Part I Stress
I’ve been receiving a lot of requests for Vitamin C, Zinc and elderberry, but unfortunately, as of this writing, I’m out of stock and so are most of supplement companies I work with.
These have become worse than toilet paper and nearly impossible to find. I understand what drives them, but this is completely and totally irrational and creates a shortage in the market and those that actually need these products like immunocompromised are unable to get them. Sadly, these products aren’t even the best for the purpose.
I want to discuss what’s better and easier to find.
Like a well assimilated American, I can understand this drive to gratify your need for safety and control. People are afraid and that’s the truth. We all feel like we’re between the rock and the hard place, and even though we have little control, we do things that give us some sense of control and autonomy, like eating, panic buying, excessive cleaning, etc.
I was almost 17 when I left former USSR and do remember the proverbial long lines for meat, butter and yes, toilet paper. As I got little older, my parents sometime would leave me waiting in one line while they would go and wait in a different line across the street. I hated to wait in crowded line, being pushed around and yelled at. I was afraid of loosing my spot and my dad getting angry and yelling at me in front of the crowd. I dreamed of being in a place where everything was abundant. On my first day shopping in the US, I couldn’t believe the variety and assortment, it was truly amazing to see. I would’ve never imagined it happening here, on a much smaller scale and temporary, but the reality is that it is. The only question is what can we do about it. How can we gain some sense of control?
Russians outline this point with this dry humor joke:
At the hardware store a customer asked a store clerk if they had any screws. The clerk said that they didn’t and left it at that, so the customer left looking disappointed. A manager happens to overhear their conversation and said to the clerk, next time someone asks you if you have any screws offer something else instead. Say we don’t have any screws but we definitely have some nails, do you understand? The clerk nodded his head and promised it won’t happen again. Next day an opportunity to show off in from of the manager presented itself. A customer asked him if they had any toilet paper. Toilet paper? Said the clerk. No, we don’t, but we have very good sandpaper.
Hopefully my attempt at humor made you laugh because this is a crux of my point. First of all, use sandpaper if you’re out of toilet paper, second, learn to deal with stress. Our immune system cannot work when under a chronic stress. Period.
You see, your nervous, hormonal and immune system are intimately connected by messengers called cytokines. These messengers work together like an orchestra, so if any part is affected all systems feel the effects. Your body’s job is to maintain homeostasis at all times. When it fails to do that disease happen. So, when there is stress on the system, adrenal glands produce cortisol, in order to maintain that homeostasis. In short bursts, cortisol sends a message to your brain to decrease further cortisol production. This is a normal response. However, if the stress is prolonged, this feedback mechanism responds very differently by exaggerating the activation of even more cortisol. This overproduction leads to a dampening response from the brain on its control of the cortisol production and the consequences of this is immune suppression, depression, insulin resistance, obesity, cardiovascular disorders, the list goes on.
So, what to do?
Meditation or prayer practice can wipe away day’s stress and balance out stress hormones. I personally rely of gratitude and mindfulness to get me out of anxiety and uncertainty of current situation.
Breathing is also important and can get your heart and mind harmonized. Check out Buteyko method. He’s Russian, of course.
Sex. It gets you out of stress and fear response and releases oxytoxin that facilitates bonding, trust and reduces anxiety. Do have more sex.
Exercise is another major stress reliever and I’ll discuss it in Part III of this article.
In my practice, when stress is the main complaint, I usually try to find out what’s happening with the stress hormones and what physiological process causing this. I usually start out with saliva test to measure 4 cortisol levels, AM, NOON, PM and MIDNIGHT, DHEA, 17-OH Progesterone, LH for men and FSH for women. Saliva is better and obviously less invasive way of measuring active (free) hormones and for our purposes, it is better than blood. I also test for antibodies that line our GI tract and oral mucosa (SIgA), which are the measure of how your immune system functions and how well it resists the invaders, including viruses. In addition, I look for inflammation causing agents, such as foods, bacteria, fungus and viruses. I also try to figure out what other physiological stressors are affecting the balance. Most common are blood sugar balance, both high or low, detoxification issues, nutritional deficiencies, microbiome imbalances and heavy metal toxicity. We then plan how to fix those issues most effectively and least invasively.
Yes, Vitamin C is important, but you can get plenty of Vitamin C from green veggies and fruit. For example, a half a cup of yellow peppers provide 140mg of vitamin C and half a lemon nearly 50 mg. There is 5mg of zinc in 3.5 oz of red meat or one oyster! If you’re vegetarian or vegan, lentils, beans and seeds are high in zinc.
The bottom line here is eating a balanced diet high in fresh fruits and veggies, plenty of protein and avoid processed food and you would get all the vitamin C and Zinc to fight the infections.
The biggest stress on your immune system comes from stress. That’s why it’s so important to deal with stress. Here is what I do that helps me and a lot of my patients.
First thing is I usually put them on good multivitamin. Don’t even think about taking one a day. The don’t work and are a total waste of money. All the studies that show vitamins don’t work, are done on these shitty one-a-day kind and is completely dishonest and bias.
Phosphatidylserine is nutrient that your body makes out of several amino acids, B12, folic acid and some fatty acids, helps to modulate central nervous system’s response to stress. PS is no BS, I personally love this product, take it myself and seriously consider it in cases when the cortisol levels both high or low.
Adaptogenic herbs such as ginseng, rhodiola, ashwagandha and holybasil, combat fatigue, enhance mental performance, ease depression and anxiety, and help you thrive rather than just muddle through.
DHEA adrenal hormone that can go down when there is a high demand for cortisol. Low levels can cause fatigue, depression, low immune function, low sex drive and poor stress tolerance.In conclusion, to improve your immune system, first improve your stress. Taking elderberry and vitamin C maybe helpful, but without a proper immune response those supplements won’t make that much of a difference. Instead, address your adrenal health and watch your immune system thrive.
B-Complex. B Vitamins are important for the functioning of adrenal glands, boosting cognitive performance and reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety. B5 is specifically important, but I recommend taking it together with other B vitamins.
Stay well and safe,
Arthur Gazaryants, DOM, LAC, PNM