Inflammation: Evil of the century ?

By Doctor Phillippe Guerin

Article N ° 3 – Metaflammation: Effects of chronic stress and ways to reduce it

In the first two articles we have discussed the associated and complementary effects of fasting and physical activities on the systemic inflammation produced by metaflammation. Effective on weight loss but also on the complications of overweight (diabetes, metabolic syndrome, cardiovascular pathologies, NASH, etc.), fasting and physical activities also have beneficial effects on stress.

We should speak of stress in the plural!


The “fight-or-flight” response to stress

We tend to only define and limit stress to the reactions we feel during an assault. Our autonomic nervous system, by instantly producing adrenaline, then triggers physiological responses (acceleration of the heart rate and breathing, peripheral vascular vasoconstriction, etc.) which allow better oxygenation of organs such as peripheral muscles, the heart and the brain. These privileged organs make it possible to immediately and effectively adapt to our response of “fight-or-flight”. In an ancient, more dangerous world, we have survived multiple stressful situations, thanks to these acute reactions.

Chronic stress

Today we may be threatened but stressful situations have become more subtle. They are often repeated without the possibility of escape or defence (rents every month, taxes every year….). Our physiological adaptations are then overwhelmed and exhausted and no longer allow us to return to a stable and smooth situation. These chronic stresses can easily lead to depressive behaviours.

Post-traumatic stress

Conversely, a single stress can be so severe that the coping skills described above are overwhelmed. This is called a post-traumatic stress disorder responsible for severe neurological, cognitive and psychological symptoms.

Oxidative stress

At the cell level, stress reactions are also present. Take the case of a fat cell “attacked” by a potentially dangerous metabolite, too much sugar for example. The lesions induced by sugar are then responsible for the production of excessive amounts of free radicals (not compensated for by the presence of antioxidants) which inflict cellular damage and activate the inflammatory signalling cascades inside endothelial cells (1). This is called oxidative stress.

Stress related to sleep deprivations

Even more subtle: we can suffer from stressful situations while sleeping. Sleep pathologies are responsible for nearly a quarter of the reasons for consultation with the general practitioner; without good sleep, no good awakening. Without good quality sleep, reactions to the various stresses of daily life are amplified and inadequate. Obesity often disrupts the quality of our sleep through events such as slowed or stopped breathing (sleep apnoea). Each respiratory arrest is responsible for a stress reaction. A patient who stops breathing during sleep, a moment of physiological unconsciousness, only survives thanks to this life-saving stress response, an arousal reaction sufficient to (re)stimulate the action of breathing. To breathe thanks to stress, or to die … In the event of repetitive episodes of apnoea, the constant secretion of adrenaline becomes maximal with increased inflammatory and vascular consequences, again aggravated by the phenomena of oxidative stress.

Regardless of the types of stress, they all share common signalling pathways with inflammatory reactions. This explains why fasting and physical activity, by reducing these reactions, partly correct the effects of stress.


Faced with stress, what solutions do we have?


Inappropriate stress in all its forms, responsible for weight gain, insulin resistance and obesity, must be tackled!

In an overwhelming world it is sometimes necessary to propose a break. “Fasting & Health” retreats allow participants to benefit from being away from family and professional worries potentially at the origin of their chronic stress. Our support team helps relieve the pressure of responsibilities. We offer participants the opportunity to only take care of themselves for a time.

The practice of any form of relaxation is beneficial in reducing physical and psychological tensions. Physical activities help a lot, in that they raise awareness on two levels; efforts and rest, suffering and appeasement…. The production of endorphins and the improvement of the sleep quality reduce the effects of stress.

Massages and baths allow the overweight and obese participants to rediscover enjoyable sensations, independent of gravity.

The investigation of pathologies directly related to sleep deprivation is essential and, in the event of a positive diagnosis, management of these disorders must be offered. The safeguarding of adequate sleep allows for recovery not only from the fatigue of the day, but also the capacities of memorization and cognition. Without quality sleep, there is no brain plasticity.

Food is omnipresent during “Fast & Health” retreats through education and the preparation for the food recovery. It is carried out in the 2nd week of the retreat, through educational talks by a dietician or a naturopath.  We offer an adapted diet, particularly in terms of stress. The introduction of a varied diet that includes healthy fats is one example.


Sustainable solutions against obesity


Fasting, physical activity, and ways to reduce the effects of stress are three effective and complementary non-drug solutions to fight obesity.

By setting our goal of describing ways to fight inflammation, we better understand the effects of these techniques. However, fasting, as a therapeutic framework, offers other benefits for our health, in particular because of the increase in the level of circulating ketone bodies. These benefits will be explained in a future newsletter!

Dr. Philippe Guérin

Doctor Philippe Guérin supervises fasting retreats in France, in our Fasting & Health institute where he uses a comprehensive medicalized and personalized approach for sustainable weight loss with a stress free groundwork preparation for implementing long-term habit-based dietary behaviour changes.

(1) Kathryn E. Wellen and Gökhan S. Hotamisligil. Inflammation, stress, and diabetes. J Clin Invest. 2005 May 2; 115(5): 1111–1119.