Fighting Exercise Induced Inflammation, Cortisol Increase and Catabolism.
By William Wong ND, PhD, Member
Sports Medicine Hall of Fame
thing inherent to hard training in either conditioning or a sports
skill can slow down your progress, cause loss of muscle mass, increase
in body fat, decrease your level of testosterone and increase your
estrogen? Answer: Inflammation.
It seems ironic that the thing we use to become stronger, better,
faster can also be the thing that tries to bring about results opposite
to those we work so hard for! The truth is that all exercise and sports
activities produce some level of inflammation. The harder and more
intense the training the higher the level of inflammation.
Increased inflammation causes a reaction in the body to reduce the
insult, and the immune system responds to the inflammation by producing
the anti-inflammatory hormone cortisol.
Cortisol is made by the body by converting your precious progesterone
into cortisol. This is bad for two reasons, #1 cortisol is catabolic,
destroying muscle, as the TV adds tell us it also causes us to gain
body fat. #2 the progesterone that gets converted into cortisol can no
longer protect testosterone from converting into estrogen so the more T
we make (or put in) if not protected by progesterone becomes T's
opposite number estrogen, with its fat increasing, catabolizing and
mood depressing effects.
How do we fight to overcome this effect of strenuous exercise and
prevent the great cortisol increase and testosterone decrease? First we
fight the inflammation before it creates the cortisol response. We do
that with the only safe non-toxic anti-inflammatory stuff around -
systemic enzymes, the Vitalzym from World Nutrition, being my present
Systemic enzymes work to reduce inflammation on a different mechanism
from Cox 1 or Cox 2 inhibitors and different still from cortico steroid
hormones. In general the COX 1 and 2 tribe also known as Non Steroidal
Anti-Inflammatory Drugs (NSAID's, aspirin, ibuprofen, naproxin,
Celebrex etc.), will kill the kidneys, cause liver failure and create
In the US 22,000 people who die each year from the use
(not abuse) of
these drugs (New England Journal Of Medicine, June 1999). The Cox 2's
while first touted as being side effect free are now after
killing 59,000 from heart attacks and strokes and making another
139,000 folks seriously ill, known to create cardiac and vascular
inflammation. (Imagine that an anti inflammatory that causes
inflammation, gee wiz what will the drug makers think of next)!
enzymes work to eat substances known as pro
inflammatory cytokines and have a 50 year history of
widespread use in German and Central European and Japanese medicine
with over 200 supporting peer reviewed studies verifying not
only their absorption but also their therapeutic action.
Five to ten capsules (depending on the intensity of
the exercise) taken
on a fairly empty stomach after a workout will curb inflammation,
improve recovery, speed tissu rebuilding and most importantly reduce
the immune systems cortisol release in response to the post training
If systemic enzymes are taken as daily supplements they will have a
multitude of benefits you can study up on later but for now know that
they improve anabolism mostly by reducing cortisol catabolic effects.
Speeding recovery from exercise and preventing post exercise soreness
is also a plus.
The Communist block athletes in their heyday trained 5 to 6
days a week 6 to 8 hours a day in conditioning and sport specific
skills. In anyone's book this was over training. At first the Communist
docs tried to control their athletes inflammation using cortisone. This
had disastrous side effects as a consequence.
By 1973 months before the
International Olympic Committee banned cortisone, the Russians and East
Germans had already dropped the drug and switched to systemic enzymes
to control inflammation. So successful were they at controlling
inflammation / cortisol induced catabolism that they were actually able
to lower the doses of anabolic steroids their athletes were on!
Now, on to the estrogen problem. If we've cut out making as much
cortisol to cope with our inflammation then we've spared some
progesterone from conversion into cortisol. That itself improves our
testosterone levels and reduces estrogen. But we still need more P and
T to be stronger and we need to control what ever E we do make better.
Maca powder, a staple flour of Peruvian cooking, has within it plant
sterol precursors that are just one reaction away from becoming T and
P. As opposed to sterols like DHEA which are several metabolic steps
from becoming P and T, the sterols in Maca powder are much closer to
being what you want them to become.
We must keep in mind the research done by the late Dr. Sidney Golinsky,
Naturopath, PhD in pharmacology and OBGYN; he fed DHEA to bodybuilders
for extended periods while doing hormone tests on them weekly. What the
results found was that the DHEA was mostly all converting into
estrogen! Imagine already moody bodybuilders being even more so with
PMS (mind you the study group was entirely male)!
Not only does the progesterone, maca helps to make, help control
estrogen, the maca has Di Indole Methane (DIM) to block a good bit of
estrogen and help metabolize it out. One other point to remember the
dreaded hair loss and prostate swelling hormone Di Hydro Testosterone
(DHT), is not made from testosterone but as research has shown DHT is a
product of estrogen. So any control of estrogen lowers DHT levels
Now in older folks (i.e. 35 +) just having the precursors might not
stimulate their becoming what we want them to become and so to help the
process along we should take the herbs that cause our glands to send
the signals needed to make something of these sterols and for this I've
found the product Libido Lift from Fountain of Youth Tech. works very
Dosing on the maca should be 3 to 6 teaspoons daily and on the libido
lift 4 capsules 3 times a day for those under 200 lb. and 4 times a day
for those over 200. Use the maca powder not capsules or extracts, those
don't work as they are either too small a dose (in the case of the
capsules) or not complete in the full spectrum of maca's nutrients and
sterols in the case of the extracts.
There are herbs and the like that lower cortisol levels but the
question is what happens to the inflammation the cortisol is trying to
control if you lower cortisol without reducing your levels of
inflammation? Since inflammation is self perpetuating, since
inflammation is the root cause of every disease that can kill us, since
perfectly "healthy" marathoners and tri athletes have dropped stone
cold dead from heart attacks and strokes caused by the inflammation
created by their over training, it makes sense not to lower the sign
posts to the problem of inflammation without doing something about
getting rid of the inflammation itself.
Back to top
Dr Wong questions on natural health, exercise and nutrition go to