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How To Alleviate Stress & Help Adrenal Ability
by Mark Cammack September 22, 2019
"Do you have an article on adrenals?" asked Gigi. We were having a health discussion covering many topics. Since an article was requested, here it is with my compliments.
When I was in grad school and working as a research assistant, I went though about 1000 research abstracts for one project. It was for finding ways to alleviate human burnout. There were clear patterns that arose regarding nutrition, stress, brain functioning, and environments. The most emphasized aspect was adrenal activity. What is it and what does it mean to us?
The adrenals are two glands that sit atop our kidneys. They help us to adapt to life situations. When we are under stress the energizing and anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol is released. The stress can be an increased work load, an athletic event, or environmental change such as temperature. The most extreme forms are those that affect our immediate safety. An earthquake with shaky buildings probably activates most person's adrenals.
The GAS stages are analogous to those of an earthquake. We have an initial shock as energy is delivered, countershock in an equilibrium attempt, and collapse if the event is sustained or of enough magnitude.
A shockwave carries energy in the form of frequencies and is a type of information. This is true whether it is in the earth as an earthquake or through what we see, hear, or have impact us physically. The shockwave of negative stress activates the adrenals as we go into countershock. Cortisol is released. Normally we have just the right amount for energy and to keep inflammation and body aches at bay. It is nicknamed the death or aging hormone. This is because if our systems produce too much for too long it leads to exhaustion and demise. Ongoing stress and shocks with cortisol release lead to collapse.
A scientist who promoted stress responses was Hans Selye. He said that the type of stress does not matter. We could think it is positive or negative, and we still get the same response. The experience may be an earthquake or winning a new car in a contest. To Selye, stress was stress, and even happiness could be a form of it if it required an adaptive response from the body. We would go through stages of adaptation as the adrenals did their best to get us through the stress. He called this the General Adaptation Syndrome or GAS. It included shock, counter-shock, and exhaustion. I like the term collapse as the end stage because that is what the theory does.
The process is activated with a branch of the nervous system called the sympathetic or SNS. When we are overexcited in response to environmental or mental events the SNS is energizing us. If you have ever gone to a really scary or thrilling movie, you were being altered by the experience. Your brain and body were being physiologically, electrically, and chemically changed. We call the experiences events but in reality they are forms of information. Changes in information change us.
Recovery and healing happens with the parasympathetic nervous system or PNS. When we feel peaceful, pleasant, and relaxed the PNS is probably in charge. This is the healthy state to be in. Blood pressure is lower, the immune system works better, our brains can be creative and find needed solutions, and we feel basically happy.
We are up against a big challenge or perhaps opportunity. It is called society and systems. These can be stressful as people try to get what they want in life. We do not always have the same ideals or goals. For example, Eric Berne was famous for teaching about games people play. A common game is called Uproar. I saw this in the unfortunate less educated areas of the Southern United States. Instead of intelligently finding mutually agreeable solutions in a civil way, some people would get into arguments or even fights. They were making mountains out of what should have been molehills. I saw this at a higher level in some colleges. A few departments and personnel tried to fight each other or even students not with fists, but with what they thought were clever schemes. This was openly mentioned by professors in class. A person can be clever and not wise. In reality we needed better examples of developed human beings. Uproar in any form is not healthy.
This type of lifestyle and stress itself can shut down the brain's creative capacity to find solutions. It can be taught through social learning as Albert Bandura noted. All of this affects our functioning as individuals, as a society, and impacts our health and adrenals. We have both an individual and collective stress to consider.
The way systems are operating is not the way they have to be operating. By being aware of what is occurring, we can choose to have positive healthy lifestyles.
There was a slight difficulty in the GAS concept, and I did not believe in it as presented. This is due to the research, observations, and experiences. I had met athletes and business persons who were not burning out. Some will say that they are just stress resistant and leave it at that. The elite were functioning differently than most do and understanding the reasons why is important. It also came to light that Selye's work had been supported by tobacco companies. A claim was that smoking could lower stress. I was suspicious.
The people who were not burning out easily had different environments, nutrition, and neural affectors in their daily lives. The information they put into their minds was about achievement. They did not waste their time by processing negative things or getting into conflicts. The winners generally focused on positive goals and tried to help others. They tended to get the sum of what was in their total experience. The best athletes for example, were relaxed when they were not training or performing. They were PNS dominant. The stressed people who were burning out were SNS dominant. A person cannot heal or recover properly if they stay in an SNS state. It sooner or later leads to collapse.
We do not want to reach a collapsed state. If a person's adrenals are giving out as it were, it may lead to a serious situation. This includes Addison's Disease and far more. Some physicians only see the end stage of the process. That is often when a drug such as prednisone is used to keep a person alive. These people are then stress intolerant and drug dependent. This is in contrast to what some physiologists and naturopaths believe. The adrenal and stress situation can be viewed holistically along with the affectors that led up to crisis. If possible, it makes sense to remain healthy and prevent body organ damage or failures.
One way of viewing adrenal functioning is using polarized "or" logic. The adrenals are either healthy or functionally collapsing. This view has been common with some, but not all, medical practitioners. If a person has a viral infection that attacks the adrenals, a sudden change from health to disease could occur. For most of us, the gradual GAS stages are at work with negative affectors.
Another view is that of gradual change in health and functioning. This may occur with continued negative stressors and chronic toxic chemical exposures or infections over time. The overworked SNS and stress can lead to such a situation. This is what many physiologists, naturopaths, and health oriented persons are aware of. They may call it adrenal insufficiency. This begs the question,"Is it adrenal insufficiency, or a combination of negative stressors, toxic substances, lack of adequate nutrition, and SNS dominance?" This is what happens repeatedly in lab experiments and can happen in life.
What are the things that most of us can do to help our adrenals and lower our stress? Any natural method that keeps us PNS dominant may assist. Think about this: If we lower our stress levels, we potentially help everything else. There are a couple of things that are very interesting. We can lower undue stress and the brain and body can function better. The adrenals and the stress response also use Vitamin C. Modern humans have a broken biochemical pathway, called GULO, that prevents us from making our own C. When this is restored to what it should be via supplements and foods, our brains and bodies can also function better overall. Vitamin C has been shown to enhance stress resistance in studies.
The chemist Dr. Boyd Haley was a student of Dr. Linus Pauling who is famous for Vitamin C research. He mentioned that,"Dr. Pauling nearly burnt my brain out." I laughed, but understood that supreme demands on our brains and bodies requires supreme methods of restoration. One answer was provided by Dr. Carl Jung in the following image. Can you guess what it is?
In the picture, the books represent thought. Radios sense frequencies and receive them. By tuning into what is about us through our senses, we also receive information. The hearts are symbolic of feelings, hopefully good ones. If you have ever played a guessing game, you know about visualizing what is on a card or block before it is shown to you. This is a form of intuiting.
The four functions are Thinking, Feeling, Sensing, and Intuiting. Thinking is what we do when we do when we logically find solutions or study concepts. Feeling is what we experience with emotion and the heart. We feel love, joy, and happiness. Sensing tells us what exists in our reality. There is a blue radio sitting on a brown wood table playing Mozart. We can see, hear, and touch it. Intuiting allows us to know and understand things without direct information. It can tell us what is or is going to happen even though we have not been told by others. Some refer to the latter as precognition.
To restore our brains and bodies, we can halt thinking and focus on positive feelings or simply sense what is about us. Gestalt persons who look at the complete patterns in our lives may call this losing your mind while coming to your senses. Carl Jung stated that too much civilization makes for sick animals. Krishnamurti further commented that it is no measure of health to be well-adjusted to a profoundly sick society. This does not mean that we should become uncivilized or not have a society, but rather to respect nature and seek healthy positive ways of living.
Let's look at some possibilities for well-being. Here is a basic list of what to do and avoid:
Some of my family members were physicians. In one of my grandfather's hand written medical journals he mentioned licorice. Licorice assists cortisol levels in the body and has been used for excessive fatigue. Too little cortisol may be as bad as too much. Licorice can be overstimulating in excessive amounts or raise blood pressure.
Eat fresh vegetables. Having enough sodium is also needed. The common form of sodium is from vegetables such as celery, carrots, beets, chard, or salt. Do not try to cope with stress by eating too much or junk foods. A better method is sensible nutrition and exercise.
I do not recommend what I know one fellow did. He would sprinkle salt like a snowstorm on his food. His french fries looked like miniature snow covered logs in winter. Sometimes he would eat high salt and chemical laden pickled sausages from a jar. They did not even appear to be real food and reminded me of preserved lab specimens from biology. He and his cousin (his uncle's son) would have secret food parties while trying to keep it hidden from their wives. The ladies were concerned about the men's health and body fat levels. The guys ate tons of ice cream, pizza, cake, and chips and drank soft drinks. Sometimes a cigar or two was added. They thought it was funny and they were getting away with something. They couldn't fool nature or the ladies for very long. The ever widening waistlines were a dead giveaway.
After the jarred sausages and salted fries or a food party, the fellow would say to his mother,"Momma, I don't feel so good. Have you got anything I can take?" He would get a medicine for his headache or tummy upset and never learned. His uncle ate and drank his way into obesity and the grave. His cousin is very obese today. All of this adds stress to the body and adrenals. The following image is shockingly accurate for what happens if the body is regularly abused with poor nutritional choices:
To continue with what is beneficial, have adequate Vitamins B and C. Both are required for the brain and body to handle stress.
The brain, adrenals, and body's hormone production requires cholesterol and fats. The sources for this include whole eggs, butter, and meats.
Do not smoke. Some believe that smoking reduces their stress. In reality, the body becomes weaker and less able to cope with stress. It hinders our ability to adapt, burdens the body with toxic chemicals, and further depletes antioxidants such as Vitamin C. The best athletes do not go near the so-called coffin nails.
Be wary of caffeinated beverages. These ramp up the SNS and are a stressor. You may feel better short-term and burnt out in the long run.
Eliminate refined sugar. This only increases calories and does not give needed nutrition. It can lead to metabolic syndrome, being fat, and many diseases.
Get adequate sleep and rest. These are like biological bank accounts. You may not realize there is a serious situation until you are overdrawn and your cortisol check bounces.
Keep a relaxed composure by being an actor and not a reactor in life. Reactive people tend to be stressed people. Life controls them instead of them being in control of their lives.
Think positively as going the other way is like driving the wrong way down a one-way street. We do not want to crash and collapse. Be a good driver of both cars and cortisol. This also helps others.
Laughter helps our well-being. We sometimes hear of unwell persons fighting their illness. This could actually raise cortisol and stress levels. A better approach may be experiencing a good comedy that lowers the stress.
Make time for yourself. Meditate, listen to soothing music, or practice sensing versus thinking. Sometimes simply halting thought and being aware of breathing or what is in the environment can allow for restoration.
Cammack, Mark. How To Double Brain And Body Power: A Remarkable Improvement Method. DoubleBrainAndBodyPower.com, 2018.
Cousins, Norman. Anatomy of an illness as perceived by the patient: reflections on healing and regeneration. New York: Norton, 1979.
Pauling, Linus. How To Live Longer And Feel Better. New York: W.H. Freeman & Company. 1986.
Pauling, Linus. "Orthomolecular Enhancement Of Human Development." Menlo Park, California. Linus Pauling Institute of Science and Medicine. 1978.
Pauling, Linus. Vitamin C, The Common Cold, And The Flu. New York: Berkley Books. 1981.
Petticrew, Mark P, and Kelley Lee. “The "father of stress" meets "big tobacco": Hans Selye and the tobacco industry.” American Journal of Public Health. Vol. 101,3. 2011. 411-8.
Selye, H. Stress without distress. London: Corgi. 1987.
Stone, Irwin. The Healing Factor: "Vitamin C" Against Disease. New York: Grosset & Dunlap. 1972.
GAS Stages Are Like An Earthquake!, Shockwaves, Morbid and True are works created by author © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.
Adrenal Gland and Kidneys, Adrenal Logic I, Adrenal Logic II, The Four Basic Functions of the Mind, Meditation are derived works © Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.
They are based on the following public domain works:
Adrenal gland and kidney images: Wikimedia Commons
Carl Gustav Jung: Wikimedia Commons
Meditation Calm Above The City: Benjamin Balazs
© Copyright 2019 Mark Cammack. All rights reserved.