Metabolic Speed: Stimulants Effects – Part 2
Stimulants Effects on the NEM Stress Response
Stimulants effects alter the body in many ways. The central nervous system is triggered into an excitatory state and surpasses the body nature state of functioning. Epinephrine, dopamine, serotonin, and cortisol flood the body. The body and mind is pushed into a prolonged state of arousal. The organs of the body become taxed.
The body’s natural defense against threats to health, and overall survival, is NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response of the adrenals. Situated atop each of the kidneys, the adrenal glands secrete cortisol, known as the stress hormone, in reaction to physical and mental stressors. The adrenals are impacted greatly by stimulants effects. Stimulants create, and increase, production of dopamine, epinephrine, norepinephrine, serotonin, which are the major excitatory neurotransmitters. These are the same neurotransmitters, produced during times of significant stress. The NEM stress response is triggered, and the adrenals secrete cortisol, and the body prepares itself by entering a “fight or flight” state.
Stress can be positive or negative in nature. The mind and body utilize the same chemical pathways during times of significant celebrations, as in times of distress or trauma. Deep within the brain, the amygdala perceives a threat and messages the hypothalamus, which releases a corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH), which signals the pituitary gland to release adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH), activates the adrenals to produce cortisol. Thus the NEM stress response has been engaged.
When the NEM stress response is activated, the body is placed in survival mode. The body is placed in a state of heightened awareness, with increased heart rate, blood pressure, and enhanced decision making abilities. Body systems that are not crucial for survival are decreased significantly. Digestion is impacted, the reproductive system functions are decreased, the immune system suffers, and changes to blood pressure, blood sugar, and heart rate occur. The NEM stress response allows the body to attend to current stressors, and threats of harm, to create the highest possibility of survival.
The NEM stress response is a life saving reaction that has enabled humans for generations to survive unthinkable obstacles and challenges. However, modern life stressors do not usually include threats to survival. Many times our stressors are the result of a myriad of appointments, commutes and traffic, promotions, and the overall distress from our fast paced modern lives. The NEM stress response was not intended to be in constant activation. When stress is chronic, the adrenals become overworked and are unable to respond effectively to stress.
In many cases, this is when individuals begin to use stimulants and the cycle of stimulants effects begins. Improvements to mood, energy, and focus are short lived and the need for increased amounts of stimulants is needed. Stimulants effects cause a miscommunication between the brain and body. The excitatory neurotransmitters, released from the brain, push the body further and longer, and the body systems continue to be overworked.
When the body lives under the effects of chronic stress, exacerbated by the use of stimulates, Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) may result. AFS, commonly referred to as adrenal fatigue, is a collection of symptoms that occur when the body is placed in a prolonged state of stress. When left untreated, adrenal fatigue may worsen significantly.
Due to the fact that Adrenal Fatigue symptoms vary in type and intensity, and could potentially be the result of other health conditions, it is important to always consult your Primary Care Provider with health related questions and concerns.
- Extreme and constant fatigue
- Insomnia and other sleep disturbances
- Hypoglycemia symptoms
- Inability to handle stress
- Anxiety and panic attacks
- Depression and other mental health concerns
- Weight gain
- Cold hands and feet
- Skin changes, rashes, and acne
- Muscle and joint pain
- Brain fog, memory and concentration issues
- Low libido
- PMS symptoms, early menopause, and infertility
- Cravings for salty, fatty foods
- Digestion disruption
- Low body temperature or external temperature intolerances
- Dizziness, lightheadedness, or extreme vertigo
- Irritable Bowel Syndrome symptoms, constipation or diarrhea
- Allergies and many other symptoms
The Road to Recovery
Life today is busy and often hectic and stressful. Life stress is abundant, with career obligations and the constant struggle of balancing work and family, even vacations can be stress filled. Many individuals turn to stimulants to cope with the ever increasing demands of life. Some use nicotine to both relieve stress and boost mood and energy. Others use caffeine or other energy enhancing drinks and supplements to keep up with the daily grind. Those who consult with their primary care physicians’, will be prescribed a stimulant medication. And sadly, a number of people will turn to illegal stimulants that have severe health risks.
Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome results when the body is subjected to chronic stress. The use of stimulants, to push the body and mind, has serious implications on health and may worsen adrenal fatigue. In order to begin the healing process, the use of stimulants must be avoided unless there is no choice. Giving the body the raw material for it to re-establish its self regulatory system is preferred. This requires extensive clinical experience and skill, as small miscalculations can worsen the condition. Stimulants effects disrupt the communication between the body and brain that essential to our health. In order to begin the healing process, mind/body communication is crucial. This allows the individual to rest when the body is fatigued, eat when the body is hungry, and naturally relax after times of stress.
Recovery from AFS, and to reverse of stimulants effects, require a slow and deliberate comprehensive program. Abrupt withdrawal from any stimulant is not recommended, but, in fact, can be detrimental and worsen adrenal fatigue. The longer the stimulant use, the greater the risk of such a situation. It can cause adrenal crashes. Important lifestyle changes are needed . Remove any liver and extra cellular space congestion, reduce systemic stealth infection and inflammation, nurturing the body with essential vitamins and minerals, are critical practices for recovery while using food as fuel.
Supplements can be of great help in facilitating the recovery. Unfortunately, improper use can also worsen the condition. The proper dosage is key, as these compounds can have intrinsic stimulatory properties. Adrenal cortex glandulars and herbs such ashwagandha, rhodiola, maca, and ginseng are particularly troublesome. Those in advanced stages of AFS are particular vulnerable to their effects. Even small amounts can trigger adrenal crash. Many reported only a temporary improvement, followed by tolerance, resistance, and ultimately a crash. Dependency and withdrawal problems are also prevalent upon long term use.
Learning and following the adrenal fatigue diet is a great source for healing foods that will provide optimal nutrition, energy, and healing during this time of recovery. Sodium should be encouraged, while potassium discouraged. Water is vital to life. Drinking 6-8 fluid ounces of filtered water is recommended for most individuals. Staying hydrated is a natural energy booster and is essential to all life processes. Do not over hydrated as it can lead to possible electrolyte imbalances.
Exercise is excellent for health. However, individuals suffering from adrenal fatigue should approach physical activity with caution. Starting with short sessions of low impact exercise, like adrenal restorative exercise or adrenal yoga exercise is best. Be careful not to overwork the body, as to avoid an adrenal crash. Learning adrenal breathing exercises will reduce stimulation in a body that is sensitive.
Vitamins and supplements can help replenish vital nutrients, that have been lost during times of stimulant consumption. Adrenal fatigue sufferers should approach supplementation with caution, as negative clinical outcome is possible.
Sleep is extremely important to the mind and body during healing and recovery. Learning good sleep habits such as: regular sleep and wake times, “unplugging” the bedroom by removing electronics, and avoiding caffeinated beverages and supplements, at least six hours prior, to bedtime, will all be beneficial during the healing process.
Learning stress relieving techniques like meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, gardening, creating art, and other activities help the body cope with daily stress. These practices allow the mind to relax and the body to rejuvenate.
Living in the modern world places great demand on your body. The use of stimulants, to help the body adapt to stressful life, is rampant. From illegal street drugs to prescription medications, nutritional supplements to socially acceptable caffeinated drinks, few of us can escape from the world of stimulants in some form. While they can have temporary benefit, the sad reality is that most become dependent on them over time. Sufferers of adrenal fatigue are particularly at risk. The more advanced the stages of AFS, the greater the risk of damage by stimulatory compounds.
The road to recovery from Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome should be focused on reducing mental and physical stress, nurturing the body with a nutrient dense diet, drinking clean water, and obtaining proper amounts of sleep. Abrupt discontinuation is not recommended and can be detrimental. Most self navigation effort fails because the body can develop dependency on such compound over time.
Proper nutritional supplementation is a key to recovery, which is best when carried out in a slow, systematic, and comprehensive fashion, by an experienced, and AFS literate, professional. This helps avoid the common mistakes that most people make that can potentially worsen their condition.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.