HPA Axis and Blood Sugar Regulation

What in the world is the HPA Axis? First I must say this is not medical advice, but I am here to educate you on what the heck is going on in your body and how what you feed your body directly impacts your body.

The HPA Axis stands for: the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis, As the name implies it involves the hypothalamus, the anterior lobe of the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands. This is a main component of the stress response. Our thyroid is also connected and affected by the release of the hormones from our stress response. Due to our busy stressful lives, diet and environment our HPA axis is usually skewed and working in a high stress mode. Stress can come in many forms. Whether it be physical, such as injury and illness, or emotional, the body perceives stress as a threat to homeostasis.

We are all familiar with the term “hormones”. Hormones are released from our endocrine system and the HPA axis is a triangle of three key endocrine glands that help the body regulate cortisol levels (our stress hormone) and maintain homeostasis.

Responding to stress

When the body is exposed to a stressor our brain signals neurotransmitters which activates the HPA axis starting with the hypothalamus. Hormones such as the corticotropin-releasing hormone (CRH) is released which then targets the anterior pituitary gland where receptors are kept. This then stimulates the production and secretion of adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) into general circulation of your body. ACTH then binds to receptors on the adrenal cortex and stimulates the synthesis and release of glucocorticoids. The one we are familiar with specifically cortisol (known as the stress hormone). Epinephrine then triggers, glycogenolysis, gluconeogenesis, and lipolysis. Blood sugar rises and CRH & ACTH are suppressed via a negative feedback loop attempting to bring the body back to homeostasis. Insulin is then released to decrease to bring back down the sugar which we then usually reach for that sugar and fire our adrenals and fire more cortisol and repeat a dangerous cycle.

In response to cortisol the body induces a number of metabolic effects in order to restore the body back to homeostasis. Cortisol’s response in the body :

  • Increases blood glucose concentration by activating enzymes in gluconeogenesis and inhibiting the uptake of glucose in peripheral tissues
  • Stimulate inflammation by reacting to of cytokine receptors,
  • Affect our thyroid hormone levels, specifically thyroid stimulating hormone (TSH), triiodothyronine (T3), and thyroxine (T4).

What does this all mean?

Ultimately, this means an imbalance in homeostasis results in an imbalance in the hormones discussed above. This results in blood sugar dysregulation as well as potential thyroid hormone levels resulting in hypothyroidism or hyperthyroidism. Although a supplement may decrease the tilt of the axis the solution is finding the root cause and stressor. We can then live in a chronic sympathetic state (fight or flight) and have a miscommunication between the HPA-axis with dysregulated blood sugar.

So you know that being “hangry” and feeling those blood sugar spikes/dips are not normal, but now you know what it is doing on a hormonal and cellular level in your body.

How to improve your HPA Axis:

  • Work on your blood sugar regulation by eating a whole food nutrient dense diet with balanced macronutrients. That is where working with a professional like an NTP comes in. After analyzing your food and mood journal and NAQ we can come up with a bio-individualized way of eating for you.
  • Sleep Hygiene: Screens off before bed to decrease stimulation as well as activities to activate the parasympathetic nervous system. This can include; dry brushing, vagal nerve exercises, yoga, meditating, breathing techniques or journaling.
  • Routine: Your body and adrenals especially love routine. Eating around the same time, having morning and evening rituals so your body expects what is coming and how to react. Versus the constant unknown, rushing and surge of stress hormones.

I hope this is informative and able to help you heal. May the root cause be physical, emotional, or nutritional (the link to everything) I hope you are able to be more aware and intuitive to make changes in your body.

References:

Smith, S. M., & Vale, W. W. (2006). The role of the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis in neuroendocrine responses to stress. Dialogues in clinical neuroscience8(4), 383–395. https://doi.org/10.31887/DCNS.2006.8.4/ssmith

Stephens MA, Wand G. Stress and the HPA axis: role of glucocorticoids in alcohol dependence. Alcohol Res. 2012;34(4):468-83. PMID: 23584113; PMCID: PMC3860380.

Your stress bucket 🪣

You can eat a 100% organic farm raised diet and still be “unhealthy”. I was totally baffled for years why I was in so much pain but eating so “clean”. Just as you can’t dress like a football player and expect to jump into a professional game and nail it, you also can’t eat healthy and ignore other stressors on your body and expect to be healthy. Food is the basic support to our body and is essential, but there is so much more that contributes to our wellness.

If this is you, then kudos to you! If you’re here though you are probably suffering in some aspect and here for curiosity or guidance.

Your body is similar to a bucket. It can only take on so much before it “overflows” or in your bodies case, goes into overdrive which then results in our symptoms and illnesses.

There are many ways our body detoxs and rids our body of toxins and stresses. If your bucket is full then there is no room for more water to come in. I’m not saying you are supposed to live a stress free life, but one that your body can handle and stay balanced. Obvious stressors include visible stress, but many of us (myself included) had hidden stressors from your diet, environment and immune that are not obvious!

This is why it’s so important to look at healing your body as a whole and not at only the symptoms. On top of this every body is different. This is why some diets, detoxes and supplements work for some but not others. I have been there! It is frustrating, time consuming and expensive! Don’t give up if you’re suffering, there is light at the end of the tunnel. You just haven’t found your bio individualized plan to help you heal yet.

Here are some tips on how to balance out your “bucket flow”

  • DRINK MORE WATER! This is soo simple and widely known, yet most of our health issues are from cellular dehydration! Drinking GOOD drinking water and enough of it is always my #1 go to for health concerns, especially if they are new!
  • Correct digestive concerns: look into food reactions, sensitivities. Gut health is soo important to your health!
  • Eat a whole food diet: this will help balance out any blood sugar, fatty acid, mineral and detoxification issues. Everyone is individualized, so there is no one size fits all diet approach, but eating whole nutritious food is a great start! Check out other blogs on how to eat cleaner and how to clean out your pantry
  • Avoid environmental factors: Now you can’t live in a filtered bubble and avoid all toxins but there are some easy lifestyle changes to decrease your toxic load dramatically. Check out previous blogs on how to live a more chemical free life.

If this interests you and your looking for a way to get healthy for your individual health needs click the “how to work with me tab” to get on my list. I would love to guide you into becoming the best you. I will be accepting clients in August 2021!

How to help your Immune System Function at it’s best this Winter

A fever any day at any age promotes instant fear, especially during the pandemic. It’s even scarier if you are a mom because kids get sick and get fevers. I have had a lot of health issues, but luckily I have not been “sick” for over three years. Prior to to this I was reliant on antibiotics and Tylenol every winter. By overusing medication when it wasn’t absolutely necessary I weakened my immune system by depleting something called glutathione. The only way I discovered this is was from a very accurate and personalized blood test that tested my blood at a cellular level ran by a naturopath. Which means I got to see how my cells were working not how a blood level looked. If you didn’t pay attention in science class we are entirely made out of cells! Every muscle in our body, to organ to our self (organism) is made of cells. So functioning on a cellular level is beyond important. For me this meant my blood levels looked okay, but on a cellular level the minerals, vitamins and antioxidants such as glutathione were not being absorbed/produced or used properly. A lot of things can cause this such as; Chronic Illness, Medication Overuse, Chronic Stress and a Poor Diet (everything always comes back to nutrition!). Sadly, most of American’s suffer from one if not all the above causes. I am hoping to help educate you on when you need to treat a fever and how to keep your immune system working in full gear for this upcoming winter season. As always remember this is my personal not medical advice, always seek professional help if you need medical attention.

Glutathione’s Role in Your Immune System.

Glutathione is one of the body’s most important and potent antioxidants.! Antioxidants are substances that reduce oxidative stress by combating free radicals in the body (Berkheiser, 2018).

By taking medications such as Tylenol when not needed you are suppressing and depleting this great antioxidant! Other causes listed above are chronic illness, stress and a poor diet. This is why it is important to treat your body well because although you may not think it is important, it is on a cellular level to survive and stay healthy!

Glutathione: Benefits, Side Effects, Dosage, and Interactions

The Critical Roles of Glutathione (Pizzorno, 2014) :

  • It helps protect against oxidative stress (breakdown of cells from exposure to chemicals and toxins)
  • Cofactor for several antioxidant enzymes
  • Regeneration of vitamins C and E
  • Neutralization of free radicals produced by Phase I liver metabolism of chemical toxins
  • Transportation of mercury out of cells and the brain
  • Vital to mitochondrial function and maintenance of mitochondrial DNA (mtDNA)

When do you need to treat a fever?

Fevers are not necessarily dangerous.  The infection may be! A fever is certainly scary but it isn’t always an emergency if you or your little one has a high fever. Fevers stimulate a strong immune response in our bodies which can quickly eliminate pathogens (infection). We want that immune system to kill the infection and not suppress it with medications. Many people panic when they see a fever of 100° F in fear that their child or self will develop brain damage and rely on an antipyretic such as Tylenol or Motrin. An actually temperature is not considered a fever until the it reaches greater than 100.4° F with a rectal thermometer. I read a great post by My Friend the Pediatrician on Facebook. It basically says to follow your gut and observe your child or yourself. You know your body or your child’s more than anyone else! Here are a few things to consider before treating with medication:

  1. Pay attention to your body or child’s body more than the temperature reading. If you or your child is acting in a way that you are concerned, that is more important than a temperature reading. This is when medication and a phone call to your doctor is needed. Lethargy, not crying for infants, and no wet diapers or tears for children can be signs the infection is worsening, there is trouble oxygenating or dehydration. These signs no matter of the temperature warrant not only a call to the doctor but a trip to the hospital.
  2. A fever between 100-100.4 is safe if you or your child are not showing signs of distress or dehydration listed above. You want to fight off those bugs and keep your immune system working non suppressed.
  3. Fussiness or crankiness is not a reason to treat with medication. If you don’t feel good you are not going to be in the best mood! Now if your are cranky because you broke your leg then I think some pain medication is warranted! Otherwise let your immune system work, rest, give or get cuddles and eat the best food you can get down. Always call your pediatrician or doctor if you are concerned.
  4. With all this being said.. it is NEVER normal for an infant under age 3 months with a fever (greater than 100.4° F). This warrants a call to your pediatrician and needs to be checked out immediately.

How to boost your Immune System?

  • Try to incorporate a variety of leafy vegetables, fresh fruit and good quality meats to get in Vitamin C, Sulfur, Selenium and naturally occurring Glutathione! These vitamins, minerals and antioxidants help promote a healthy immune system. Examples include:
    • Strawberries (Vitamin C)
    • Citrus fruits (Vitamin C)
    • Kiwis (Vitamin C)
    • Peppers (Vitamin C)
    • Broccoli (Sulfur)
    • Brussels sprouts (Sulfur)
    • Cauliflower (Sulfur)
    • Mustard greens (Sulfur)
    • Cottage cheese (Selenium)
    • Brown rice (Selenium)
    • Brazil nuts (Selenium)
    • Good quality meats (Selenium)
    • Spinach (Glutathione)
    • Avocados (Glutathione)
    • Asparagus (Glutathione)
  • Avoid alcohol, this has been proven to directly increase liver stress which makes it harder for your body to detoxify and function on a cellular level. This is especially important if you are sufferings from chronic illness, stress or nutritional deficiency.
  • If you are sick and none of those foods sound appetizing (I don’t blame you) make some homemade bone broth with some good quality bones (organic if available). I make this a couple times a month to cook with and have a stash if I need to sip on some soup or broth when I need a little immune boost! If you have an Insta-pot it is sooo easy to make and so yummy! Here is how I make mine:
    • Place all your bones (beef or chicken) in the instapot.
    • Add 6-8 cups of filtered water
    • Add 2-3 cups of vegetables, bonus if you add some from the list above. Fresh is better but frozen is better than none.
    • Add garlic, onion/shallots/leaks
    • Fresh or dried herbs, Salt and Pepper
    • Cook on HIGH for 1 hour
    • Let cool and strain and freeze for cooking or sipping! If you did it right it should be a gelatinous texture after cooled or refrigerated.

I hope you have a healthy winter and healthier immune system always!

References:

Berkheiser, K. (2018, April 25). 10 Natural Ways to Increase Your Glutathione Levels. Retrieved October 17, 2020, from https://www.healthline.com/nutrition/how-to-increase-glutathione

Pizzorno J. (2014). Glutathione!. Integrative medicine (Encinitas, Calif.)13(1), 8–12.

Supplements: Real Food vs. Supplementation

How do you choose where to buy and what supplement to get?

Let’s start out by saying that you should aim to get all nutrients from your diet. Using supplements should not be a long-term fix. They are great while you are healing or fighting an illness, if your diet lacks certain nutrients (vegetarians or vegans), or if you need help stabilizing your blood levels. You should always find out the root cause of the low levels you are supplementing for. Supplementation will help you feel better but can mask a bigger problem, such as an absorption or a diet issue.

You can find a supplement for just about anything. You might purchase a vitamin or herb supplement alone, or as a combination (such as a multivitamin). Not only are there a ton of combination choices, there are a TON of brands and even different forms of supplements (pills, powders, liquids).

To make it even more confusing, supplements are not FDA regulated. This basically means that it is the company’s responsibility to make sure its products are made at a safe dose and can deliver that dose to the consumer. This leads to potency and quality issues with many supplements. Most of the values are listed at the time of manufacturing or before it leaves the facility. After this, it is up to the company to decide how the supplements are transported and stored.

The scarier part is many supplements have fillers and chemicals in them. The term “natural” does not mean it’s safe or good for you (this goes for food also). So you can be secretly ingesting drugs, chemicals, or metals. For this reason, I splurge for the higher-quality supplements that I know were handled properly and/or refrigerated. Otherwise it’s kinda a Vegas scenario, and you are just guessing and hoping that not all the nutrients are oxidized or rancid. Sadly, most of our supplements have either issue, and you are just buying a vegetable capsule with little nutrition value.

To avoid bad supplements filled with unknown fillers and chemicals, I suggest buying your supplements from a company that receives their products directly from the manufacturer and transfers them properly. I buy all of my supplements from Emerson’s Wellevate or Fullscript because of their reputation and known quality. Emerson’s Gold Partner brands test every lot of every ingredient in the products they manufacture, far exceeding FDA requirements. Check out the Supplement tab for more info about ordering from these sites.

After reading, I hope you choose a diet change rather than strictly supplementation use. When I was my “sickest,” I was on over 15 supplements under medical guidance. Supplements are great for helping your body function properly at a cellular level, but it isn’t the magic answer. I may have seen slight changes in sleep or mood, but no drastic change until I modified my diet and healed my gut. As always please consult your medical provider before adding in new supplements as they can be toxic or interact with medications.

Why are you looking for supplements?

Your “why” for looking into supplements is the first question. Are you having issues, or are you looking for health benefits that you don’t get by diet?

Many nutrients can be consumed from a good diet. Unfortunately, according to the CDC, only 1 out of 10 adults meet the daily requirement of fruit and vegetable consumption.

On top of our lack of consuming fruit and veggies, most Americans suffer absorption issues because of diet and medication use. If you are not absorbing your food properly, no amount of food and/or supplements will help. If this is the case, you will likely end up deficient in something.

People are either aware of a deficiency or have a hunch they are deficient in something they can get through supplementation. We tend to rely on supplements over the real food source. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans states that your nutritional needs should be met primarily through your diet, and supplements are just that… supplementary to your diet.

Who needs supplements?

Supplements are for those who cannot get all of the required nutrients through diet. A lot of children (with increasing picky eaters), vegetarians/vegans, and elderly fall in this category. Most people with health issues end up on a ton of supplements because they have misdiagnosed absorption issues.

Generally speaking, if you’re healthy and eat a wide variety of foods — fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, lean meats, and fish — you likely don’t need supplements. The simple fact is that supplements do not provide the same nutrition, fiber, or antioxidants as real food.

My favorite supplement recommendations

I really believe in food first. Unfortunately our diets have become high in Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and are in most of the trending health foods. We need to pay attention to out fat and omega ratios. As well as increasing quality of our foods adding in variety is important to support a healthy microbiome. Although this should be the goal for each of us to live a healthy life! This being said, I have my “go to” favorites to ensure our cells are functioning properly. Without all the proper nutrients and amino acids, our cells can’t do their jobs properly to provide us energy and detoxification. Here is my list of favorite supplements.

Tips to get more nutrients without supplementation:

  • Chew your food 20-30 times to allow for proper digestion and absorption
  • Eat grass fed and pasture fed animal proteins (meat, eggs, dairy) for more higher quality minerals and omega ratios
  • Limit PUFA’s in your diet that cause inflammation
  • Add in collagen and gelatin to your diet (coffee and soups are an easy way to sneak these in)
  • Buy the rainbow at the store and cook your vegetables and fruits while your gut is healing to absorb nutrients more readily.

Buyer beware facts from Harvard (because you l=will believe there data over my words).

  • Beware of extravagant claims! If it sounds too good to be true… it usually is. Also keep in mind: just because a celebrity endorses it does not make it a safe product!
  • Beware of the idea that if a little is good, more is better. Many can lead to more issues and toxicities.
  • Beware of interactions between supplements and medications. Always tell your doctors and pharmacists about any supplements and herbal medications you plan to take, and ask about the risk of potential interactions with your prescription and over-the-counter medications.
  • Beware of meaningless terms. The list includes “all-natural,” “antioxidant-rich,” “clinically proven,” “anti-aging,” and other vague but seductive claims that a product will promote heart health, prostate health, sexual prowess, energy, weight loss, fat loss, muscle power, and the like.
I hope this was helpful! Feel free to reach out to me for recommendations but always speak to your doctor before starting anything new. Just as we are not all the same, not all supplements are the same. It’s important to buy quality products if you are going to supplement…but remember your diet should always be the first stop to increase your bodies needs.