This blog is a way of sharing the information and resources that have helped me to recover my son Roo from an Autism Spectrum Disorder. What I have learned is to view our symptoms as the results of underlying biological cause, which can be identified and healed. I say "our symptoms" because I also have a neuro-immune disorder called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis.

And, of course, I am not a doctor (although I have been known to impersonate one while doing imaginative play with my son)- this is just our story and information that has been helpful or interesting to us. I hope it is helpful and interesting to you!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Nora Gedgaudas on Adrenal Function, Hypoglycemia, and Chronic Infection

These notes are for one section of a talk given by Nora Gedgaudas during the Paleo Summit.  She was refuting the idea of safe starches, put forward by Paul Jaminet (author of The Perfect Health Diet), and discussing hypoglycemia.  She explains that hypoglycemia only occurs in people who are (unnaturally) temporarily adapted to getting glucose from dietary sugars and starches, and that for people who are fat burners- which is what the human body is adapted for- mood and cognitive functioning are not dependent on blood sugar levels.  The human body can make all of the glucose it needs in the liver from amino acids, there is no need to get it from the diet.  

The exception to this, she explains, is when people have chronically depressed cortisol levels.  What really caught my attention is that she says that this low cortisol production is not because the adrenals themselves have been "exhausted" by stress, which she says is an outdated idea.  She says that cortisol output is not controlled by the glad itself, but by the brain.  It is mitigated by the HPA (Hypothalamus Pituitary Axis), specifically by a group of cells inside the hypothalamus called the Paraventricular Nuclear cells (PVN).  The level of cortisol that we produce depends on how these cells are stimulated- whether the balance of neurochemicals leans towards excitatory or inhibitory, but in particular by the presence of inflammatory cytokines.  To rephrase that, low cortisol levels are caused by inflammation in the brain.  Various stressors on the body result in the release of these cytokines, including chronic infection.  This process can also impact our balance of neurotransmitters.

Levels of cortisol that are either suppressed or too high can have a negative effect on immune activity in our guts.  Adequate cortisol levels are necessary to regulate our glucose needs.  Without adequate cortisol, we feel chronically fatigued and inflamed.  She says that hypoglycemia isn't a glucose deficiency, but rather it's an infection or some other source of inflammation that needs to be addressed.  Blood sugar surges suppress our immune function, which she sees as further evidence that low carb diets are not to blame for the rampant immune suppression going on currently- rather low fat diets, which tend to be high in sugar and starches, are a more likely culprit.  She says that the cultivation of a fat-burning metabolism is a life-saver for people with auto-immune conditions.  (This is very validating for me to hear, as I have noticed that my body does so much better when in ketosis.)