The evolution of our glands!
We hear much about being a victim to our glands nowadays as we deal with the growing problem of obesity, type two diabetes and the epidemic of ADHD, anxiety, depression, eating and sleeping disorders and self medicating for inner pain or chaos. If we resort to a defense that it’s my glands, “I can’t do anything about it”, we are giving away our power and are setting ourselves up for not only shorter lives than our parents but troubled lives full of unnecessary pain and suffering.
We evolved along with our glands over the last million years, which in perspective is eleven hours and fifty minutes on the twelve hour clock representing the time we have moved from the trees to the plains and finally into cities. For eleven hours and fifty minutes we moved from scavengers to hunter gathers. For the last ten minutes we moved from herders to agriculturists and finally into city dwellers. So for the vast majority of our existence as hominoids our glands had to only deal with the discovery of a fruiting bush or catching prey or escaping and not being prey.
Our pancreas evolved along with us. For millennia it had to deal with us as hunter gathers, finding a fruiting tree or bush or if really lucky, a bee hive. These were seasonal and exceptional but essential to our existence. We also evolved taste buds that are directly linked to our basic brain to help us seek out these important food stuffs. Sugar, salt and fat were rare but essential to survival. Salt, in our history, was more expensive than gold and in prehistory we sought out the same salt licks as did the animals around us. Fat was a precious commodity and gave those hunters status when they shared their bounty with their community. The animals that had the fat were not generous with their gift of life to us, as it meant their death. They did not have hooves, horns and teeth only for show and were prepared to use them in self defense, while we had none. We engaged in a primitive arms race with them, beginning to throwing rocks, then to bows and arrows to close the gap which enabled us to raise our sights from rats and rabbits to mammoths. Rats may have adapted to this arms race but mammoths are now extinct. Sugar did not exist except in berries, fruit or in the honey of bees and none were there in abundance year round and none were easy to access. Fruit was out of reach up trees after the animals ate the low hanging or dropped choice ones before we even got there, berry patches were the property of the bears, who wouldn’t mind a bit of protein (us) with their berries. Honey bees did not welcome your intrusion but defended their hive with vigor.
If your distant relative came upon a five pound bag of white sugar in the field they were walking across you would find their body beside it the next day. Sugar, the bane of our modern civilization, is a modern manufactured product and our bodies, glands and minds are totally evolutionary unprepared for the consequences of this toxic addiction.
Our ancient forbearer’s pancreases were set up to deal with about half a dozen insulin responses a month but modern North Americans have about ten to fifteen insulin responses a day. Where as sugar was once a treat that was rare, seasonal and mostly found in complex carbohydrates that we had to digest to access, now it is available everywhere. Most of our fast foods and most of our produced foods are loaded with it along with the simple carbohydrates that we turn into sugar. Our poor little pancreas that was designed and evolved to handle the eleven hours and fifty minutes of our twelve hours of existence is now abused daily as we fill our addictions to sugar with slurpies, monster drinks, fast foods, and processed foods that fill our convenience and grocery stores and the myriad of fast food restaurants that surround us. What has this poor little gland ever done to you to experience such abuse? You might as well just stomp on it. So with chronic overuse we put ourselves at risk for type two diabetes, obesity and the host of companioning health complications that go hand in hand with such glandular abuse.
The other overused and misunderstood glandular system is our adrenal glands. These thumb sized glands located on top of each kidney were an integral part of our evolution. As hunter gathers we were designed to conserve energy. Back then the greatest danger to our survival was starvation. We evolved brown fat, our metabolic thermostat, to help us control how fast we burn calories. It was in our long term interest to go slow, gathering the tubers, insects and other sources of food in our environment while conserving calories to protect us when the land went barren because of drought. While going slow to conserve scarce and hard to find calories we would occasionally come across more abundant sources of calories like rats and rabbits or even a deer, while at the same time exposing our calorie rich bodies to predictors who would love to invite us to lunch. This is where our adrenals came into play. We would hear a branch snap and instantly freeze, look to the sound, take a deep breath and while holding it do the body builder’s crunch. This would help us decide if this is our lunch or if we are on the menu. The deep held breath, gives us no hindrance to our hearing, as well with the crunch oxygenates our blood as in that split second we decide on either flight or fight. While this is going on our adrenals pump exotic go fast drugs into our blood stream like adrenalin, so like a nitro dragster we can access this super fuel to either run after the rabbit or to run away from the grizzly bear. We never sat back and philosophized about the rabbit or the bear or you ancestors would not have survived, we acted. We were never supposed to have these go fast chemicals in our blood but burned them off either chasing lunch down or running away and not becoming lunch. How many rabbits have you ran down this week? How many bear attacks have you ran away from? But I am telling you, that your adrenals have responded in kind to many sources of stress; parents, kids, teachers, girl or boy friends, police, traffic etc. etc. All have stressed you our and you adrenals, not distinguishing between real threat versus perceived threat, have filled you up with go fast drugs and you did nothing but suck it up. These go fast drugs were never intended for long term exposure but we burnt them off with the behavior of running away or running after. Now, after domestication into our modern civilization, we just suck it up and go on but not without major effects on our lives.
I recommend to all my clients that they spend at least twenty minutes every second day, every day if they are suffering from anxiety, in aerobic exercise with anaerobic intervals to burn these exotic drugs out of your system. Running, power walking, cycling, swimming are just some of the ways to deal with these go fast drugs and to burn them out of your system. Your brain will reward you with a dopamine release for a job well done when you burn off these go fast drugs. Before a bike ride, my brain is reeling with the stresses of client problems, family stresses (I have four adult children and one grandchild), relationship stress, scheduling issues and on and on but after the ride I can barely remember what was stressing me out.
Gotta love that dopamine!
So get to know your glands and how they work. They can either be your friends, if you understand how they evolved and how they work, or your enemies if you ignore them. This is not a passive battle. Major corporate players know how you work and have spent billions on you developing addictions to their products. Like cigarette companies, they get away with this corporate abuse because their products kill you slowly. They can suck huge amounts of funds from you as they load you up with the salt, sugar and fats in their engineered products, that are designed to link your innate desire for sugar, salt and fat, programmed by the eleven hours and fifty minutes of evolution, when these items were rare, so that now with a fast food restaurant or grocery store are on every corner there is a conveyer belt of this crap aimed right down your throat. They employ industrial psychologists with billions invested in research and know exactly what they are doing. With a similar morality as the cigarette industry they are willing to make a buck off of your evolutionary make up and your lack of knowledge as to how your glands really work.
Your best defense is in knowing how you and your glands work. If you owned an expensive car you wouldn’t drive it in first gear at a hundred miles an hour, you wouldn’t put cheap tainted fuel in the gas tank, you wouldn’t leave the oil in it until it was like glue and you wouldn’t wash it with sand paper. Yet we do this with our bodies when we eat the crap they feed us and when we endure the stress that is internally created in our over the top societies.
So watch what you eat, burn off those go fast drugs and think about your thinking. Your body is not something you can trade in like a worn out car. You will need it for the rest of your life so you might as well enjoy living in it as well. Learn to operate it correctly so that you get maximum enjoyment out of that piece of meat for as long as it lasts.