein, that are present in higher levels in people who sit for long periods of time. These may be tied to the development of cancer.

Lower Long-Term Mortality Risk

Because of the reduced chance of obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease and cancer, a number of studies have found strong correlations between the amount of time a person spends sitting and his or her chance of dying within a given period of time.

A 2010 Australian study, for instance, found that for each extra hour participants spent sitting daily, their overall risk of dying during the study period (seven years) increased by 11 percent. A 2012 study found that if the average American reduced his or her sitting time to three hours per day, life expectancy would climb by two years.

These projects control for other factors such as diet and exercise—indicating that sitting, in isolation, can lead to a variety of health problems and increase the overall risk of death, even if you try to get exercise while you’re not sitting and eat a healthy diet. And though there are many situations besides the office in which we sit for extended periods (driving and watching TV, for instance, are at the top of the list), spending some of your time at work at a standing desk is one of the most direct solutions.

If you’re going to start doing so, most experts recommend splitting your time between standing and sitting, because standing all day can lead to back, knee or foot problems. The easiest ways of accomplishing this are either using a desk that can be raised upward or a tall chair that you can pull up to your desk when you do need to sit. It’s also important to ease into it, they say, by standing for just a few hours a day at first while your body becomes used to the strain, and move around a bit, by shifting your position, pacing, or even dancing as you work.

 

Read more: http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/five-health-benefits-standing-desks-180950259/#6jGIujw8jDL7ydxe.99