PUFA, Sugar Restriction and Social Isolation.
“The psychopathology of social isolation has been studied in a variety of animals, and many features are similar across species, including humans. Aggression, helplessness, and reduced ability to learn are typically produced in animals…and…certain kinds of family environment produce the same conditions in children.” Ray Peat Phd
When it comes to the potential to have a harmful impact upon the body and the brain, I believe there’s probably something even worse than persistent social isolation, and that’s social isolation combined with any (sometimes even all) of a long list of metabolism interfering and stress promoting things. In fact, without these influences, social isolation isn’t necessarily always so bad.
But seriously, chronic biological stress which often arises from unavoidably stressful social environments, can also be promoted by lack of light, lack of relaxation and play, poor sleep, starvation, nutritional deficiencies, authoritarian culture, radiation, as well as toxic chemicals, heavy metals and environmental ‘estrogens’.
These and other things interact with a variety of metabolic processes which, particularly in the context of a high polyunsaturated fat (PUFA), sugar restricted diet, promote increasing levels of cortisol and other stress hormones and inflammatory substances.
Social isolation and high cortisol have been shown to be linked, and there is evidence demonstrating that rising cortisol is involved in the progression of mood dysregulation. Reducing cortisol is known to be an effective method for treating serious depression.
“…treatment was defined by a reduction of at least 50% in the Hamilton Rating Scale for Depression after 3 weeks of therapy…tests…revealed a significant reduction of cortisol concentrations already after 1 day of…treatment…”
Ongoing or excessive exposure to adrenalin and cortisol tends to interfere with energy systems and thyroid function, and promote the release of PUFAs from storage, all of which has been shown to interfere with digestive processes, causing many inflammatory and stressful effects.
An under active digestive system promotes the growth of bacteria, which can then move further and further up the intestine, increasing endotoxin secretion and circulation. Endotoxin promotes serotonin, estrogen and nitric oxide, and all of these inhibit oxidative metabolism, and add to the stress placed on the liver, interfering with detoxification.
When the liver and digestive system is overburdened, serotonin and estrogen levels start to rise systemically, and this has the potential to feed a vicious cycle of inflammation and stress, with chronically high cortisol, and heightened release of the harmful polyunsaturated free fatty acids into the blood.
Most people intuitively understand that there is a close relationship between digestive function and state of mind, and it isn’t hard to find personal, experiential examples where this relationship has been proven in either (or both) directions.
What is probably less well known is the fact that improving metabolism and digestive function – thereby reducing the potential for exposure to endotoxin and the consequent systemic rise in circulation of inflammatory things like estrogen, serotonin and nitric oxide – can reduce the negative impact of socially isolating scenarios.
Increased circulation of bacterial endotoxin has been shown to have a direct impact upon mood.
Although testosterone is commonly blamed for aggressive and anti-social behavior, studies show that exposure to chronic stress, interfering with sugar availability and leading to increased contact with PUFA breakdown products in the blood, is a big part of what is responsible for rising endotoxin and serotonin exposure, chronic inflammation, and greater conversion of testosterone (via aromatization) to estrogen.
“We suggest that individual differences in central aromatase activity and steroid receptor expression within the brain may be factors that may partially account for the inconsistent relationship between T and aggression in humans…Recent studies suggest that estrogens may influence components of aggression in humans, such as hostility.”
Both serotonin and estrogen have been demonstrated to promote aggressive and violent behavior (in animals and humans), and increase learned helplessness and other symptoms of depression. Social stress has been shown to raise estrogen and serotonin levels. Their rising levels can be seen as the result of exposure to stressful environments, but also as a factor worsening the impact and perception of the particular circumstances faced.
“…lower socioeconomic status during adolescence is associated with an increase in methylation of the proximal promoter of the serotonin transporter gene, which predicts greater increases in threat-related amygdala reactivity…”
“…evidence for direct estrogenic regulation of CRF gene expression provides a compelling mechanism for sexual dimorphism of stress reactivity and prevalence of stress-related psychopathology in women…”
The PUFA breakdown products have been closely associated with depression as well as other mood disorder symptoms.
“MDA status is used as biomarker for oxidative stress….elevated MDA was related with…auditory-verbal working memory, impairment of visualspatial, and, short-term and delayed declarative memory…MDA levels have been found to be increased in depression…we found significantly increased levels of MDA in patients of major depressive disorder…Increased MDA levels implicate increased lipid peroxidation products in major depressive disorder.”
When stress is high, blood sugar and glycogen stores get used up at a faster rate, and the combination of stress and low sugar availability promote the release of the inflammatory stress substances that are known to interfere with energy production.
Low blood sugar and suppression of thyroid metabolism interferes with brain function and has been shown to increase aggressive behavior as well as many other mood disorder symptoms.
“The results of this study demonstrate another important physiological variable that influences aggressive tendencies and behaviors, namely glucose. Glucose levels are an important influence on self-control and aggression, and glucose levels stand as a physiological factor that can be actively targeted and influenced.”
The stress promoting, inflammatory effects of the PUFA breakdown products are known to be able to inhibit thyroid function, and to cause chronic interference with the ability of all kinds of cells to use sugar for energy.
Interference with oxidative metabolism can promote aggressive behavior and it not surprising that there is a correlation between depression and aggression, and the progression of disease states like cancer and diabetes.
“Aerobic glycolysis (AG) is characterized by elevated glycolysis relative to oxidative phosphorylation despite adequate oxygen availability to completely metabolize glucose to carbon dioxide…Our data suggest a shift toward brain AG in high aggression states.”
Brain function in general, including learning capabilities and mood states, are powerfully influenced by energy availability. A lack of availability of sugar for the brain can promote degeneration and disease in a number of ways.
“In humans, the brain accounts for ~2% of the body weight, but it consumes ~20% of glucose-derived energy making it the main consumer of glucose…Neurons are largely intolerant of inadequate energy supply, and thus the high energy demand of the brain predisposes it to a variety of diseases if energy supplies are disrupted.”
Social isolation has been proven to be able to interfere with brain oxidative metabolism and to raise levels of the anti-metabolism stress substances, including estrogen, cortisol and nitric oxide.
“In contrast to the acute stress, chronic social isolation compromised hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal axis functioning…Changes in redox-status…enabled NF-κB translocation into the nucleus, causing increased cytosolic nNOS and iNOS protein expression…”
All of these issues can be approached in a variety of ways, including attempts to change or improve the environment you are exposed to, finding better relationships or improving existing ones, as well as psychological or ‘spiritual’ development in general. An improvement in one area has the potential to be a helpful inroad into overall improvement.
Of course aggression is not always unwarranted and may well be an appropriate response depending on circumstances, but irritation or stimulation in combination with interference with energy systems promotes the release of substances that have been shown to change how the brain perceives threat levels.
Also, there is an obvious relationship (even if it doesn’t hold true in every case) between depression and helplessness, and an increased susceptibility to aggressive or violent behavior, and a variety of learning disabilities.
If environmental or psychological conditions remain challenging, a large amount of protection from the effects of chronic stress, can be provided through dietary measures, with an important aim being the effective provision of energy for the maintenance of metabolic performance.
Am I suggesting that getting PUFA out of your diet and system, and swallowing kilos of sugar, will automatically solve all human problems? No. I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that. But there are things that need to be considered, that are simply not being considered in almost every case and with the vast majority of treatment approaches.
Unfortunately there is no great demand (or financial support) for the encouragement of studies or experiments which look at variations in the emotional and physiological impact of social hardship, resulting from changes in thyroid function and energy metabolism. My personal experience, as well as what I have witnessed in many others, is that the difference in impact can be like night and day.
Although stress substances like estrogen, cortisol, serotonin, nitric oxide and lactate each have their basic physiological purpose, chronically raised and systemic exposure has many dangerous disease promoting consequences, and there is little sense in denying that the results can dramatically change behavior and reduce enjoyment of life, regardless of external, ‘objective’ circumstances.
It would not be true to say that the stressful nature of an environment (whether that be emotional stress or any other stress) is unable to influence metabolic, biochemical outcomes (proven to influence mind states and behavior) and it would be equally untrue to suggest that nutritional factors play no part here.
No matter which approach you choose to take, a better understanding of the relationship between the stress substances, thyroid energy metabolism, blood sugar regulation and how they can be safely manipulated in order to improve overall resilience and well-being, can be a powerful thing.
One way I know of to effectively reduce overall stress, is to focus on improving digestion whilst attempting to stabilize blood sugar and ensure the continued provision of metabolic energy supply. Some potentially very useful tools include activated charcoal, raw carrot salad, minocycline, aspirin, methylene blue, cyproheptidine, famotidine, sodium bicarb, pulse and temperature tracking, regular bag breathing and numerous other pro-metabolic things.
Avoiding PUFA and increasing consumption of sugar from sweet ripe juicy fruits, fruit juice, white sugar and honey, with a diet consisting of sufficient protein and other nutrients from milk, cheese and gelatin, is one possible approach to protecting against some of the anti-metabolic effects of socially isolating environments and behaviors, hopefully providing the capacity to discover new avenues for improving outlook and mood, and overall learning capability.
Although some people are better equipped to withstand – at least for a while – the stress promoted by the consumption of lots of PUFA and seeds and grains and raw vegetable matter, combined with the avoidance of good quality sources of protein, vitamins, minerals and sugar, if you are suffering due to social circumstances, it may be worth experimenting with different ways of eating.
Why is it so hard for many people to believe that dietary (and other) changes – such as greater PUFA restriction and increased sugar consumption – known to promote non-stressful metabolism via the improvement of energy systems, can protect against the impact of stress, and change state of mind and behavior?
See more here
Evidence of direct estrogenic regulation of human corticotropin-releasing hormone gene expression. Potential implications for the sexual dimophism of the stress response and immune/inflammatory reaction.
Image : RAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TAT-TATTA by CrimzonLogic