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Stress Response: the stress hormone cortisol and the adrenal gland.
Stress Hormone - Cortisol
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Dr. Jesse Stoff also says increased cortisol levels depress immune function, “The part of the immune system most sensitive to the effects of cortisol are Natural Killer cells”. Immune system resistance plummets. A serious illness is often preceded by a major cause of stress.
There are many other reactions as well including adrenal gland “fatigue”. When adrenals become “fatigued” after being stressed, too little cortisol and other hormones are produced bringing on its own set of problems one major symptom being fatigue.
Stress, Prostaglandins and Essential Fatty Acids
Essential fatty acids are the good fatty acids we need to get from food because we don’t make them ourselves. Hormone like cellular messengers called prostaglandins are derived from essential fatty acids. Cells respond to their environment through the action of prostaglandins.
Prostaglandins are short lived and very localized. Our diet is notably lacking in these good fats, especially since we decided sometime back that all fats were bad. Providing the raw materials, the fatty acids, in the first place is a nutritional issue. Most significant are the omega 3 fatty acids.
The Good, the Bad and Stress
Good prostaglandins inhibit “thick” blood, dilate blood vessels, are anti-inflammatory, control cell proliferation and enhance immune function. This positive action is inhibited by nutritional deficiencies, viruses, heavy metals, “bad” fats, and further inhibited by red meat and sugar.
“Bad” prostaglandins do the opposite as in they promote “thick” blood, constricting blood vessels, are pro inflammatory, promote cell proliferation and suppresses immune function.
“If you are having a heart attack, you are making more “bad” eicosanoids (that promote platelet aggregation and vasocontriction) and not enough “good” ones (that prevent platelet aggregation and promote vasodilation).
If you have high blood pressure, you are making more “bad” eicosanoids (vasoconstrictors) and not enough “good” ones (vascodilators). If you have arthritic pain, you are making more “bad” eicosanoids (pro-inflammatory) and less “good” ones (anti-inflammatory). If you have cancer, you are making more “bad” eicosanoids (immune supressing) and too few “good” ones (immune stimulating). “ Dr. Barry Sears, The Anti-Aging Zone
The EPA found in omega 3 marine lipid concentrate inhibits negative action and promotes the production of good prostaglandins.
Stress negatively affects prostaglandin production. The stress hormone cortisol, produced by the adrenal glands when under stress, suppresses prostaglandin production. According to Dr. Barry Sears, “if you are overproducing corticosteroids, especially cortisol, you will bring all eicosanoid (prostaglandin) synthesis to a crashing halt – including the shut down of the immune system.”
Cortisol – Good and Bad – The Immune Suppressor
According to Dr. James Wilson, cortisol [made by adrenal glands] is a powerful anti-inflammatory hormone that, in small quantities, speeds tissue repair, but in larger quantities depresses your body’s immune defense system. Cortisol also reduces the rate at which lymphocytes [immune cells] multiply and accelerates their programmed cell death to further protect the body from this overreaction.
In fact, when cortisol is elevated during the alarm reaction there is almost a complete disappearance of lymphocytes from the blood. That is why your immune system is suppressed when your are under stress or taking corticosteroids. On the other hand when circulating cortisol is low, its moderating effect on immune reactions is lost and lymhocytes circulate in excess. This creates more inflammation.