Huge amounts of vitamin C appear to protect from every form of stress.
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. The effect of large quantities of pantothenic acid was tested on healthy men submitted to stress. These volunteers were immersed in cold water for eight minutes before being given this vitamin and again after receiving 10,000 milligrams (10 grams) of calcium pantothenate daily for six weeks. Their stress lasted only eight 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 the 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 antistress 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 anti-stress 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, Des-oxycortisone, 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 it’s. 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.