Posts filed under Nutrition

Cooking — A Spiritual Practice

According to Sophie Egan in her book Devoured, March 2015 was a watershed moment in the eating lives of Americans: for the first time since the government began tracking our spending habits around food, we spent more money on food prepared outside the home (restaurants, takeout, etc.) than on groceries that we cooked at home.

Understanding Adrenal Fatigue

By Gary Merel

Adrenal Fatigue: What is it?

With more and more stress at home and at work, it is unsurprising that adrenal fatigue is on the rise. The pressures of life put many in a constant state of “fight or flight,” leaving our adrenal glands working overtime until they can no longer keep up. Adrenal fatigue is a direct result of this overworked, stressed, and rushed lifestyle, and can result in some serious health consequences in both the short and long term. Unfortunately, some medical doctors only treat patients for adrenal fatigue when these patients exhibit symptoms of Addison’s disease (extremely little adrenal function) or Cushing’s disease (hyperactive adrenal function). Addison’s and Cushing’s disease are on opposite ends of the spectrum, and only affect 2% of the population. However, some experts believe that over 80% of the population suffers from some level of adrenal malfunction. In the following article we will describe what the adrenals are, their role in the body, and some simple methods for determining how effectively your adrenals are working for you.

Some experts believe that over 80% of the population suffers from some level of adrenal malfunction.

What are the adrenal glands?

The adrenals glands are walnut-sized glands located above the kidneys. Each gland is composed of two separate functional entities. The outer zone, also known as the adrenal cortex, is comprised of roughly 80-90% of the glands size and secretes adrenal steroids (Cortisol, DHEA(S), estrogen, testosterone, and Aldosterone). The inner zone, or medulla, accounts for roughly 10-20% of the gland, and is responsible for secreting adrenaline. Cortisol, DHEA and adrenaline are the three main adrenal stress hormones.

What is cortisol?

Cortisol helps us meet the big challenges of the day. It converts proteins into energy and counteracts inflammation. In short bursts, it is very useful. In urgent situations, cortisol can increase heart rate, blood pressure, release energy stores for immediate use, slow digestion and non-emergency functions, and sharpen senses. Our bodies are not meant to maintain these states for very long, nor enter into them very often.

It can be very detrimental when cortisol release is sustained at high levels for long periods of time. Over-production of cortisol means the underproduction of other necessary hormones. We remain stuck in a state of overdrive while our energy levels, bone health, muscle production, mood, joints, sex drive and immunity all suffer.

Over-production of cortisol means the underproduction of other necessary hormones. We remain stuck in a state of overdrive while our energy levels, bone health, muscle production, mood, joints, sex drive and immunity all suffer.

The Adrenal Rhythm

The human adrenal gland releases cortisol in a cycle with the highest value released in the morning, the lowest value released in the evening. This 24-hour cycle is known as the circadian rhythm. These hormones help supply us with the necessary energy we need throughout the day.

The human adrenal gland releases cortisol in a cycle with the highest value released in the morning, the lowest value released in the evening.

How Modern Life Contributes to Adrenal Malfunction

Unlike our ancestors, we live in a state of constant stress. Instead of sporadic, immediate demands followed by rest, we live in a world of constant communication, fast food, environmental toxins, and worry. It’s no wonder that many adults suffer from adrenal malfunction. That’s why it’s important to keep on the watch for these 7 common signs and symptoms of abnormal adrenal function.

9 Most Common Signs and Symptoms of Abnormal Adrenal Function

1.      Low energy. Abnormal adrenal function can alter the cells ability to produce the correct amount of energy for the day’s activities. People who struggle to wake up and keep themselves going through the day often have abnormal adrenal rhythms and poor blood sugar regulation. Additionally, cortisol levels control thyroid hormone production. Fatigue and low body temperature, symptoms of hypothyroidism, can be attributed to adrenal malfunction.

2.      Behavior, mood, and memory problems. Cortisol regulates the electrical activity of neurons in the brain, greatly influencing behavior, mood, and memory. Symptoms include depression, decreased tolerance, clarity of thought, memory, and memory retrieval.

3.      Muscle and joint pain. Abnormal adrenal function can compromise tissue healing, often leading to breakdowns and chronic pain.

4.      Weak bones. The adrenal rhythm determines bone health. If our cortisol levels are too high, our bones will not rebuild well and will become more susceptible to osteoporosis.

5.      Poor Immune System Health. The immune system’s white blood cells follows the cortisol cycle. If the cycle is disrupted, the immune system cells will not receive the conditioning, nourishment, and instructions necessary to protect the body. These immune system failures can be seen in the lungs, throat, urinary and intestinal tract, leading to increasing susceptibility to infection and allergy onset.

6.      Asthma, bronchitis, or chronic cough. The lungs react poorly to stress. Asthma is often considered an emotional disorder because stress can trigger attacks.

7.      Un-restful Sleep. When cortisol values are high at night, REM sleep cycles are more difficult to achieve. Chronic lack of restful sleep reduces mental vitality, bodily strength, and can induce depression.

8.      Skin problems. Human skin regenerates when we rest at night. High cortisol values during the evening reduce skin regeneration.

9.      Food allergies, specifically to gluten. Genetic intolerances to grain can inflame the gut and spur an adrenal stress response. Since almost ¼ people living in the U.S. suffer from gluten intolerances, this is a common cause of adrenal malfunction.

What to Do if You have Abnormal Adrenal Function

If you or a loved one experience any of the above symptoms, it is crucial to visit a health practitioner. Here are some suggested supplements that can help with adrenal fatigue:

1.      Ashwaganda is part of a class of adaptogenic herbs, known for their ability to generally strengthen the body and protect against daily stress. Ashwaganda is often referred to as the Indian ginseng. Prevalent in Ayurvedic medicine, it minimizes anxiety by lowering cortisol levels and boosts the immune system. It also helps combat stress-induced sleeping problems. Ashwaganda is available in tablet, capsule, and liquid forms.

2.      Eleuthero Root. Also known as “Siberian ginseng,” this adaptogenic herb reduces stress hormones, improves athletic performance, speeds up recovery time post-illness, sharpens memory, minimizes fatigue, and generally enhances feelings of well-being.

3.      Vitamin B5 or Penicilic Acid. All 8 of the B vitamins help the body convert food into fuel so we are energized to go about our days. They also keep our skin, hair, eyes and liver healthy, and make sure our nervous system functions properly. In addition to the work listed above, B5 plays a critical role in regulating the production of stress hormones. A deficiency in B5 could lead to fatigue, insomnia, depression, and irritability, among many other symptoms.

4.      Vitamin C is used at higher rates during times of stress, so getting enough is crucial for keeping the body healthy in the face of life’s challenges. Since the body does not produce vitamin C itself, our body depends on our diet and supplements to provide this crucial support. The typical dosage for vitamin C is between 2,000 and 4,000 mg per day, though it does vary. 


Gary Merel, M.S., L.A.C., has an acupuncture and holistic health, nutritionally based practice in Ann Arbor. For more information about his practice, go to www.annarborholistichealth.com or call (734) 222-8210.


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Posted on March 26, 2014 and filed under Health and Wellness, Nutrition.

What’s the Buzz about Paleo?

By Gary Merel

As a nation, we are dangerously unhealthy. According to the National Institute of Health, in the U.S. :

  • We have one of the highest rates of cancer in the world
  • Almost 70 percent of men and women over the age of 25 are overweight
  • 17 million Americans have Type II diabetes

Childhood Obesity: A Rising Epidemic

By Gary Merel 

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According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), obesity now affects 17 percent of all children in the U.S. That’s three times the rate of only a generation ago. Scientists are tossing around a lot of hypotheses — from junk food ads to lack of physical activity to increasing proportion size. The truth is that it is a combination of these three things, and a whole lot more. In rare cases, even infants develop obesity, leading more and more scientists to ask questions about environmental toxicity and its impact on the development of adipose tissue. Childhood obesity will only continue to rise unless we do something.

What can we do to protect our kids? First and foremost, we must make sure that our kids eat healthy, unprocessed meals at home. Secondly, we must also lobby our schools to provide not only a strong mental education, but a strong physical education for our kids, rooted in exercise and complete meals. Finally, we need to ensure that our communities offer healthy options in hospitals, day cares, and other activity centers, and that our communities support policies that protect our families right to good, healthy food.

Protecting our kids from childhood obesity is critical to their long-term health. People with obesity are statistically more likely to suffer from Type 2 diabetes, depression, and autoimmune disorders. Stopping obesity before it starts in your family is one way to stem the tide of the epidemic. 


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Gary Merel, M.S., L.A.C., has a nutritionally-based acupuncture and holistic health practice in Ann Arbor. For more information about his practice go to www.annarborholistichealth.com or www.digestivehealth-annarbor.com.


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Posted on February 13, 2014 and filed under Winter 2014 Issue, Nutrition, Health and Wellness.