Why Cats Don’t Suffer From Adrenal Fatigue…

For such a small and often overlooked body part, the adrenal glands sure do pack a hormone infused punch.  The adrenal glands are located just above our kidney’s and are the key gland that control our reaction to physical, environmental, and emotional stressors.

adrenal glands

Among the host of hormones produced by the adrenal glands are cortisol, adrenaline, and noradrenaline.  Cortisol works by increasing the level of glucose in our blood, controlling inflammation, reducing swelling, and inhibiting pain-causing prostaglandins.  In addition, cortisol plays an integral role in regulating fat, protein, and carbohydrate metabolism, our immune response, and blood pressure.

Frustrated Businesswoman on Telephone

What’s up with adrenaline and noradrenaline?  Much like cortisol, these hormones are released when we feel threatened and cause an increase in heart rate, blood pressure, and blood glucose levels.  Another result is the dilation of passageways, including those in the lungs so that more oxygen and glucose can circulate and help us combat the impending stressors.

Stressor

Now, you may  know that I enjoy cats and members of the cat family.  However, if this guy above was chasing me I would not enjoy it and my adrenal glands would spring into action by secreting the hormones described above to help me run faster, breath better, utilize energy most efficiently, and get myself to safety.  Fantastic.  But, what happens when we are exposed to long-term stress?  The kind that sort of just hangs around and is constant?

chronic stress

If the acute stress we are supposed to be able to handle becomes chronic, eventually our adrenal glands become less responsive and putter out because they are tired – hence a very common condition called Adrenal Fatigue.  The main cause of adrenal fatigue is actually low levels of cortisol because our adrenals simply can’t keep up with demand.  Symptoms of adrenal fatigue include:

Symptoms of AF

  • Feeling tired
  • Trouble getting out of bed despite adequate sleep
  • Feeling rundown
  • Difficulty recovering from stress
  • Difficulty recovering from illness
  • Food cravings; sugary and salty
  • More energy in the PM as compared to the AM
  • Low blood sugar levels
  • Dehydration
  • Weight loss
  • Low blood pressure (worse when moving from a sitting to standing)
  • Weakness
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Dizziness
  • Pain
  • General Inflammation
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhea
  • Inability to sleep soundly
  • General lack of wellness

How can adrenal fatigue be addressed?  Both lifestyle and nutritional modifications can help revive your adrenal glands and pave the way for a happier, healthier you.

LIFESTYLE CONSIDERATIONS

A great first place to start is a book called Adrenal Fatigue:  The 21st Century Stress Syndrome written by Dr. James L. Wilson.

Adrenal-Fatigue-Cover

In his book, Wilson writes about the lifestyle factors that need to be addressed in order to treat the root cause of why adrenal fatigue exists in the first place and the obvious first factor to consider is stress.  Are there constant stressors in your life that need to be dealt with?  Common stressors include; work commitments, being unhappy in your workplace role, family obligations, lack of time to oneself, inability to express emotions effectively, etc.  Wilson asks readers to ask three questions regarding stressors:

  • Can you change the situation?  If so, then do.
  • Can you change the way you adapt to the situation?  If so, then do.
  • If all else fails, can you leave the situation?

Sleep

Aside from identifying and reducing the stressors in your life, you’ll be better able to cope with day-to-day obstacles when you’re well rested and so, 8 hours of sleep is recommended and it’s best to be in bed by 10 pm.  Also, if possible try to avoid being on the computer or watching TV a few hours before bed.  Also, strongly consider removing chocolate, coffee, booze, cigarette’s, and other known stimulants from your diet as they interfere with sleep patterns.

Exercising Cat

Exercise helps to release stress and energizes both the mind and body – try your best to work in 30 minutes of physical activity a day.  If you’re not in shape, start with brisk walking…do whatever it takes to get your body moving.

Laughing Cat - Vitamin L2

Figure out ways to make yourself laugh.  It will make you feel better and helps to relieve stress.  See this prior post for more on this topic.

Cat Nap

Take naps during the day, but only for 15-minutes and lay down when you do it.  A snooze on the subway doesn’t count.

NUTRITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS

Nutrition is an integral component of correcting adrenal fatigue and the recommendations below will work hand in hand with the aforementioned lifestyle changes.

1.)  There is a relationship between stress, cortisol, and blood sugar levels.  Earlier in this post, I explained that cortisol in part, helps to bring up blood sugar levels during times of stress so we can hypothetically fight off whatever is putting us at risk.  Another reason why our glucose levels might be low and require cortisol is when we have large spikes and dips in our blood sugar levels brought on by foods that cause an exaggerated metabolic response to food.  Food that can cause rapid spikes and then dips in blood sugar levels include:

  • Refined carbohydrates
  • Sugar
  • Caffeine
  • Tea
  • Alcohol
  • Fruit

While fruits and grains are good for us, people suffering from adrenal fatigue may consider holding off on eating fruit and grains in the morning in order to prevent a cascade of inappropriate blood sugar fluctuations throughout the day.  When selecting grains, always choose whole grains and when considering fruit, select low glycemic index fruits which will have the smallest impact on our blood sugar response.    Click here for a list of low glycemic index fruits.

Meal Time

2.)  Eat regular meals.  This is closely tied with the information above as it is crucial to keep blood sugar levels stable in order to regulate cortisol and insulin levels in the blood.  Try eating breakfast within an hour of waking, have an early lunch (11 – 11:30 am), a snack at 2:30 or 3 pm, and then dinner between 5 – 6 pm.

3.)  Limit fatty foods and excessive salt.

4.)  Plant and animal sterols are useful to help keep the immune system in balance which is often a problem when one is exposed to prolonged periods of stress.  Food sources of plant and animal sterols include fresh (low GI) fruit, organic free range eggs, nuts, seeds, veggies, healthy fats (coconut oil, olive oil), fresh fish.

Cat Eating Veggies

5.)  Get your vitamins and minerals through lots of leafy greens and orange/red/yellow/purple veggies.  Vitamin C, and the B Vitamins are often depleted during stress and can be found in the food listed.  additionally, these foods are high in magnesium which is helpful in promoting relaxation and supporting anxiety and depression.

6.) Give your digestive system a break by choosing high quality proteins such as organic free range chicken, wild fish, beans, nuts, and seeds.  These proteins are less taxing on the hydrochloric acid required to break protein down and will allow for easier digestion not only of proteins, but all foods ingested.

Cat Having Tea

7.)  Consider taking some adaptogenic herbs which may help your body adapt and manage stress.  One great adaptogen is ginseng which can be taken as a supplement, a tea infusion, or a tincture.  To make a tea, try boiling a small pot of water with 3-5 slices of fresh ginseng and allow it to steep for 5 minutes.  You can also purchase ginseng tea or ginseng supplements from most health food stores.  Siberian, Panox, and Indian Ginseng are all good options.

8.)  Consider taking Vitamin C (2 grams/day), Vitamin B5 (1500 mg/day), and Magnesium (150 mg twice a day).  Food sources of each of these nutrients are listed below:

Vitamin C: papaya, bell peppers, strawberries, broccoli, Brussels Sprouts, kiwi, oranges, kale.

Vitamin B5:  whole grains, cauliflower, broccoli, salmon, sweet potatoes, tomatoes.

Magnesium:  pumpkin seeds, spinach, Swiss Chard, soybeans, sesame seeds, halibut, black beans, sunflower seeds, cashews, almonds.

 

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Cats have it all – admiration, an endless sleep, and company only when they want it.”

– Rod McKuen

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Eat and Swim Your Arthritis Away

Once thought to be a disease that affects only elderly people, arthritis is becoming an issue for those of all ages.  According to the Canadian Community Health Survey conducted by Stats Canada, 16% of Canadians struggle with arthritis and 3 out of 5 are under the age of 65.

arthritis

So, what exactly is arthritis?

There are two main types of arthritis; osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Osteoarthritis is considered to be a degenerative joint disease, caused by wear and tear, and usually affects larger weight baring joints like the hips and knees.  Osteoarthritis normally does affect elderly people and the type of pain experienced resembles an achy burn that hurts during movement but doesn’t really go away when inactive.

Osteoarthritis

Rheumatoid arthritis on the other hand is actually an inflammatory disease that typically attacks more than three synovial joints (most often in the hands and feet).  People with rheumatoid arthritis can, and often do experience swelling, fatigue, rashes, and weight loss.

RA

Luckily, there are dietary and lifestyle modifications that can support and reverse the progress of both types of arthritis.

Cherry red summer apple isolated on white

Weight Loss.  The link between the development of osteoarthritis and obesity is inarguable.  Since the joints in both types of arthritis have compromised capabilities, the best thing you can do is give them a break by reducing their load.  The lower our weight, the easier it is for joints to perform.

wheat_and_dairy

Avoid Inflammatory Foods.  The name of the game with rheumatoid arthritis is to eliminate or reduce foods that cause an inflammatory response.  Some common offenders include wheat, dairy, and animal sources of protein.  Try eliminating wheat, dairy, and red meat for at least two weeks and then introduce them back into your diet one at a time to see how your body responds.

Antioxidant

Eat Antioxidant Rich Foods.   Antioxidants (think vitamins A, C, E, and selenium), and omega-3 fish oil can work wonders at reducing inflammation.  Try to include citrus fruits, kiwis, strawberries, Brussels sprouts, carrots, cauliflower, walnuts, brazil nuts, berries, and whole grains into your diet.

Nightshades

Remove Nightshade Vegetables.  These are foods that contain a compound called alkaloids which are thought to prevent collagen from repairing joints.  Aside from inhibiting the repair of joints via collagen, alkaloids may actually cause inflammation so it’s best to avoid eating these in excess for both osteoarthritis and rheumatoid arthritis.  Nightshades include; potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant, and peppers (habaneros, bell peppers, cayenne peppers, jalapenos, serranos, etc).

Exercise

Exercise.  In order to maintain range of motion, strength, endurance, and mobility it’s best to keep moving.  A good way of incorporating exercise is to simply stretch and tense up your joints.  Once you’re comfortable with that, try very easy exercises like walking and then building up to dancing or swimming which has been particularly popular with arthritics because the water absorbs your body weight and can be quite soothing when the temperature is warm.  Exercises to avoid include jogging, running, skiing, jumping, and heavy weight lifting as they can strain your joints.

Check out the following Toronto based masters swim clubs that will help you lose weight and soothe those inflamed joints – just remember to start slowly and build up!

Downtown Swim Club

North Toronto Masters Swim Club

Toronto Masters of the Universe

Trillium Y Masters Swim Club

Alderwood Teddy Bares

Etobicoke Masters Swimming

North York  Gators

Clarington  Swim Club

Pickering Master Splashers

Burlington Masters

University of Toronto – Mississauga

Oakville Masters Swim Club

Aurora Ducks Swim Club

Markham Masters

Thornhill Masters Aquatic Club

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Irony of the day: arthritis medication with a cap that old people can’t get off, because of their arthritis.” 

– Kelli Jae Baeli

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Because sometimes laughter is the best medicine…

A while ago, I discovered that there is a little known vitamin that we can’t live without – Vitamin L (check out this prior post) where the “L” stands for love.

love-vitamin01

It’s true, without love from our partners, family, friends, pets, neighbours, and community…where would we be?

Note:  I am not normally a fan of self-portraits but this one couldn't be helped.

Note: I am not normally a fan of self-portraits but this one couldn’t be helped.

But there is another Vitamin “L” on the block and I think it’s just as essential as Love and it’s called Vitamin L(aughter).  Call me a cheese ball if you want (I’ve been called worse) but there’s something to laughing that makes us feel awesome.

cheeseballAt a very basic level, laughter helps to relieve stress and since stress lowers the immune system – I would consider laughter and immune booster.  There is a whole field of medicine called psychoneuroimmunology (PNI) which looks at the relationship between the way we think, and the way our body responds.  Research on this topic has exploded as scientists look to better understand the connection between our nervous system and the ways in which we deal with stress and our immune system – the findings thus far have been pretty extraordinary.

PNI

There was an interesting experiment conducted by scientists at the Rochester University Medical School in which rats were given a sweet drink of water at the same time as an injection of a drug that lowered the response of their immune system.  As expected, the immune system function of the rats decreased.  However, when the rats were then given just the sweet drink, their immune system was compromised which can be explained by the fact there was a learned and conditioned response that caused the immune system to react in a certain way.  What is fascinating about this is that it shows that thoughts and beliefs can actually change the way our immune system responds for better or worse.

PNI Experiment

This brings me back to Vitamin Laughter – lets’ call it Vitamin L2.  If we know that stress reduces our immune function and that laughter decreases stress…wouldn’t Vitamin L2 help prevent immune system lowering in times of stress?  I’m not a scientist, but in my own (albeit poorly designed study) Vitamin L2 makes me feel better in times of stress.  Why not self-prescribe Vitamin L2 each day?

Laughter

Vitamin L2 also apparently helps to increase blood flow and improves relaxation and sleep.  With that in mind, here are some tidbits that no matter how many times I’ve seen them…always provide much-needed Vitamin L2.

THE DAILY DL (Dalai Lama)

“Laugh.  Laugh as much as you can.  Laugh until you cry.  Cry until you laugh.  Keep doing it even if people are passing you on the street saying, “I can’t tell if that person is laughing or crying, but either way they seem crazy, let’s walk faster.”  Emote.  It’s okay.  It shows you are thinking and feeling.”

– Ellen Degeneres

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