Your Immune System and the Key to Longevity – Part 3
The Body’s Response to Stress
The hypothalamus in the brain could be likened to a command center. When it perceives stress, it communicates the danger signal via the sympathetic nervous system. This it does by sending chemical messengers to the pituitary gland which in turn stimulates the adrenal glands to increase its cortisol production, the body’s fight or flight hormone. These glands, i.e. hypothalamus, pituitary, and adrenals, are collectively referred to as the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis and is part of the body’s key to longevity.
Please note that this response to stress is automatic, and part of the NeuroEndoMetabolic stress response.
The increased cortisol production serves to make the body aware of the danger and readies it to take action. During this process, other metabolic functions that are not considered essential to life are either stopped or decreased until such time as the situation passes. All functions then return to normal.
Constant stress, on the other hand, leads to a constant or increasingly heightened production of cortisol. This implies that the bodily functions that are compromised, stay that way. This could have a negative impact on all aspects of bodily function. It also has a potentially negative impact on the adrenal glands themselves.
As the adrenals become overworked, other organs need to help maintain cortisol production until such time as the adrenals become totally exhausted – resulting in adrenal fatigue. AFS has a devastating effect on your health with a wide range of symptoms.
These include, for example:
- Constant tiredness
- Respiratory conditions such as asthma
- Blood sugar problems
- Low libido
- Weight gain
- Brain fog
How Does This Impact the Key to Longevity?
Cortisol plays a role in elevating blood sugar levels. The heightened cortisol production and accompanying flight or fight response, sees the body releasing more of its energy reserves in the form of glucose. Heightened blood sugar levels mean the pancreas constantly has to produce more and more insulin, until such time as the body becomes insulin resistant, a condition that can develop into diabetes.
Research indicates that these constant insulin surges have a devastating effect on the thyroid gland, resulting in a reduction in production of thyroid gland hormone. Symptoms commonly seen in such incidences include high blood pressure, the formation of blood clots, high levels of (bad) cholesterol, obesity, etc.
Adrenal fatigue also has a devastating effect on your gut health and immune system.
The gut houses the majority of your body’s immune tissues. The main function of the immune tissue is the production of antibodies that attack foreign invaders, keeping you and your gut healthy. If, however, your gut health is compromised, the gut lining is weakened.
Foreign matter is then able to access your blood through your gut lining, spreading disease. You end up with what is termed leaky gut syndrome or intestinal permeability.
The gut itself is full of parasites, which we commonly refer to as bacteria. As mentioned previously, there are different types of bacteria. The ‘good’ bacteria is usually the key to longevity that is in the majority. They have a positive function in the digestive process but also help with the transformation of T4 (inactive) thyroid hormone into the active T3 version. However, when gut health is compromised, this conversion is suppressed, thereby compromising thyroid function.
One of the side effects of continued stress is that liver function slows down. The main function of the liver is the production of bile to digest fats and to remove toxins which are eliminated via stools. Prolonged stress, however, slows down liver function, making it sluggish. The result is a buildup of toxins in this organ and the gallbladder not being emptied of the bile stored there. The result, in the gallbladder, is often the formation of gallstones.
Constant cortisol production, and thus, by definition, adrenal fatigue, also has certain consequences for the gonads. The precursor hormone to the sex hormones, as well as cortisol, is pregnenolone. This hormone is primarily produced in the adrenals from cholesterol. It is, however, also manufactured in the gonads, i.e. testicles and ovaries, the retina of your eyes, your brain, skin, and liver.
As mentioned, when stressed, the adrenals tend to produce more cortisol, thus using up pregnenolone reserves, and when adrenal fatigue sets in, other avenues ensure its production – including the sex organs. The result is a decrease in the production of sex hormones in both men and women, as the body favors cortisol production for survival purposes. Procreation is not deemed essential for your personal survival.
Parasites, the Silent Influence?
Studies conducted on the parasites present in the human body has come up with a number of interesting results and hypothesis. What it has found, is that for all of the following conditions, and more, there is a possible parasitic link:
- Lyme disease
- Every infectious disease we know of
- Different types of cancer
- Cardiovascular disease
- Chronic lung disease
- Multiple sclerosis
- Different neurological disorders
- Decline in cognitive function
- Psychopathic personalities
- Sociopathic personalities, and a host of others
Many of these conditions have links to adrenal fatigue. This begs the question: is there a possible link between the occurrence of these parasites and adrenal fatigue? Are they a key to longevity?
Researchers have identified over a million different parasites in the human body and are identifying more each day. These parasites are present throughout the body, including the skin, blood, and gut. We walk around with these parasites our entire lives. Many are beneficial and play an important role in, for example, optimal gut function. Others, however, may prove potentially deadly.
One of the biggest problems concerning these parasites, or microbes if you will, is that they are constantly evolving. They change. Their functions change and in so doing they have the potential to have a profound effect on our general health and wellbeing.
It is proven that these parasites play an important role in digestion, but they play an important role in other bodily functions as well, such as the brain, as we have mentioned. However, it is when these parasites become destructive that we tend to encounter a vast number of systems and diseases that are a direct threat to our lifespan.
Besides taking measures to ensure these parasites stay in a state of homeostasis, i.e. that the ‘bad’ ones do not proliferate to such a degree that they overtake the ‘good’ ones, what can we do to ensure we do not age before our time?
In other words, what are the keys to longevity?
Look after your brain
The starting point is to look after your brain. This means keeping it occupied, learning, taking an interest in things, learn to manage stress, and see to it that it gets the nutrients it needs.
You are what you eat
Good nutrition is vital. Your body needs certain essential nutrients in order to function properly. This is not only necessary for bone and muscle health but the health of the adrenals and gut as well. Good nutrients help ensure a strong immune system in order to fight off ‘bad’ parasites, and immunity starts in the gut.
Your relationships are a key to longevity
Mental health hinges, to a large degree, on your relationships. If your relationships with friends and family are great, the chances are you are happy as a person. Happiness reduces stress, while good relationships give you a solid support system.
Regular moderate exercise is great for the muscles, bones, and mental health, as the endorphins released fight the signs of stress while making you feel good.
Have a purpose
Having a purpose in life keeps you active and the mind working. It does not matter whether the purpose is volunteering at a dog shelter for a few days a week or working in a soup kitchen. Caring for other living things stops you from concentrating on your own problems and reduces your stress and improves your general health as well.
Stop and smell the roses
Taking time out to just be still is an important key to longevity. In a sense, being still equates to meditating, as it is a time to ponder, reflect, and get things into perspective.
Get some fresh air
Being out in nature is a wonderful way to wind down. It also ensures you get some sun exposure and a supply of vitamin D which is necessary for adrenal health.
Get enough sleep
Your body heals itself when you sleep. It is, therefore, logical to conclude that when you do not get enough sleep, the body is not able to restore itself. Simple, isn’t it?
Research clearly suggests there may be a strong correlation between parasites and our health. Although we may wish to rid ourselves of any and all parasitic infestations, we need to remember that not all parasites are ‘bad’. Indeed, many are necessary for our continued health and could be deemed as some of the key to longevity.
The challenge, therefore, is to rather take measures to ensure our bodies are healthy, can meet the challenges it faces every day, and that we build up a strong immune system in the process.
© Copyright 2018 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.