Adelle Davis management of stress through nutritione


Adelle Davis Revisited:
Stress Management Through Nutrition

"... the body reacts to every variety of stress in the same way ..."

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From Let's Get Well, chapter 2:


To meet the nutritional demands of stress must be the first consideration in planning any diet, regardless of its nature. If the body's reaction to stress is understood and the diet can be adjusted accordingly, the problem of achieving health is often largely solved. This subject, therefore, is dealt with here and in most of the following chapters.

What is stress? Any condition that harms the body, breaks down, or causes the death of cells is defined as stress. If the diet is adequate, repair quickly occurs, but when rebuilding fails to keep pace with destruction, illness is produced. Disease results from multiple stresses such as anxiety, overwork, perhaps bacterial or viral attack, and inadequate diet, sleep, and exercise. Unfortunately, it usually brings on numerous other stresses: poor appetite, nausea, vomiting, faulty absorption, fever, pain, diarrhea, dehydration, high urinary losses of many nutrients, exposure to x-rays, and the use of drugs.

In the same way that it requires more material for the repair of a damaged house than for the upkeep of one in good condition, every nutrient is needed in larger amounts to repair a body damaged by the multiple stresses that cause disease and result from it. For example, the stress-or damage-caused by x-raying an animal or by giving it anyone of many commonly used drugs increases the need for protein, linoleic acid, several minerals, and vitamins A, C, and all the B vitamins. Presumably the same is true of humans.

Regardless of the forms of stress, the body immediately tries to repair damage done, but it cannot unless all nutrients are generously supplied. The nutritional needs increase tremendously at the very time eating is most difficult; and a diet adequate for a healthy individual becomes markedly inadequate for an ill one.

The body's reaction to stress. The great medical genius Dr. Hans Selye, of the University of Montreal, revolutionized medical thinking with his theory, now confirmed by thousands of scientific studies, that the body reacts to every variety of stress in the same way. At the onset of stress, a tiny gland at the base of the brain, the pituitary-the boss, of the repair crew-starts protective action by secreting chemical messengers, or hormones, ACTH and STH. These hormones, carried in the blood to two small glands above the kidneys, the adrenals, cause the outside border of these glands, or cortex, to produce cortisone and other messengers. Although the center of these glands manufactures adrenaline, the adrenal hormones referred to throughout this book are those made by the cortex.

These adrenal cortex hormones quickly prepare the body to meet the emergency: proteins, at first drawn from the thymus and lymph glands, are broken down to form sugar necessary for immediate energy; the blood sugar soars and the remaining sugar is stored in the liver in the form of body starch, or glycogen, which can be instantly converted into sugar if needed; the blood pressure increases, minerals are drawn from the bones, fat is mobilized from storage depots, an abnormal amount of salt is retained, and many other changes take place which prepare the body for "fight or flight." These changes also make it possible to repair vital tissues by a process of robbing Peter to pay Paul. This stage, called the "alarm reaction," varies in intensity with the degree of stress.

If the stress continues, the body sets up a "stage of resistance" in which it repairs itself by rebuilding with all the raw materials at hand. Then the diet is adequate, a person may go for years withstanding tremendous stress with little apparent harm. Should the raw materials be insufficient to meet the needs, however, there comes a "stage of exhaustion." Disease develops, if it has not already done so, and eventually death threatens or results.

The first two stages of stress are characterized by constant damage and repair; most illnesses fall in stage three, which is reached when repair fails. Intense stress, such as drastic surgery, a serious car accident or severe burn may cause a person to pass through all three stages-alarm, resistance, and exhaustion-in a single day. More often we experience repeated "alarm reactions" and live through hundreds of "stages of resistance," one piled on top of the other, before pituitary and adrenal exhaustion threatens our lives. During every illness, however, we are in one of these three stages of stress, and to regain our health our diets must be planned accordingly.

If stress is prolonged after the thymus and lymph glands, whose proteins are purposely destroyed, have shriveled, proteins from the blood plasma, liver, kidneys, and other parts of the body are used. Stomach ulcers may occur not only because of increased production of hydrochloric acid, but also because proteins are stolen from the stomach walls. In ulcerative colitis, the destruction of protein brought about by prolonged stress literally eats away the lining of the intestine. During a single day of severe stress, the urinary loss of nitrogen has shown that the amount of body protein destroyed equals that supplied by 4 quarts of milk. Yet if such a tremendous quantity of protein can be eaten during that day, the tissues are unharmed.

In the same way that the body suffers when its proteins are necessarily stolen and not replaced, so are the bones weakened by the theft of calcium. Dozens of other destructive changes similarly occur. Increased blood pressure alone may become dangerous. It is extremely important, therefore, for each of us to learn how to protect ourselves from the ravages of stress.

Nutritional needs are increased. Experimental stress has been produced in untold thousands of animals by exposing them to loud noises, blinking lights, extreme heat or cold, rarefied air, electric shock, and x-rays and other forms of radiation; by injecting into them drugs, chemicals, bacteria, or viruses; by submitting them to surgery, burns, "accidents," fasting, immobility, or making them run on a treadmill to exhaustion; and by feeding them mineral oil, innumerable toxic substances, or diets deficient or excessive in one or more nutrients. The nutritional needs of these animals invariably skyrocket at the onset of stress and remain high in comparison with those of animals not submitted to such torments. Stress produced by forced exercise, giving excessive thyroid, or exposure to x-rays increases the need for all nutrients. If these increased nutritional requirements are met, little harm is done; if not, damage may be severe or even fatal.

How well animals cope with stress depends to a considerable degree on their ability to produce pituitary and adrenal hormones. If the diet has been inadequate in prtein, vitamin E, or the B vitamins, riboflavin (vitamin B2), pantothenic acid, or cholin, sufficient pituitary hormones cannot be produced. Vitamin E, which is more concentrated in the pituitary gland than in any other part of the body, is thought to be particularly essential; it prevents both the pituitary and adrenal hormones from being destroyed by oxygen.

The adrenal cortex is even more sensitive to dietary deprivation. A pantothenic-acid deficiency causes the glands to shrivel and to become filled with blood and dead cells; cortisone and other hormones can no longer be produced, and the many protective changes characteristic of stress do not occur. Even a slight lack of pantothenic acid causes a marked decrease in the quantity of hormones released. The pituitary, adrenal, and sex hormones are all made from cholesterol, but without pantothenic acid, cholesterol cannot be replaced in the glands after once being used . If generous amounts of pantothenic acid are given and the deficiency has not been severe, adrenal hormones can be produced normally within 24 hours. When the deprivation has been prolonged, however, a period of repair is necessary and recovery is slow and uncertain.

A slight deficiency of linoleic acid or vitamins A, B2 or E can also limit hormone production and cause a degeneration of the adrenal cortex; hence each is as essential as pantothenic acid. The adrenals of volunteers low in essential fatty acids produced markedly fewer hormones than when the diet was adequate. Damage resulting from such deficiencies can be quickly rectified because the adrenals need these nutrients in small amounts only. Vitamin B2 given to animals previously deficient in it immediately promotes normal adrenal function. When oil supplying linoleic acid is given to rats lacking it, the production of adrenal hormones quickly increases almost 90 per cent.

Although adrenal hormones can be produced without vitamin C, the need for this nutrient is tremendously increased by stress; and if undersupplied, the glands quickly hemorrhage and the output of hormones is markedly decreased. This vitamin accelerates the rate of cortisone production, appears to improve its utilization and delay its breakdown, and alleviates many of the limitations resulting from a pantothenic-acid deficiency. Apparently because large amounts of vitamin C are used to detoxify harmful substances formed in the body during stress, greater than normal quantities are lost in the urine at this time.

Huge amounts of vitamin C appear to protect animals from every form of stress. For instance, rats exposed to severe cold died unless they received massive quantities of this vitamin. Guinea pigs, exposed to the same low temperature, remained healthy when given 75 times their normal requirement of vitamin C; if only allowed smaller amounts, their adrenals hemorrhaged and many animals died. Translated into human terms, 75 times our normal daily requirement of vitamin C would be approximately 5,625 milligrams. Such a quantity seems startling, yet during severe stress it may not be excessive.

When 144 elderly hospitalized patients whose adrenal glands could no longer respond normally when stimulated with the pituitary hormone ACTH were given 500 milligrams of vitamin C daily, the adrenals were markedly activated. Adrenal hormones in the blood and urine increased immediately. Though the patients suffered from various illnesses and their medication remained unchanged, many showed improvement.

Pantothenic acid protection for humans. Because rats receiving adequate pantothenic acid swam twice as long in cold water as deficient animals, and those given excessive amounts swam 4 times as long, the effect of large quantities of pantothenic acid was tested on healthy men submitted to stress. These volunteers were immersed in cold water for 8 minutes before being given this vitamin and again after receiving 10,000 milligrams (10 grams) of calcium pantothenate daily for 6 weeks. Their stress lasted only 8 minutes, yet the pantothenic acid prevented destruction of protein, retention of salt, and a rise in blood sugar; and it caused the blood cholesterol to fall and gave many other "physiological advantages." There were no toxic effects even though the amount of pantothenic acid taken daily was 500 times that recommended by the National Research Council for people under the stress of illness.

Such a study indicates that a nutrient that can help healthy individuals during a few minutes of stress can prove invaluable to ill persons who may have endured stress for days, months, or even years. Experimental adrenal exhaustion in humans. Pantothenic acid is essential to every cell in the body, but its lack is so often the factor preventing the normal production of cortisone and other adrenal hormones that a deficiency causes symptoms now recognized as characteristic of adrenal exhaustion.

Physicians at the Iowa State University College of Medicine gave volunteers from Iowa State Prison a formula diet adequate except for pantothenic acid. Urine analyses quickly showed a decrease in adrenal hormones, which fell progressively lower as the experiment continued. The men became quarrelsome, hot tempered, and were easily upset. They developed low blood pressure, dizziness, extreme fatigue, muscle weakness, sleepiness, stomach distress, constipation, rapid pulse on exertion, and continuous respiratory infections, especially acute pharyngitis, or sore throats. Their digestive enzymes and stomach acid were markedly reduced; and the movements of the stomach and intestine, so vital to digestion and absorption, also decreased. In 25 days these men became so seriously ill that, if it is possible for anyone to become homesick for a prison, they must have been. The investigators, fearing permanent damage might be done, then gave cortisone and 4,000 milligrams of pantothenic acid daily. The recovery was slow, and urine analyses showed that the adrenals were not restored to normal for almost three weeks.

Yet these men were young, healthy individuals consuming a diet adequate in all other respects and presumably under no undue stress (although one took off and did not return). When the symptoms they developed --- all typical of adrenal exhaustion --- are superimposed on an ill person whose diet is woefully inadequate and who is enduring multiple stresses, a mild illness becomes a serious one and a serious illness may prove fatal.

Variations in nutritional requirements. Mild abnormalities may call for only a few dietary improvements, but serious illness, when stresses are piled upon stresses, causes the nutritional requirements of the entire body as well as of the pituitary and adrenal glands to be increased. Any deficiency becomes worse in proportion to the number, kind, and intensity of stresses. Often such large quantities of vitamin A are excreted in the urine that any amount stored is quickly exhausted. Severe stress also causes the "non-essential" amino acids-those normally made in the body-to become essential because the body cannot produce them rapidly enough. To meet such dietary demands is by no means easy.

How well each of us copes with stress depends on the adequacy of our diet both before and during the stress itself. Malnutrition has been compared to an ,iceberg, which is largely hidden until hit by the Titanic of stress; then its disastrous effects quickly become obvious.

The antistress factors. Certain vitamin-like substances called the antis tress factors are still unidentified but have a fantastically protective action against most types of stress, though not all. For example, when rats are given strychnine, sulfanilamide, promine, atabrine, stilbestrol, excessive thyroid, cortisone, or aspirin, all cause harmful effects that cannot be overcome by increased amounts of any known vitamin, mineral, or other nutrient. Yet the animals are completely protected if given foods supplying the antistress factors. These substances also prolong the survival time of rats exposed to x-rays; and wheat germ particularly causes a marked resistance in animals injected with various bacteria.

The antistress factors are found in liver, especially pork liver, wheat germ, some yeasts, kidneys, and soy flour from which the oil has not been removed. Another equally protective antistress factor, different from the one in liver, is found in the pulp of green leafy vegetables. Research indicates that ill persons should work as many of these foods as possible into their daily diets.

Reaction to stress and disease. A symptom of an illness or even a disease itself is often nothing more than the body's reaction to stress. An adrenal hormone, desoxycortisone, or DOC, for example, often counterbalances the effect of cortisone, keeping it in check. DOC helps the body to fight infections and protects it by setting up an inflammation around bacteria and toxic substances, preventing them from spreading to surrounding tissues; thus is a boil or tubercular lesion walled off. This hormone causes blood and tissue fluids to be drawn to a damaged area and white blood cells and other defense mechanisms to be called in; although swelling, pain, and fever result, the remainder of the body is protected. Thus the reaction to stress, occurring during any inflammation, becomes the disease itself. Such a disease is given the name of the organ involved, with the ending ?-itis.? Arthritis, bursitis, colitis, nephritis, and allergies, among others, are spoken of as "stress diseases."

If so little cortisone can be produced that DOC is not held in check, the inflammation can get out of hand and continue year after year, as it does in arthritis, some allergies, and many diseases. On the other hand, if too little DOC can be produced or if cortisone is given as a medication, the body becomes susceptible to infections, inflammations, and damage from toxic substances.

Another adrenal hormone, aldosterone, holds salt (sodium) and water in the body, thus preventing dehydration. When it is being produced in excessive amounts during the first two stages of stress, so much water may be retained that the hands, ankles, and eyes become puffy and too much potassium is lost in the urine. Such a condition can be the cause of high blood pressure and may become a major problem during certain types of kidney and heart disease. Restricting the salt intake at such a time causes aldosterone to be excreted and prevents the loss of potassium. Taking potassium to replace the urinary losses also rectifies this situation.

Adrenals exhausted from prolonged stress are unable to produce sufficient amounts of aldosterone; too much salt and water are lost from the body, the blood pressure usually falls below normal, dehydration occurs, and potassium is withdrawn from the cells. In this case salt (sodium) rather than potassium is needed. The salt intake, therefore, should be restricted during the "alarm reaction," moderate during the "stage of resistance," and high if the adrenals become exhausted. Rats under prolonged stress, allowed to select their own diet and offered separate nutrients-except .vitamin C which they synthesize-will particularly increase" their intake of salt and pantothenic acid.

ACTH and cortisone therapy. There are times when ACTH or cortisone must be given, and each physician carefully weighs the many advantages against the disadvantages. Either sets up a condition analogous to the onset of stress accelerates the breakdown of body protein, prevents healing, or the synthesis of new proteins causes the thymus and lymph glands to atrophy, or shrivel, and water and salt to be held in the body. They decrease natural hormone production, inhibit the synthesis of antibodies and white blood cells needed to fight infections, and increase both the need for almost everybody requirement and the urinary loss of amino acids, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and vitamin A, C, and all the B vitamins.

Persons being given ACTH or cortisone often develop stomach ulcers and severe spontaneous bruising, nosebleeds, and hemorrhages; and if the sugar formed from the destruction of body proteins is not used for energy, it is changed into fat, which accounts for part of the gain ill weight when cortisone is taken. Dr. Selye points out that while patients receiving cortisone may have an unusual feeling of well-being at first, they often develop high blood pressure, insomnia, infections, disturbances of the intestinal tract, and may become so depressed as to have suicidal tendencies. Such toxicity can be markedly decreased, the period of therapy shortened, and either ACTH or cortisone made more effective if the diet is extremely adequate and especially high in protein, vitamins C and E, and all the B vitamins. Much harm can be done when ACTH is given unless large amounts of pantothenic acid are taken with it; and supplements of vitamin C and potassium should accompany cortisone therapy.

Recently I had letters from a man who had been given cortisone for three years for arthritis and had suffered seven broken vertebrae, which had fractured spontaneously from the pressure of his own body; and from a woman who had taken cortisone since 1952 and had developed Addison's disease, or total adrenal exhaustion. These toxic effects are unnecessary but they do occur. Because of such hazards, it is preferable to allow the body to produce its own hormones whenever possible.

Filling the demands of stress. That adrenal exhaustion has become widespread is shown both by the millions of persons suffering from "stress diseases" and by the number of illnesses for which physicians now give cortisone. Yet the person deficient in pantothenic acid-which seems to be most of our population-receives the same benefit from taking the vitamin as from being given ACTH or cortisone and with no toxic effects.

To meet the demands of stress --- and health can never be restored until they are met --- the starting point is to obtain all nutrients necessary for the production of the pituitary and adrenal hormones. Of these, the quantities of protein, vitamin C, and pantothenic acid required are particularly large, but they vary with individuals and the severity of the stress. It seems to me that scientists have often recommended too little, such as 20 milligrams of pantothenic acid daily for sick persons, or too much, as 15,000 milligrams, which have been given daily for long periods with no toxic effects but are prohibitively expensive.

A combination of vitamins which I have found to give excellent results and believe should be obtained during every illness or severe stress, we might call the antistress formula. Because these vitamins dissolve in water, they are readily lost in the urine; hence greater improvement occurs when small amounts are taken frequently rather than larger quantities at one time. Vitamin B2 is essential for the synthesis of adrenal hormones, but if given alone, a vitamin-B6 deficiency is produced; therefore the amounts of these two vitamins should always be kept the same. I use a tablet containing vitamin C and several B vitamins whose need is increased by stress.

The antistress formula. During acute illness, take with each meal, between each meal, before going to sleep, and approximately every 3 hours during the night if awake, always with fortified milk to supply the necessary protein:
500 milligrams of vitamin C
100 milligrams of pantothenic acid
At least 2 milligrams each of vitamins B2 and B6.

These vitamins can be obtained separately or in a single tablet. They should be continued until improvement is marked. As soon as the acute state has passed, decrease the amounts.

For mild abnormalities, half the foregoing quantities may be taken 6 times daily, although larger amounts of vitamin C would be needed during infections and/or if medication is used. A friend with a limited budget obtained excellent results in clearing up an allergy by taking only 250 milligrams of vitamin C and 10 milligrams of pantothenic acid 6 times daily, and 5 milligrams each of vitamins B2 and B6--she cut 10-milligram tablets in half--every morning and evening. Unless these vitamins are supplied in larger-than-normal amounts, however, recovery cannot be expected.

The antistress program. When possible, have daily in addition to the anti-stress formula and fortified milk:
fresh and/or desiccated liver
a cooked green leafy vegetable
wheat germ as a cereal or added to some food
vitamins A, D, and especially E

and make absolutely sure that all body requirements are supplied in some form.

The ultimate goal. When health is once attained and further stress is recognized, the diet can be improved before serious illness occurs. If such a procedure is followed, a long and rewarding life free from disease becomes a possibility.

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Acid: a substance or chemical that has a high number of electrons in the outer shell, which gives the substance certain reactive properties; capable of combining with a base to produce a salt

ALERT: abbreviation for Adelle's book Let's Eat Right to Keep Fit

Alkaline: also called a base; a substance or chemical that has a low number of electrons in the outer shell, which gives the substance certain reactive properties; it is capable of combining with an acid to produce a salt

Atom: the basic unit of matter, generally thought to be composed of three kinds of smaller particles (protons, neutrons, and electrons), the number of the particles in the atom determining the observable properties that that substance has; generally, the nucleus of the atom is made of protons and neutrons, while the much smaller electrons orbit around the nucleus, one electron for each proton, in an arrangement of spherical shells, or so it has been conceived in the past; there are only about 100 different kinds of atoms in the universe, numbering from 1 (which is hydrogen, having one proton and one electron) to Lawrencium (having 103 protons and electrons)

Chemical: a substance derived by chemical processes, or used to create something through chemical processes; a chemical is usually composed of just one kind of molecule, or a specific blend of several kinds of molecules in specific proportions

Compound: a mixture of chemicals; also called a "chemical compound"

Element: a substance composed of just one kind of atom; look up "element" in your dictionary for a list of them; they can be gaseous, liquid or solid

Iodide: any of several compounds containing iodine, artifically added to salt to prevent goiter, an enlarging of the thyroid gland of the throat due to deficiency of iodine; Adelle believed strongly in using real sea salt, or iodized salt

Iodine: chemical element number 53, using the symbol "I"; needed by the thyroid glands to produce the hormone thyroxin, which profoundly regulates growth and metabolism; certain soils that were once under the ocean (along the Atlantic Coast, and parts of Kansas, South Dakota, Utah, western Texas and New Mexico) have enough iodine to produce foods of adequate iodine content --- elsewhere, the only reliable sources are sea foods including ocean fish including shellfish, kelp of all kinds, and real sea salt (ALERT p. 181)

Mineral: homogeneous substance composed of molecules made of a combination of several elements, usually in solid and/or rock form, often as crystals, generally found in the ground and sea water (which contains all of the elements on Earth); when nutritionists speak of "minerals" they usually mean elements, such as calcium, iron, magnesium, many others; this website will use the term "mineral elements" for such chemicals

Nutrient: a general term for any substance in foods, or added to foods, that promotes health in describable ways

Organic: Adelle writes, "grown on humus-rich soil without the addition of artificial fertilizers" and in her day, the term "organic" meant food grown to be vibrantly health-promoting, full of life, close to nature, and all the indefineables we all know mean naturally grown on rich soil, managed by good farmers who keep down pests through their expertise and skills; in chemistry, the term "organic" simply means molecules that contain carbon, hydrogen and oxygen, which all life is largely composed of; today, states and countries define the term differently, but it usually means food that does not have added artificial chemicals of any kind; such a term says little or nothing about the vibrancy of life in the food

Salt: the word itself is cognate to the Greek hals, meaning both "salt" and "sea"; sodium chloride, or "table salt", is just one type of salt, which generally means a residue left over from the evaporation of a large amount of water.

Sea salt: as a labelling term, this means any kind of salt derived from the sea, but usually this type of product is composed solely of sodium chloride, with added iodide to protect against goiter, and some other chemical to keep it from attracting moisture. The term was popularized during the Health Food Movement when people made real sea salt by evaporating sea water and keeping all the crystals and compounds that were formed; the salts thus obtained are composed of all the numerous mineral elements on earth, in proportions needed by the body (mineral elements occur in the blood in almost the identical proportions in which they occur in sea water). Sadly, though there is more iodine in real sea salt than in the commercial product, and in a natural form, the FDA has decreed that real sea salt must be labelled with the scary words: "Does not contain iodide, a necessary nutrient".

Vitamin: literally means simply "life-giving"; a man-made chemical or naturally-occurring compound derived from foods, plants, or animals, that is essential to human health

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