Ovarian Shutdown and Stress
Do you have a tendency to wake up at 2 a.m. to 3 a.m. and find that you are unable to fall back to sleep? Do you suffer from insomnia?
If the answer is “yes” then you should read this article.
Once women are postmenopausal (the stage of our life when you have not had a period for 12 months or more) ovaries slowly cease production of their main hormones, estrogen and progesterone.
As these hormones have protective properties against production of cortisol (stress hormone), low estrogen and progesterone levels in women increases stress sensitivities, depression and anxiety.
As you adapt to the new reality of low estrogen and zero progesterone hormones, you should start thinking of the way to decrease the effects of stress on your brain and body.
There are many steps you can take to help yourself to feel great.
The following are some of the important ones:
1. Identify and eliminate the stressors.
This is the most important step you have to take. First of all, you need to identify internal and external sources of stress. External sources are not only toxic emotions (marital, family, relationship, or financial problems), but the less obvious ones such as food intolerance (inflammatory stress), molds, viruses, GI infections, and oral infections. Internal sources of stress include by-products of oxidative stress, side effects of prescriptive medications, and digestive malabsorption. These should be taken into account when seeking to identify the underlying cause or contributing factors to your symptoms complex.
It is important to go to sleep by 10 p.m. because physical repair takes place between 10 p.m. and 2 a.m. when the adrenals (producer of cortisol hormone), work their hardest to repair the body. We should also try to sleep in until 8.30 a.m. or 9 a.m. if possible. Avoid coffee and caffeinated drinks. Coffee and tea act as stimulants and interrupt sleep pattern. Herbal tea is acceptable because it does not contain caffeine.
3. No sugar.
Those with excessive stress often report symptoms such as dizziness and weakness, as the blood sugar level drops below a comfortable level for the body to function normally. To overcome this, the quick fix solution usually is to take food that is high in refined sugar such as cake or sweets, or drinks that are stimulatory to get the adrenal to put out more cortisol, such as coffee or cola drinks. The sugar level tends to increase after each quick fix, but drops after a few hours. If that process is constantly repeated, by the end of the day, the body is totally exhausted. The solution is the diet that contains foods that release sugar slowly to sustain the body during and between meals.
One of the most effective ways to prevent or reverse stress is to balance the amount of carbohydrates and proteins that are eaten with each meal. The proper ratios are approximately 2 parts carbohydrates to 1-part protein by weight. For example, 20 grams of protein with 40 grams of carbohydrates. In addition, 20% of each meal should consist of one or more high quality fats such as olive oil, almonds, avocado or flaxseed oil. Healthy fats play a major role in helping to maintain blood sugar by slowing down the release of glucose (sugar) into the bloodstream.
Do not skip breakfast. If you are low on sugar, the adrenals are instructed to secrete cortisol that help to increase blood sugar level and allow the body to function. It is therefore important to have a healthy breakfast soon after waking and not later than 10 a.m.
The best time for lunch is from 11.00 a.m. to 12.00 p.m., then a nutritious snack between 2.00 to 3.00 p.m. will be needed to sustain your body through the dip in cortisol levels that occurs between 3.00 to 4.00 p.m. Evening meals should be around 5.00 to 6.00 p.m.
A small healthy snack should be taken just before the bed time to prevent dropping the blood sugar level during the night. If the level is too low the adrenals start to secrete cortisol. Hence the reason of you waking up in the middle of the night.
Women with ovarian shutdown should not exercise the traditional way that forces you to work out harder if you are not getting results. That can stress the female metabolism, disrupt your sensitive thyroid and adrenal glands and make you feel worse. The answer, instead, is to workout smarter. Intense workout with no breaks will flood your body with cortisol. Too much cortisol can break down muscle, bone and connective tissue. It can also encourage fat storage, especially around the belly. Short burst of intensity, followed by plenty of rest and recovery, then another short burst of intensity is the ideal way for you to get the best results in the shortest time.
Walking is a great exercise but you should walk slow enough that your body doesn’t feel like it’s exercising. That way you produce less cortisol and keep your body’s fat-making hormone in check.
6. Nutritional supplementation.
The use of nutritional supplementation always needs to be individualized, based on each person’s history, background, and body metabolic system. One person’s nutrient may be another person’s toxin.
However, the one medicinal herb I can recommend for everyone that suffer with stress is Ashwagandha. It provides numerous benefits for your body and brain such as boost brain function, lower blood sugar and cortisol levels and help fight symptoms of anxiety and depression.
Daily doses of 125 mg to 5 grams for 1-3 months have shown to lower cortisol levels by 11-32%.
Ref: Insider’s guide Adrenal Stress Index Protocols by Ron Grisanti, D.C. & Dicken Weatherby, N.
Nutritionist vs Dietitian vs Nutritional Therapist.
I get asked this all the time. Here's my take on it.
A nutritionist is anybody who claims to be an expert in the field of nutrition. This is a broad description because some nutritionists have not studied, meaning they are not appropriately qualified and do not belong to a governing body. When taking advice from a nutritionist always check they have studied, are registered and belong to a governing body.
A dietitian is somebody who has a degree in Nutrition and Dietetics. Dietitians generally work with the NHS, although some will work directly with the public. I am not a dietitian.
A nutritional therapist is somebody who is appropriately qualified and has a recognized qualification in Nutritional Therapy. Nutritional therapists usually work in private practice offering bespoke health plans, using nutrition and lifestyle interventions to help support the body towards maintaining health. I am a qualified and registered nutritional therapist. I also refer to myself as a nutritionist because many people are not aware of what a nutritional therapist is. When taking advice from a nutritional therapist always check they have appropriately qualification, amd they are registered and belong to a regulated governing body.
As a nutritional therapist I specialized in weight management, hormonal health, stress and digestion.
A study published in the the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed that people low in vitamin B12 had an increase risk of a fatal heart attack and stroke.
The study focused on the relationship between homocysteine, B-12 and carotid artery plaque.
The study showed that higher blood levels of B vitamins are related to lower concentrations of homocysteine leading to decrease plaquing in the carotid arteries. However, an elevated blood homocysteine level revealed a strong risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
How the Study was Conducted
The study examined 421 people with the average age being 66. Vitamin B12, homocysteine levels and degree of plaque in the carotid arteries (via ultrasound) were evaluated.
Seventy-three patients (17%) had vitamin B12 deficiency with significant elevation of homocysteine. In addition and most important, carotid plaque was significantly larger among the group of patients who had deficiency of vitamin B12 In conclusion, the authors found that low blood vitamin B12 levels are a major cause of elevated homocysteine levels and increased carotid plaque area.
Dr. Grisanti's Comments
Have your physician order a blood homocysteine test and a methylmalonic acid (MMA) test. This is the most specific test for B12 status NOT the serum B-12 blood test.
The brain is the most nutrient-dependent, energy-dependent and toxin- and stress-vulnerable organ in the body. The gut and the brain are very tightly linked. In the gut-brain axis, damage to one is often damage to the other.
Concussion is a good example. When a blow to the head or severe jolt causes a concussion, the damage to the neurons has a parallel in damage to the gut lining. The tight junctions of the lining almost immediately open up and become permeable. This produces inflammatory cytokines that can penetrate the blood-brain barrier, leading to additional brain inflammation. In other words, when the gut is on fire, so is the brain.
If the sudden intestinal permeability caused by a concussion goes untreated, the concussion symptoms will be worse, due to the additional inflammation. The gut permeability may not resolve by itself, which could contribute to making the concussion symptoms linger on for weeks instead of days. Intestinal permeability may also play a role in those patients who go on to develop post-concussion syndrome by causing ongoing brain inflammation.
So, in addition to treating the concussion itself with nutrition, the intestinal permeability, particularly the release of occludin and zonulin, needs to be immediately addressed.
The intercellular permeability of the gut lining can be treated through repair and regeneration with xanthohumol. A natural phenol derivative of hops, xanthohumol has a very extensive (more than 250 publications in preclinical science) record of efficacy and safety. In the brain, xanthohumol acts as an antioxidant and anti-inflammatory; it also helps with the biogenesis of mitochondria in damaged neurons. In the gut, the polyphenols are strongly anti-inflammatory. They modify the inflammatory kinases in favor of antioxidant pathways and, just as important, block the kinases in the cell-damaging inflammatory pathways for tumor necrosis factor, COX-2, and others.
On a chronic level, we know that neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's, depression, and anxiety may not be exclusively triggered within the brain. When the intestinal barrier is breached, so is the blood-brain barrier. Inflammation from circulating gut-derived lipopolysaccharides (LPS) pass through the blood-brain barrier and have been linked to a number of neurodegenerative disorders. In particular, LPS stimulates the production of IgA, IgG, and IgM antibodies that can cross-react with tissues and induce autoimmune disease and neurodegeneration.
Treating brain inflammation caused by gut inflammation starts with removing the cause through a modified elimination food plan and the removal of pathogens. Anti-inflammatory supplements, such as berberine, and digestive enzymes, such as lipase and amylase, help restore the gut lining. The next step is to reinoculate and regenerate the gut with a powdered nutritional supplement if needed, continuation of the modified elimination diet, and the addition of probiotics, vitamin D, alpha-lipoic acid, and specialized pro-resolving mediators (SPMs). Xanthohumol is also very helpful for regenerating intestinal mucosa.
Once the process is underway, retesting is important to see the gains and make any necessary adjustments to the treatment plan. As healing progresses, retaining the gains with a better diet and appropriate supplements becomes the focus of treatment.
Healing the intestinal barrier is only half the equation. The brain inflammation needs to be treated as well. Low-level laser therapy (LLLT) is a valuable tool for improving neurological function. In concussion patients, it has been shown to help reduce inflammation, modulate oxidative stress and nitric oxide production, and down-regulate pro-inflammatory microglial cytokine expression.
LLLT is also valuable for reducing inflammation of the vagus nerve. The longest of the cranial nerves, the vagus is often called the great wanderer for the way is wanders through the visceral organs. A major function of the vagus nerve is preventing inflammation. In the gut, the vagus nerve endings sense the chemical signals of inflammation, such as cytokines and tumor necrosis factor, and send messages to the brain telling it to release anti-inflammatory neurotransmitters via the cholinergic anti-inflammatory pathway. When the brain-gut axis is disrupted, the vagus nerve is affected and the messages back and forth are garbled or don't get through at all. Decreased vagal nerve activity has some serious effects on the gut. Hydrochloric acid and pancreatic enzyme secretion is reduced, as is bile secretion. The parietal cells in the stomach, which are responsible for producing intrinsic factor, don't work as well, leading to reduced absorption of B vitamins.
We know that post-injury vagal nerve stimulation (VNS) after a concussion can help prevent the breakdown of epithelial cells in the gut and keep the tight junctions from opening. This only works when administered within 90 minutes of the injury, however. Later on, stimulation of the vagus nerve with LLLT using 405 nm violet lightcan help to restore communications and reduce inflammation.
Treatment modalities such as those discussed here help repair the integrity of the gut lining and the blood-brain barrier. They're a hopeful new approach to restoring the functionality of the gut-brain axis and returning the body to harmony.