Stressful thoughts and sugar.
“Some planets rolled in those openings on the side of my head. I haven’t heard anything for years.
Whenever I see a mouth moving in front of me I just assume someone is saying something brilliant and then go on about my day feeling very secure.”
How you feel about the people around you, as well as how you ‘choose’ to interpret their behaviour, can make a huge difference to your physiology and therefore your health, however enough sugar certainly can be helpful.
One way in which stressful thoughts interfere with metabolic health relates to their potential impact upon thyroid function and energy systems.
Emotional distress of any kind immediately increases the requirement for energy – quickly using up glycogen (blood glucose) stores – promoting the release of cortisol and adrenalin as a means to providing alternative fuel as soon as it becomes necessary.
One of cortisol’s main jobs – when stress is increasing and glycogen stores are running out – is to quickly start converting muscle tissue into sugar, to ensure that it is never completely unavailable.
A particular role of adrenalin is the mobilisation of free fatty acids into circulation in the blood as fuel, reducing the cells requirements for glucose and slowing metabolic energy systems.
Although this can be seen as an evolutionarily adaptive response – protecting from and preventing a rapid wastage of valuable muscle and other tissue – the more recent introduction of significant amounts of polyunsaturated fat into the diet is in many ways turning what was once a biological antidote to periods of temporary hardship (including the perception of potential danger) into a chronic self-perpetuating inflammatory stress promoting state.
The polyunsaturated fats – when released into the blood – are known to increase the release of many substances which prevent energy systems from returning to optimal function when conditions improve. They can also potentially worsen the perceived level of threat, and multiply the severity of physiological damage resulting from the stress.
Apart from their causative role in the development of chronic inflammation, the polyunsaturated fats have – in a variety of ways – been shown to promote a systemic increase in levels of bacterial endotoxin, serotonin secretion, estrogen production, and cortisol release.
All of these substances – as well as being proven mediators of metabolic stress and the suppression of thyroid function – have been associated with increased levels of aggressive and violent behaviour, anxiety, and many other symptoms of depression and learned helplessness. In this sense, these and other factors can be seen as having the potential to change ones perception of their particular environment.
The sufficient consumption of simple carbohydrates – from milk, sweet fruit, fruit juice, honey or white sugar – can provide a means to limiting the effects of stress in numerous important ways. One example of how this could occur is via the suppression of cortisol and adrenalin – and the resultant reduction in the release of the polyunsaturated fats from storage – subsequently helping to limit exposure to some (or all) of the inflammatory and potentially mood altering substances previously mentioned.
Besides the fact that the polyunsaturated fats were – throughout the majority of our evolutionary past – most likely far less available for consumption, we also have the capability to convert excess sugar into fat to be stored for later use when the need arises.
The omega-9 fats and saturated fats produced under these conditions are not only anti-inflammatory and protective against the stress substances, they also help to ensure the effects of stress are self-limiting, allowing for and assisting with the return to a more efficient metabolic function when conditions begin to improve.
Although I am not by any means attempting to belittle or diminish the relevance of the impact of specific trauma experienced by an individual, I do however believe that the above factors – as well as exposure to numerous other environmental stresses and toxins – are having a considerable effect on the ability of many to withstand periods of stress, perceive it as survivable, and return to normal metabolic function when conditions change.
One could almost say that in today’s world – where it is often very difficult if not impossible to avoid being consistently and chronically subjected to the above mentioned (as well as numerous other) physiological and environmental poisons – stressful thoughts and experiences are becoming potentially more harmful and sometimes even unmanageable.
It is unfortunate – as well as a little ironic – that at a time when the requirement for the use of supplemental sugar (on top of basic, ‘normal’ physiological needs) for both therapeutic and protective purposes, is probably greater than ever before, anti-sugar rhetoric and propaganda encouraging sugar avoidance is becoming increasingly commonplace.
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