Did You Know?
That refined carbohydrates (sugar and white flour) are known to contribute to problems with blood sugar control, especially hypoglycemia. The association between hypoglycemia and impaired mental function is well known. Unfortunately, most individuals who experience depression, anxiety, or other psycological conditions are rarely tested for hypoglycemia, nor are they prescribed a diet that restricts refined carbohydrates. Numerous studies of depressed individuals have shown a high occurrence of hypoglycemia. Because depression is one of the most frequent causes of anxiety, this provides a link between hypoglycemia and feelings of stress. Simply eliminating refined carbohydrates from the diet is sometimes all that is needed for effective therapy in patients who have depression or anxiety due to hypoglycemia.
What's really being affected:
One of the key dietary recommendations to support the adrenal glands is to ensure adequate potassium levels within the body. This can best be done by consuming foods rich in potassium and avoiding foods high in sodium.
Mealtimes should be spent in a relaxed environment. As noted above, digestion is a process largely controlled by the parasympathetic nervous system. Eating in a rushed manner or in a noisy environment is not conducive to good digestion or good health. It is important to plan meals out in advance to avoid eating on the run or under stress.
People with symtoms of anxiety or chronic fatigue need to investigate possible food allergies. As far back as 1930, noted allergist Dr. Albert Rowe noticed that anxiety and fatigue were key features associated with food allergies. Originally, Dr. Rowe described a syndrome he called allergic toxemia, with symptoms that included anxiety, fatigue, muscle and joint aches, drowsiness, difficulty in concentration, and depression. Around the 1950s, this syndrome became referred to as the allergic tension-fatigue syndrome. With the current focus on chronic fatigue syndrome, many physicians and other people are forgetting that food allergies can lead to chronic fatigue.
Stress response is actually part of a larger response known as the general adaptation syndrome. To fully understand how to combat stress, it is important that we take a closer look at the general adaptation syndrome. The general adaptation syndrome is broken down into three phases: alarm, resistance, and exhaustion.
These phases are largely controlled and regulated by the adrenal glands. The initial response to stress is the alarm reaction, which is often referred to as the fight-or-flight response. The fight-or-flight response is triggered by reactions in the brain that ultimately cause the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), which causes the adrenals to secrete adrenaline and other stress-related hormones. The fight-or-flight response is designed to counteract danger by mobilizing the body's resources for immediate physical activity. As a result, the heart rate and force of contraction of the heart increase to provide blood to areas necessary for response to the stressful situation.
Blood is shunted away from the skin and internal organs, except the heart and lungs, while the amount of blood supplying needed oxygen and glucose to the muscles and brain is increased. The rate of breathing increases to supply necessary oxygen to the heart, brain, and exercising muscle. Sweat production increases to eliminate toxic compounds produced by the body and to lower body temperature. Production of digestive secretions is severely reduced since digestive activity is not critical for counteracting stress. And blood sugar levels are increased dramatically as the liver dumps stored glucose into the bloodstream. While the alarm phase is usually short lived, the next phase-- the resistance reaction--allows the body to continue fighting a stressor long after the effects of the fight-or-flight response have worn off. Other hormones, such as cortisol and other corticosteroids secreted by the adrenal cortex, are largely responsible for the resistance reaction.
For example, these hormones stimulate the conversion of protein to energy so that the body has a large supply of energy long after glucose stores are depleted; they also promote the retention of sodium to keep blood pressure elevated.
In addition to providing the necessary energy and circulatory changes required to deal effectively with stress, the resistance reaction provides those changes required for meeting emotional crisis, performing strenuous tasks, and fighting infection. However, while the effects of adrenal cortex hormones are necessary when the body is faced with danger, continued stress or prolongation of the resistance reaction increases the risk of significant disease (including diabetes, high blood pressure, and cancer) and results in the final stage of the general adaptation syndrome: exhaustion.
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