In addressing an individual’s needs, Functional Health Coaches must consider any number of factors and endeavor to prioritize and balance those influences in making recommendations to advance the client’s desires against any and every obstacle. Stress has been on our culture’s health radar since Hans Selye introduced the “General Adaptation Syndrome” in the 1930’s. Almost anyone with a background in holistic approaches to health is familiar with the idea of a “fight or flight” response. Also how unrelenting stress leads to an inevitable, but individually varied, digression from homeostatic resilience to invoking the body’s adaptive processes in hopes of weathering the storms of life. True. But eventually, with sustained disruptive influences, something’s got to give.
The exhaustion of resilience and adaptation leads to maladaptive responses that can manifest in a myriad of undesired symptoms. This maladaptation is usually seen by health coaches as the distorted mirror image of what wellness should look like, with undesirable effects on all facets of vitality including thinking, mood, energy, activity, sleep, and digestion.
Functional Diagnostic Nutrition® Health Coaching Certifications trains individuals to become Functional Health Coaches who can do the detective work into what “H.I.D.D.E.N “ influences (hormone, immune, digestion, detoxification, energy, and nervous systems) have been thrown out of balance, perpetuating a client’s maladaptive state.
It turns out that ongoing research is uncovering a hormonal system that had been previously hidden. This discovery of an important endocrine control layer should lead to more insights and healing opportunities in the coming years.
Hans Selye focused much of his research elaborating on how the adrenal glands were the key to the adaptive response. Certainly, subsequent research has revealed the far-reaching effects of adrenal hormones on many cells, tissues and organs. But even Selye’s contemporaries knew that experimentally, in both animal models and humans, the key indicators of the fight or flight response occurred whether the adrenal glands and the hormones they produced were present or not. It took over 70 years from Selye’s initial publication for scientists to identify the actual hidden key, which had been hidden in bone.
The hormone protein that initiates and augments the fight or flight response, flooding the system in response to sympathetic nervous system control, is secreted by Osteoblasts. It is called Osteocalcin.
It provides additional short-term resilience to the tissues and organs on the front line of acute stress responses (ASR), improving energy uptake, cognitive processing, muscular and cardiovascular strength and physical endurance. Osteocalcin acts in part by taking off the “brakes” provided by the parasympathetic nervous system, somewhat like removing the governor from the throttle control of an engine, allowing the sympathetic to run unopposed.
The evidence so far suggests that Osteocalcin facilitates improved performance of most of the systems it influences and is directly protective against the kind of undesirable tissue changes that are induced by excessive steroid exposure, encompassing most of the evils of metabolic syndrome. In short, Osteocalcin is proving to be a regulator and support of just about everything you’d want in response to acute stress.
It is also increasingly clear that Osteocalcin provides feedback control on many inflammatory pathways. It remains to be seen how Osteocalcin’s production and influences are modulated in the environment of persistent chronic physiologic stress, but it is clinically obvious that Osteocalcin’s supportive influences tend to wane or are ultimately overcome by unchecked metabolic stressors. Functional Diagnostic Nutrition Practitioners can take heart in the fact that Osteocalcin’s newly discovered pathways of activity provide the opportunity to emphasize therapeutic approaches that focus on resetting the parasympathetic “brakes” that Osteocalcin releases. Such therapies would help a client to re-establish balance of the autonomic nervous system that guides the release of this protective hormone. There doesn’t seem to be any way to escape the need to “escape” from the common rigors of modern life.
Nurturing and protecting sleep, developing relaxation and mindfulness skills, eating sensibly and regularly engaging in moderate exercise are further reinforced as powerfully healthy habits. Adding regular “exercises” to stimulate “hormesis” – the body’s natural protective response is also well worth investigating for their rebalancing effects.
All of these elements are guided by functional lab testing and supported by the FDN D.R.E.S.S. for Health Success® approach, further validating the work of every FDN Health Coach
While HPA Axis imbalances have undoubtedly been over-emphasized, there is still a role for testing and the judicious application of indicated supports. Identifying specific inflammatory pathway imbalances can provide opportunities to limit the effects of cell-signaling imbalances (Osteocalcin is a cytokine as well). Chronic stress creates systemic maladaptation along multiple metabolic pathways and refining the choice of available adaptogens and how they work is increasingly possible because of ongoing research.
Perhaps most importantly, and well-known to FDN, mitigating against the effects of chronic stress takes creativity because of the many manifestations that emerge, as well as patience and persistence in building a holistic program that clients can trust and successfully employ. The expanding roles discovered for Osteocalcin are a testimony to the intricacy and complexity of human metabolism, and a new season for discovery.
This emerging research is exciting and interesting but not really surprising. It only serves to prove what FDN has always known and emphasized; the body is infinitely complex and will continue to reveal secrets for many years to come.
In FDN we’ve also said since its inception that “there is no one test”. What has always mattered the most is that FDN is a way of thinking and a methodology that seeks to identify hidden stressors and “coach up function” while we “coach down contributors to Metabolic Chaos®.” The more things change, the more they stay the same.