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Hormones And Metabolism

Hormones are chemical messengers that continuously instruct the body's systems to maintain the status quo. Insulin for example is a hormone that helps to keep blood glucose levels stable.

Metabolism is the term for the processes within the body that break down and build up substances, releasing and using up energy as they do so to build and fuel the body and its activities.

Here we will address four common conditions. They are:

Gout

Uric acid is a waste product of the body and will normally be filtered from the blood by the kidneys and pass out harmlessly in the urine. However if there is a high level in the blood the excess will be deposited around the joints of the body in the form of crystals. The main symptom of gout is the painful inflammation of the joint, commonly at the base of the big toe.

Gout is less common that arthritis but can be very painful and debilitating.

What you can do to help

Ensure that you get plenty of water to drink to help flush the toxins from the system and to encourage the action of the kidneys.

Avoid drinking alcohol completely. (see.. for tips)

Vitamin C at 4 g daily helps to reduce the blood levels of uric acid and helps to encourage urination.

Supplements of zinc (50 mg per day) and magnesium (300 mg per day) are considered to be useful. Magnesium in particular is responsible for normal hormonal activity which can help prevent attacks.

Note: These are best taken under medical supervision as the doses are high.

Eat plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables and avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages. This is to reduce the toxic load on the body as much as is possible.

Some individuals with mild lead poisoning, such as plumbers, can develop gout and may benefit from treatment designed to reduce their lead accumulation. High doses of vitamin C and zinc are useful, as is a diet high in fiber.

Hypoglycemia

Hypoglycemia, or low blood sugar, is a condition that is often unrecognized and is often incorrectly diagnosed with inadequate or incorrect treatments. There is hypoglycemia associated with diabetes. This hypoglycemia occurs when insulin dependent diabetics give themselves too much insulin, resulting in an excessive fall in blood glucose levels.

However the hypoglycemia we will discuss here is reactive hypoglycemia. This is where the low blood sugar is brought about by less severe metabolic problems than the previous form. However it is an important form and the range of symptoms can be wide and the effects on the sufferers can be devastating.

Blood sugar, under normal circumstances, is controlled within reasonably close limits. When the blood sugar is consistently too high the person becomes a diabetic, when it goes too low, the person is said to have hypoglycemia.

Symptoms and signs of hypoglycemia

The main ones are:

Symptoms are commonest at mid-morning and mid to late afternoon, usually two to five hours following food. Exercise may lead to the symptoms but food or glucose may not provide definite relief.

Causes of hypoglycemia

Consuming refined carbohydrates is one of the commonest factors in hypoglycemia. Foods containing sugar and glucose rapidly increase the blood sugar levels and can result in the excessive production of insulin, resulting in turn in an excessive lowering of blood sugar.

Unfortunately, some people, including some doctors, are under the misconception that if a person has a low blood sugar level they can simply have a cup of tea with some sugar. This is wrong.

Whilst this might well produce relief of the symptoms for a while, it encourages a vicious cycle: low blood sugar, eating refined carbohydrate, excessive insulin production, followed by low blood sugar levels.

One approach to treatment is the elimination of refined carbohydrates from the diet (this is discussed below).

Chronic stress.

Food intolerance - there is some evidence that specific foods can actually produce an abnormally low or high blood sugar irrespective of the carbohydrate content. The culprit foods are often wheat and dairy products.

Too much or too little thyroid production - both of which can result in a low blood sugar.

Deficiencies of vitamins and minerals - chromium, magnesium, potassium, manganese, zinc, and the B group vitamins are all associated with hypoglycemia.

Drug effects - including metronidazole (used for the treatment of infections, commonly vaginal infections).

Excessive tea and coffee consumption.

Cigarette smoking - increases the release of both insulin and glucose from the liver.

Alcohol consumption - most alcoholics are hypoglycemic and a part of coming off alcohol should include the use of an anti-hypoglycemia diet.

What you can do to help

Avoid refined carbohydrates - this is extremely important.

Eat a high protein/low carbohydrate diet.

Eat small frequent meals.

Vitamin and mineral supplements should include: Vitamin B complex 20 - 100 mg per day, vitamin B3 (nicotinamide or niacinamide) 1,000 - 3,000 mg per day. Some people do very well on the high doses of vitamin B3, especially those who wake up in the night around 2-3 am with hypoglycemia. It should be emphasized that this is niacinamide and not niacin.

NOTE: Anyone who is having high dose niacinamide should have their liver function tests reviewed every month or two by their doctor.

Supplements should also include:

Avoid coffee, tea and alcohol as these stimulate insulin release.

If you smoke try to quit. ( see for tips)

Get plenty of exercise and adequate rest especially if you have trouble sleeping through the night (see for sleep & and for exercise tips).

Try to get you stress levels under control. (see & for stress)

Diabetes

Diabetes mellitus is cause by the lack of insulin production in the pancreas. As a result the body is unable to process glucose. Diabetes has two types, insulin dependent and non insulin dependent (also known as late onset diabetes).

Some common nutritional deficiencies associated with diabetes include:

Hypoglycemia is associated with the production of too much insulin resulting in too much sugar being driven into the cells. The blood sugar level is then reduced to a low level. This does not matter so much for the muscle cells and other cells in the body as it does for the cells of the brain, because glucose (sugar) is required by the brain for it to work normally. It is not surprising then that many of the symptoms associated with hypoglycemia are related to mental functioning.

What you can do to help

Studies have shown that high doses of vitamin E improve the insulin action in late onset diabetes.

High doses of antioxidants are thought to lead to the regression of complications of diabetes. These can be taken as part of a good multivitamin and mineral supplement.

Vitamin C at 1 g per day has been found to have a beneficial effect on blood sugar control and blood lipids (fats).

Vitamin B6 has been used to successfully control diabetes that develops in pregnancy (gestational diabetes). This should be taken as a part of a vitamin B complex supplement unless otherwise prescribed by your health professional.

Zinc is easily lost in the urine of a diabetic person, which may cause poor resistance to infections, poor ability to heal wounds and may also cause a reduced response to insulin. Supplements of 10 to 30 mg per day should be of assistance.

Gamma-linolenic acid (GIA) has been shown to improve the symptoms of diabetes significantly.

Brewer's yeast contains chromium which helps to normalize blood sugar levels and metabolism. Take 2 to 3 tablespoons daily.

Onions and garlic lower blood sugar levels. Ensure that you have plenty on your diet. Odorless garlic supplements are available.

Where possible exclude simple sugars (sucrose, glucose) from your diet.

Avoid alcohol and reduce your salt intake.

Thyroid problems

The thyroid gland produces hormones that control the rate at which chemical reactions occur in the body. An overactive thyroid causes that actions to speed up resulting in irritability, weight loss, inability to rest and sleep, heart palpitations, and if untreated, heart failure. An underactive thyroid results in fatigue, weight gain, and general apathy.

What you can do to help an underactive thyroid

Nutritional deficiencies such as zinc, vitamin A, selenium and iron and a toxic overload are thought to be the main factors involved in an underactive thyroid. Therefore you need to:

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References

Bland, J. 1996, Contemporary Nutrition. J & B Associates.

Davies, S. and A. Stewart., 1997, Nutritional Medicine. Pan.

Holden, S., Hudson, K., Tilman, J. & D. Wolf, 2003, The Ultimate Guide to Health from Nature. Asrolog Publication.

Pressman, A. and S. Buff, 2000, The Complete Idiot's Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. (2nd Ed.) Alpha Books.

Soothill, R. 1996, The Choice Guide to Vitamins and Minerals. A Choice Book Publication.

Sullivan, K. 2002, Vitamins and Minerals: A Practical Approach to a Health Diet and Safe Supplementation. Harper Collins.

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