ATP Science Cort RX
ATP SCIENCE – CORT RX ADRENAL CORTEX SUPPORT
To fully understand how to influence hormonal secretions and activities we must first understand the big picture and know the natural cycles that dictate our body’s priorities between thrive or survive.
I can and will explain this in more depth but it is important to get the basic concept to understand and appreciate the intricacies of the individual triggers and hormones. Then we can learn how to use these hormones to maximise health and performance.
The HPA (Hypothalamic Pituitary Adrenal) Axis mediates our survival response.
The Hypothalamus in our brain collects data from our body to inform of potential stressors. The definition of a stressor is “anything that makes a change in our body”. So basically changes to our external and internal environment can instantly trigger a stress response. Our body can’t afford to wait and see if something is life threatening before it reacts, therefore it will trigger a stress response, proactively, just in case. The immune system, inflammatory chemicals, emotional stress, fear, pain, temperature extremes, toxicity, training hard, caffeine etc will all activate the Hypothalamus to initiate a survival response.
The hypothalamus sends a message to the pituitary gland in the form of a chemical called CRF (cortitropin releasing factor) aka CRH (corticotropin releasing hormone) to say stress! The pituitary gland panics and forgets all about the chemicals needed for other metabolic processes and activities, such as the gonads (The HPG axis) and the thyroid gland (the HPT axis) for now and pumps resources toward survival.
The pituitary gland pumps out ACTH to stimulate the adrenal cortex to release the hormone cortisol.
Cortisol has a number of jobs to do to aid in short term and long term survival:
- In the short term, cortisol helps to raise blood sugar by gluconeogenesis and insulin resistance.
- It also switches off most of the internal stress activators if they have been temporarily spiked by a low dose trigger like a microorganism or an allergen.
- Cortisol switches off the activated immune system and stops the reaction.
- Cortisol switches off the inflammatory response (By the way cortisone and hydrocortisone creams etc for colds flus and allergic reactions are drug versions of cortisol).
- Cortisol blocks the sleepy chemical serotonin and wakes you up.
- Cortisol raises blood pressure and blood volume through fluid retention in case of injury.
The secreted cortisol gets back to the hypothalamus and pituitary gland in your brain and activates negative feedback receptors to switch off our HPA axis stress response and everything goes back to normal. Cortisol is released to protect us from our own defence mechanisms. Too easy.
You are right that sounds too easy. Life isn’t fair. If it isn’t one stress factor it’s another. We have bills to pay, our jobs to do, everyone else’s jobs to do, everyone else’s jobs to check, our job hasn’t got done, we got bills to pay and then the phone rings. Oh yeah, that’s right; I have bad allergies and a funny gut, and I am bloody sore from training legs 2 days ago.
Basically if cortisol is going back to your brain saying, “Chill I got it covered”, but other stress triggers are coming in, and therefore our brain has to over-ride the cortisol and activate a further more intense stress response. The negative feedback receptors in the brain can desensitize to cortisol and ignore the negative feedback request but the rest of the body is still affected by the cortisol and there is more coming.
Chronic exposure to cortisol is a sign that you are not safe. So don’t relax. Blocked serotonin activity means you will be feeling like if you aren’t punching and running you should at least be hiding, so insomnia and anxiety is common with elevated cortisol. In case of injury and immobilization or hiding cortisol preserves fat and fluid around internal organs and the elevated blood pressure, and fluid retention can start causing problems in the cardiovascular system. The immune system gets constant exposure and is supressed allowing for infection and infestation. Muscles and bone are catabolized to fuel the stress response.
So in the real world we all suffer through various versions and stages of adrenal maladaptation depending on our individual circumstances and types of stress.
Daily fluctuations (figure 1.)
- Cortisol secretion in the morning blocks sleep chemicals to wake you up so you couldn’t possibly roll over and go back to sleep now that you are awake; while inhibiting inflammation relieving aches and pains, sinus, hayfever and rashes. As evening comes, cortisol drops dramatically and sleep chemicals rise so you are forced into a nice deep sleep. While sleeping cortisol drops extremely low and the immune system and other regenerative and anabolic systems fire up to grow, repair and generally clean up.
Acute stress (figure 2.)
- Cortisol spikes when needed through the day to help overcome stressors before returning to normal.
Chronic stress (figure 3.)
- Exaggerated and prolonged cortisol spike
- Start waking up with high cortisol and it spikes from there and never really drops enough all day and night for chronic elevated cortisol exposure
Hyper-reactive (figure 4.)
- Born pre-wired, acquired acute (Ptsd)or chronic, FM
- Insomnia, depression borne from anxiety
- Due to cortisol resistance you have learnt to release extra cortisol in response to stress and subsequently an exaggerated stress response.
- Constant excessive exposure leads to cortisol resistance and low levels now fail to register so the body pumps out more and more. This causes a vicious cycle that results in a phase of conservation or adrenal fatigue.
- Referred to as melancholic depression in literature and responds to serotonin preserving antidepressants
Conservation (figure 5.)
- FM / CFS, shift workers, mums, acquired through the stages
- Auto-immune, excessive inflammation, allergies, fatigue, pain,
- Not enough to get up and going but too much to get a good night’s sleep. Light sleep and seem more awake before bed then when you rose. Wake unrefreshed. Need stimulants to get going and only temporary. Usually sensitive to glare, thirsty all the time but can’t hold water so need to urinate constantly, crave salt and / or sugars
- Wakes with pain that gradually leaves
- Chronic inflammation leads to all age related disorders
- The conservation phase can also manifest as bizarre cortisol patterns that reflect poor sleeping patterns and adaptations to lifestyle in shift workers, mums, and hospitality and security workers.
Hypo reactive (adrenal fatigue) (figure 6.)
- Born congenital defect, autoimmune, exhaustion, CFS
- Hypersomnia, pain, inflammation, depression borne from apathy and fatigue with low cortisol and excessive serotonin activity
- Referred to as atypical depression in literature and doesn’t respond to serotonin preserving antidepressants well
The reality is that most of us are actually living in the conservation phase and using stimulants and sedatives to influence us into hyper-reactive, push on and work, or hypo-reactive, to crash and sleep. You may also notice how easy it may be for someone to hover between different types of depression and ultimately style of treatment.
WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THE REST OF THE BODY?
While the HPA axis is constantly assessing and reacting to stress, other axes are having to work extra hard to get noticed by the hypothalamus and pituitary glands and being forced to wait for their chance to work optimally. The HPA axis has first priority. After all there is no point in reproduction, pregnancies and even sexual pleasure when your body is not sure if you will survive the hour or day. The thyroid axis is also manipulated by the HPA axis to aid in short term acute stress responses but is supressed to slow metabolism and conserve energy with chronic long lasting stress.
Understanding this hierarchy highlights the importance of restoring the HPA axis and adrenal function to be able to restore normal function to gonadal axis hormones (LH, FSH, prolactin from pituitary gland and estrogen, progesterone and testosterone from testes and ovaries) and thyroid axis hormones (TSH from pituitary and T4 from thyroid gland). Refer to T432 and Alpha Venus technical data for more information on these axes.
HOW DO WE MANAGE THE HPA AXIS?
As you can now see the HPA axis is essential for survival and provides your innate survival mechanisms. These innate systems are working involuntarily. We have very little control over these processes.
For example, have you noticed if you accidently place your hand on a hot surface you will quickly remove your hand before you register the pain? This innate defence mechanism has been activated by a stressor and launched an automatic defence mechanism before your conscious brain has had a chance to register and assess the severity of the stress trigger.
Suffice to say that only a chemical straightjacket in the form of extremely powerful sedatives and anti-psychotic drugs will inhibit the innate defence mechanisms; and you don’t want that life.
The key is to provide a strategy to manage the HPA axis.
- Remove burden. Remove the avoidable external stressors (people, places, pollutants, toxins etc.), identify and eliminate internal stressors (inflammation, immune, toxic load etc.)
- Adaptogenic herbs and foods. Help to restore adrenal cortisol secretions using adaptogenic herbs. Adaptogens help to normalize physiology regardless of the trigger and direction of change. Meaning when you are up and anxious it will calm you down, but when down and flat it will pick you up.
- Nutritional support to support stable state and base foundation with specific nutrition.
- Avoid stress from people and places you can avoid
- Immune activation – toxicity, allergies, intolerances, infection, infestation and autoimmunity
- Inflammation – immune activation, injury and stress
- Toxic exposure – chemicals, colourings, additives, preservatives, fertilizers, pesticides, drugs, smoking, alcohol etc.
- Electromagnetic radiation
Schisandra is also known as “the five flavours berry” as it helps to balance the five elements or five major meridians. It is used to help centre and balance regardless of the direction of change.
Schisandra chinensis is an adaptogen, helping the body adapt to physical and mental stress. It improves dexterity, focus and co-ordination. Schisandra corrects respiratory acidosis and improves performance. One study on thoroughbreds showed an improvement of 6 lengths in an 800m race.
SCHISANDRA IN TCM
“Schisandra berry or Wu-Wei-Zi, meaning the “the fruit of five tastes” in Chinese, is a commonly used herb in traditional Chinese medicine (TCM). Based on the “Five-Element” theory in TCM, while the “five tastes” of Schisandra berry refer to its influence on the five visceral organs in the body, ancient Chinese herbalists specifically trumpeted the berry’s beneficial effect on the “Qi” of the five visceral organs. “Qi” is a Chinese term used as a broad description of energy-dependent body functions. Over the past ten years, our laboratory has attempted to define the biochemical properties of Schisandra berry in regard to its purported “Qi-invigorating” properties. We have found, for the first time, an ability of Schisandra berry to fortify mitochondrial antioxidant status, thereby offering the body a generalized protection against noxious challenges both of internal and external origin. Given the indispensable role of mitochondria in generating cellular energy, the linking of Schisandra berry to the safeguarding of mitochondrial function provides a biochemical explanation for its “Qi-invigorating” action.”
SCHISANDRA AS AN ADAPTOGEN
Schisandra chinensis first gained recognition as an adaptogen in the official medicine of the USSR in the early 1960s, principally as a result of the large number of pharmacological and clinical studies carried out by Russian scientists in the preceding two decades.
Pharmacological studies on animals have shown that Schisandra increases physical working capacity and affords a stress-protective effect against a broad spectrum of harmful factors including heat shock, skin burn, cooling, frostbite, immobilisation, swimming under load in an atmosphere with decreased air pressure, aseptic inflammation, irradiation, and heavy metal intoxication. The phyto adaptogen exerts an effect on the central nervous, sympathetic, endocrine, immune, respiratory, cardiovascular and gastrointestinal systems.
SCHISANDRA IMPROVES PHYSICAL PERFORMANCE
Schisandra chinensis has been shown to exhibit a remarkable effect on the physical performance of race horses. When treated with Schisandra, horses were able to complete the 800 m in a significantly shorter and the speed reached by the Schisandra-treated horses was also significantly higher than when saline treated. This study indicated that Schisandra extract was able to induce a greater response to physical effort. This was translated into a decrease of the time (1.8 s less) for the completion of the 800m race, equivalent to an improvement of 6 lengths in an 800m race.
Schisandra increases the contractibility of the heart, and favours the exchange of oxygen in the tissue cells. This produces as an end result a reduction of the glycolysis, enhanced utilization of oxygen, and improves the gaseous exchange in the lungs and cells. This helps to maintain blood glucose during exercise, while reducing lactic acid and supports better recovery of the respiratory frequency after an intense physical effort. Schisandra enhances staying power by preventing respiratory acidosis. Respiratory acidosis causes the “chest burn” and shallow breathing causing the inability to take in a deep breath. Respiratory acidosis can also trigger “sport induced asthma” symptoms and “panic attacks”.
SCHISANDRA MAINTAINS GLUCOSE HOMEOSTASIS
During exercise Schisandra can preserve blood glucose and maintain higher blood glucose by inhibiting glycolysis. However during rest and in type 2 diabetics it can enhance insulin sensitivity and improve glucose disposal by working as a PPAR-γ agonist.
SCHISANDRA REDUCES ANXIETY AND LOWERS CORTISOL
Schisandra has been shown to be a potent anxiolytic, reducing anxiety during times of physical and mental stress. Schisandra may reverse stress-induced anxiety level, by modulating stress-induced changes to the HPA (hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal) axis, cortex monoamine transmitters and cortisol.
SCHISANDRA SUPPORTS A HEALTHY IMMUNE SYSTEM
Schisandra supports the immune system and can up regulate cellular and humoral defence mechanisms.
SCHISANDRA WORKS SYNERGISTICALLY WITH VASODILATORS
Schisandra synergistically enhances vasodilation when used in combination with other vasodilators as demonstrated by a study using Schisandra in combination with a well-known vasodilator sildenafil citrate, sold as Viagra showing a 2 fold increase in the vasodilator effect of Viagra. Other research has shown demonstrate that Schisandra caused both endothelium-dependent and -independent vasorelaxation, which may contribute to understanding the cardiovascular protective effect of Schisandra.
SCHISANDRA WORKS AS AN ANTI-INFLAMMATORY
In Vitro studies on Schisandra have shown an ability to inhibit the inflammatory mediators COX-2, nuclear factor-kappa B, prostaglandin E(2), arachidonic acid, leukotriene B(4) and for 5-lipoxygenase as well as inhibits the secretion of pro-inflammatory cytokines TNF-alpha, IL-6, and granulocyte-macrophage colony-stimulating factor production.
SCHISANDRA PROTECTS CARTILAGE FROM INJURY
Schisandra treatment resulted in no pathological impact on either the chondrocytes or cartilage; we suggest that SF can be safely used as an effective material for the prevention of proteoglycan (PG) degradation.
SCHISANDRA IS AN ANTIOXIDANT
Schisandra chinensis has been shown to enhance mitochondrial antioxidant status in liver, heart and brain tissues.
SCHISANDRA ENHANCES MEMORY, FOCUS AND CONCENTRATION SPAN
Schisandra enhances cholinergic function and works as an acetylcholine esterase inhibitor, thereby preserving acetylcholine levels and activity in nerve synapses.
- Helps to adapt to all stressors
- Improve cognition and brain function
- Improves resilience
- Liver protectant
Ashwagandha, botanically known as Withania somnifera Dunal, is a member of the Solanaceae family. It is commonly known as Indian Ginseng or Winter Cherry. The literal meaning of the word “Ashwagandha” is “smell of horse”. The herb is so named for two reasons. One reason is that the fresh roots of the herb emit the smell of horse. The second reason is that there is a commonly held belief that a person consuming extracts of the herb may develop the strength and vitality similar to that of a horse. It is a multipurpose herb that acts on various systems of the human body: the neurological system, the immune system, the energy-production system, the endocrinal system and the reproductive system.
Being the most commonly used and extensively studied adaptogen, a large volume of literature is available for Withania somnifera. This herb has been studied as adaptogenic, antioxidant, anticancer, anxiolytic, antidepressant, cardioprotective, thyroid modulating, immunomodulating, antibacterial, antifungal, anti-inflammatory, neuroprotective, cognitive enhancing and hematopoietic agent. Ashwagandha contains a range of constituents like withanolides, sitoindosides and other alkaloids that are pharmacologically and medicinally important. These chemicals protect cells from oxidative damage and disease. Results from a battery of tests, conducted to identify the anti-stress activity of sitoindoside VII and sitoindoside VIII implied that both sitoindosides produce anti-stress activity. Sitoindoside IX and X were tested in rats for immunomodulatory and central nervous system effects related to stress, memory and learning. A significant reduction was noticed in the incidence of stress-induced gastric ulcers.
While controlling the catabolic HPA axis; Withania supports and enhances the HPT (Thyroid) and HPG (Gonadal / reproductive) axes to maintain healthy metabolic rate and anabolic growth, regeneration and repair.
WITHANIA MODULATES HPA AXIS
Withania modulates the HPA axis to help you deal efficiently with stress before switching off the survival response and rebooting the HPA axis. Studies have shown Withania to be able to support effective negative feedback inhibition of cortisol release post stress and have a sparing effect on the adrenal gland; preserving adrenal cortisol and adrenal vitamin C levels.
WITHANIA ENHANCES HPG AXIS
While controlling the HPA axis; Withania allows and encourages the HPG axis to fire for reproduction, regeneration and repair.
WITHANIA ENHANCES HPT AXIS
While controlling the HPA axis; Withania enhances thyroid hormone production and activity.
WITHANIA SUPPORTS REST AND DIGEST NERVOUS SYSTEM TO SUPPORT RECOVERY
By controlling the HPA axis; Withania can efficiently switch of our nervous system’s stress response induced the sympathetic nervous system dominance and boost up the parasympathetic nervous system activity to promote:
- Healthy digestion
- Efficient detoxification and elimination of toxins
- Quality sleep
- Anabolic muscle growth and repair
- Enhance cognition i.e. short term memory, concentration span and focus
- Immune stimulant and immune modulator
Rhodiola has profound anti-anxiety and mood enhancing effects. Rhodiola helps to provide an efficient survival response to stress by supporting and enhancing athletic performance and brain function to help deal with life stressors and training etc. Rhodiola also protects the body from its own defence mechanisms like inflammatory mediators and catabolic activity of cortisol on muscle and bone.
Rhodiola makes a brilliant adaptogen as it will pick you up if lethargic and calm you down if anxious.
- Regulates cortisol activity and release
- Has a sparing effect on the adrenal gland, preserving adrenal cortisol and vitamin C
- Anti-catabolic protecting muscle and bone from breakdown
- Elevates mood and coping mechanisms
- Reduces anxiety and panic
- Reduces pain
- Liver protectant
TURMERIC (CURCUMA LONGA)
Curcuminoids from turmeric are extremely potent compounds that have a powerful effect systemically.
As mentioned previously; the body cannot afford to wait to see what the stress is before it reacts. Our innate defence mechanisms are activated instantly. It is our innate immune and inflammatory compounds that are released immediately in response to exposure to anything that makes a change in our body (e.g. pain, immune activation, temperature change, fear, toxic exposure etc.) that will instigate our stress response.
The degree of innate defence activation will determine the degree of survival response required. So high dose exposure will trigger excessive innate defence activation and then an excessive survival response.
To reduce our response to stress the medical world would use chemical straight-jackets in the form of anti-psychotics, sedatives and anti-anxiety / antidepressant drugs.
Curcuminoids have an amazing ability to safely and naturally dampen down our innate defence mechanisms. It stops the body from over-reacting to stress. This is how turmeric can have such strong effects on anxiety, inflammation, immune dysfunction, and liver dysfunction.
Turmeric will take the burden off the whole HPA axis and reduce the frequency and intensity of our survival response while supporting genuine energy levels and quality of life.
- Dampens down innate defence mechanism
- Sparing effect on adrenals and HPA axis
- Regulates cortisol response to stress
- Improves resilience
- Liver protectant
- Anti-anxiety and raises mood
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