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by Gregory Kelly
We all know too much of this can have a detrimental impact on our health, but did you know that your blood type is a large determinant of your stress response? In pigs blood type is an accurate predictor of susceptibility or resistance against something called porcine stress syndrome. Certainly no one would argue that a pig's susceptibility to stress can be extrapolated to humans, but if blood type can impact a pigs susceptibility to stress...could blood type influence our stress response?
Several researchers have actually looked at the connection between blood type and the response to stress in (non-pig), human subjects. The findings have been quite consistent; the evidence quite clear. Just like pigs, our response to stress is influenced by and linked to blood type. Blood type plays a significant role in the basal levels of stress hormones we produce, the way people respond to stress, and how quickly they recover from stress.
While a full explanation of the blood type response to stress will have to wait for the publication of Live Right 4 Your Type (there is an excellent chapter in the upcoming book on this subject). The "Reader's Digest" version is that blood type A tends to be the most affected by the type of stress we encounter everyday. As always, blood type O's are at the opposite side of the spectrum from A's and so are the most stress resistant. Blood type B's and AB's are in between (with B's being much more A-like in their stress response and AB's being more O-like) these extremes with their stress responses.
When discussing stress, it is useful to look at the model created by the noted stress researcher Hans Selye. He provided the classic model for the progression of our adaptation to stress. He observed that given any source of external biological stress, an organism would respond with a predictable biological pattern in an attempt to restore its internal balance. He termed this the General Adaptation Syndrome or Biological Stress Syndrome and divided the response into 4 categories. the "alarm reaction" characterized by an immediate activation of the nervous system and adrenal gland a "resistance phase" characterized by hypothalamic pituitary-adrenal axis (HPA) activation a "pre-exhaustion" stage characterized by adrenal enlargement, ulcers, and immune system under-activity an "exhaustion phase"
Alarm would be the "fight or flight" or initial responses. In an ideal world, once the stressful event has passed we would then shift away from "alarm" and reestablish our internal balance. Unfortunately real life situations do not always allow for this recovery. This is especially the case for blood type A's, who seem to internally switch into "fight or flight" with even minor stress and live in the "resistance" stage of the stress response.
Because of this, from a health perspective, the importance of calming the nervous system or reducing stress is paramount for all blood type A's. When it comes to reducing stress levels...blood type A has to do more, for less return. Strategies to move them out of the "resistance" stage (to sensitize their ability to regulate cortisol levels) are imperative, as are strategies to prevent an arrival at "exhaustion". Herbal adaptogens and extra nutritional support can help buffer against excessive elevation of cortisol, to resensitize the body to regulate the cortisol stress response, and to protect the adrenal gland from functional exhaustion.
The term "adaptogen" has been used to categorize plants, which improve the non-specific response to and promote recovery from stress. Soviet researchers, beginning in the 1950's were the first to determine that many plants, especially belonging to the Araliaceae family, have adaptogenic properties. Perhaps the two best known adaptogens are Panax ginseng (Korean or Chinese ginseng) and Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng). In humans, extracts from these plants increase the ability to accommodate to adverse physical conditions, improve mental performance, and enhance the quality of work under stressful conditions. Other adaptogens important for the stress response include Boerhaavia and licorice.
Panax ginseng (Korean ginseng) The combination of its historical reputation and the abundance of animal research (some human research as well) have elevated Panax ginseng (often just referred to as ginseng) to being virtually synonymous with the term adaptogen. It appears fairly certain that ginseng can actually help the adrenal gland to respond to stress by actually either making the adrenal gland bigger (so more capable of a response) or decreasing cortisol when it is already too high. But, maybe even more importantly, ginseng appears to make your body more sensitive or responsive, perhaps thereby allowing your body to make more cortisol when it is required but allowing a quicker normalization of cortisol once the stress is removed. These activities lie at the very core of the definition of adaptogen, which implies a capability for a bi-directional or normalizing effect on physiological function in the face of stress.
Eleutherococcus senticosus (Siberian ginseng) Eleutherococcus is better known by its common name, Siberian ginseng (and is occasionally seen in health food or vitamin stores as Ci Wu Jia). Although it is called ginseng, technically speaking it not a ginseng at all and is, botanically speaking, not a close relative of Panax ginseng. Russian researchers in the 1940's and 1950's did a great deal of research on plants that function as adaptogens. Eleutherococcus was arguably the plant that consistently produced the best adaptogenic effects in their research. The data gathered indicated that ingestion of extracts from this plant increased the ability to accommodate to adverse physical conditions, improved mental performance, and enhanced the quality of work under stressful conditions.
This plant also appears to have an overall normalizing effect on the stress response, allowing better performance in the face of more stressful conditions, and similar to Panax ginseng, a greater sensitivity or enhanced ability to reestablish hormonal balance after stress. This herb also has a strong reputation for preventing stress-induced exhaustion.
Boerhaavia diffusa The alkaloid fraction of the root of Boerhaavia diffusa has a dramatic effect in buffering against elevation of plasma cortisol levels under stressful conditions. Subsequent to this buffering of cortisol, Boerhaavia alkaloids also prevent a drop in immune system performance. Indicating a bi-directional adaptogenic activity, these same plant alkaloids also act to reverse the depletion of adrenal cortisol associated with adrenal exhaustion. Since blood type A (and is most impacted by the tendency to over produce cortisol, this herb is tailor made for these blood types.
Bacopa ('Brahmi') is an Ayurvedic botanical with apparent anti-anxiety, anti-fatigue, and memory-strengthening effects. Bacopa monniera, Linn. (Brahmi: Scrophulariaceae) an Ayurvedic medicine is clinically used for memory enhancing, epilepsy, insomnia and as mild sedative. The results suggested that Brahmi is a potent antioxidant. (Indian J Exp Biol 1996 Jun;34(6):523-6) Administration of extract from Bacopa monnieri, to children with mental retardation, was reported to significantly improve short-term and long-term memory. (Ann Acad Med Singapore 2000 Jan;29(1):37-41) Modern research has validated the Ayurvedic claims indicating that Bacopa monniera can improve performance in various learning situations. (J Ethnopharmacol 1982 Mar;5(2):205-14) Results suggest that Bacopa, like the anti-Parkinson drug deprenyl, exhibits a significant antioxidant effect after subchronic administration which, unlike the latter, extends to the hippocampus as well. The results suggest that the increase in oxidative free radical scavenging activity by BM may explain, at least in part, the cognition- facilitating action of Bacopa, recorded in Ayurvedic texts, and demonstrated experimentally and clinically. (Phytother Res 2000 May;14(3):174-9)
Bacopa has additional effects on both bowel disturbance and allergy. Among 169 patients with irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), standard therapy, a compound Ayurvedic preparation containing Bacopa monniere, along with a matching placebo were given in a double blind randomised trial for 6 wk. The Ayurvedic preparation in 57 patients was found effective in 64. 9 per cent, while standard therapy (60 patients) was useful in 78.3 per cent. Patients on placebo (52 patients) showed improvement in 32.7 per cent only. Ayurvedic therapy was particularly beneficial in diarrhoea predominant form as compared to placebo. (Indian J Med Res 1989 Dec;90:496-503) Bacopa has also been shown to stabilize mast cells, an anti-allergy mnechanism of action not unlike that of many conventional anti-allergy medications. Extracts of Bacopa monnieri were tested for mast cell stabilising effect. Theyxhibited potent activity comparable to disodium cromoglycate, a known mast cell stabiliser. (Fitoterapia 2001 Mar;72(3):284-5)
Glycyrrhiza glabra (Licorice) Glycyrrhiza glabra is best known as an herb for stress-induced exhaustion, but in appropriate amounts, licorice has a harmonizing effect on the stress response.
Nutrients and Stress
When you are under a great deal of physiological or mental/emotional stress, several vitamins are of particular importance. These include antioxidants such as vitamin C and Lipoic acid, B vitamins but especially vitamin B1, B5 and B6, and lastly, the nutrient phosphatidylserine.
Vitamin C (ascorbic acid) Apparently, even dating back to anecdotal reports of Europeans interacting with the Native American Indians, it is reported that eating an animal's adrenal gland could reverse symptoms of scurvy. Not surprisingly, medical science has found that the adrenal glands are a place of extremely high body levels of vitamin C. and, under stress, your requirement for this vitamin goes up. Evidence also shows that vitamin C, in amounts greater than the RDA, is needed to optimally support the adrenal glands function and buffer against high cortisol when you are exposed to a lot of stress. In effect, a deficiency of this vitamin will raise cortisol levels and make it much more likely someone will remain in the "resistance" stage of the stress response.
B Vitamins (vitamins B1, B5, B6 and lipoic acid) While without question, an absolute deficiency in any of the B vitamins would be detrimental; several of these vitamins are critical for a healthy response to stress. Experimental and clinical results have shown thiamin (vitamin B1) to be an effective nutrient to protect the adrenal gland from functional exhaustion when undergoing stress.
A combination of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), and vitamins B1 and B6 has been shown to improve the stress response and simultaneously normalizes the rhythmic activity of cortisol.
Pantethine is the most physiologically active form of vitamin B5. Deficiency of this nutrient or its precursor, pantothenic acid, results in a decrease in adrenal function with the most noted symptom of deficiency being fatigue; while evidence indicates supplementation normalizes the adrenal glands capacity to respond to stress.
Lipoic acid, primarily known as a superior antioxidant, has been shown to prevent the accumulation of stress hormones in heart tissue secondary to stress (very important for A's with their higher risk for heart disease). Lipoic acid also enhances the elimination of some stress hormones and can partially restore some of the immune suppression, which occur secondary to high cortisol levels.
Phosphatidylserine. Phosphatidylserine, found in trace amounts in lecithin, is a useful supplement to help regulate the stress-induced activation of the HPA axis. It appears to act primarily to make an individual more sensitive to the cortisol stress response. Current evidence suggests that it tends to help prevent large increases in cortisol and helps to return cortisol to a more normal level after stress.
All of the components have been blended into a unique NAP product called Cortiguard which can be used in all blood types requiring additional nutritional support because of stress.
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