Pay Attention to Cortisol, Part 2: Frontal Lobe Function and Amygdala

It is well established that high cortisol impairs frontal lobe function.  Here are two links from a cursory PubMed search.  In order to understand this, it is necessary to take a look at what the frontal lobe is, and how it functions.  Most, but not all, of my discussion here I learned from the book Endangered Minds by Jane Healy.  Everything that follows is my layman’s understanding based on my reading and research.

So, what do the frontal lobes do? Continue reading

Posted in Adulthood, cortisol, Down Syndrome, Health, Trisomy 21 | Tagged , , , , ,

Pay Attention to Cortisol, Part 1

During the last two years, my family has taken a little detour into the role of the adrenal glands, and the effects when the adrenals are either fatigued, or over producing as a result of chronic stress.  One of the adrenal hormones is cortisol.  According to Life Extension Magazine,

Cortisol is a hormone that, when released in excess, can create a host of pathological conditions in the body.

When we are under stress or have an infection, cortisol raises our blood pressure and blood sugar. These changes help us survive short periods of stress, but they hurt us when they continue for years.

Stress continuing for years.  Certainly someone with Trisomy 21 has physiological stress that is lifelong, but I now think that there is a likelihood for normal life in society to be stressful for someone with fewer cognitive resources to deal with the many demands.

Let’s look at the physiological results of chronically elevated cortisol, again from LEF.

  • Suppressed immunity
  • Hypertension
  • High blood sugar (hyperglycemia)
  • Insulin resistance
  • Carbohydrate cravings
  • Metabolic syndrome and type 2 diabetes
  • Fat deposits on the face, neck, and belly
  • Reduced libido
  • Bone loss

I watched my daughter gain significant weight in the last four years, most of that after starting a stressful job.  She doesn’t have type 2 diabetes, yet, but the carbohydrate cravings, fat deposits on the face, neck and belly, high blood sugar and suppressed immunity are all there.  We haven’t measured insulin resistance, or bone density.

This is the test that we used to measure saliva cortisol levels.  The results confirmed our intuition that many of her symptoms, were the result of high cortisol.

Posted in Adulthood, cortisol, thyroid | Tagged , , , , , , ,

Mary’s view of the cruise

Mary had custody of my camera during the cruise conference, and these are most of the pictures on the camera.  So, this is the cruise through Mary’s eyes.  The captions are Mary’s.  And yes, one is a pic of me.  Continue reading

Posted in Cruise Conference


The story is told of two wood-choppers who went to work in the forest.  The first worked tirelessly from sunup to sundown, and felled a good number of trees.  But throughout the day he grew increasingly irritated with his fellow who left  for ten minutes of every hour.  Even though the second spent less time swinging his axe,  at the end of the day he had chopped more wood than the first. Two woodchoppers worked al day.

“How is it that you get more wood chopped when you keep leaving the job?” wondered the first wood-chopper.

The second replied, “I leave to sharpen my axe.”

The recent Mission Possible: Sailing For Solutions cruise conference was an axe sharpening time for me.

There were two take-home messages for me from this conference.  No, make that three.

First, Linda Kane (Hope and a Future) used pictures for the first time to speak about the last years of Scott Kane’s life.  Scott was about 15 years older than Mary and I had followed his achievements closely. His story was inspirational.  He didn’t begin ND until he was 10, and didn’t begin using  nutritional intervention until he was 14.  Yet, as a young adult his auditory digit span was 7, and he was able to ride his bike to work and do a man’s job as a janitor at an elementary school.  Mary was younger, started nutritional and ND intervention earlier, and I wanted at least those achievements for her.  Then Scott died in 1996, in his late 20’s.

The day I heard that Scott had died in his sleep, I wrote this.

I keep looking at Mary and thinking, What if….?  I don’t know when was the last time I thought about Mary’s mortality.  She is just so alive.  But, so was Scott.  I thought we were over the part where DS just up and kills people.  I thought we were looking at 50 years at least for Mary.  I’m in emotional shock.

What my mind was shouting but what I couldn’t say to Linda at the time was, WHAT HAPPENED!?  And HOW DO I KEEP THAT FROM HAPPENING TO MARY?

I’m so thankful that at the cruise conference Linda risked reopening her grief and told about Scott’s last years.  She showed photos of a handsome young man, short and a bit stocky.  Then a year later, another photo, a bit more stocky.  The next photo would have to be called overweight.  And the photos progressed to a clearly overweight man in a wheelchair.  Linda described Scott’s fight against weight gain, in spite of an intense regimen of weight loss dieting.  She told of his decreasing energy, that he lost his job, and finally was unable to walk.  Then it was all over–and he was only in his late 20’s.

Then Linda told of being given the book, Hypothyroidism Type 2, by Mark Starr.  When she finally built up the courage to read the book, she realized that it described exactly what had happened to Scott in his last years, and what had finally taken his life.

Why was Linda’s story such an important part of the cruise conference for me?  Because, in Linda’s photos of Scott, I saw Mary.  Three years ago Mary (4’10”) was a svelte 98 pounds.  Today she fights to keep her weight under 125.  No matter how hard we try, her weight keeps going up and up.  Could it be that Mary’s problem is not calories and eating, but that her mitochondria are not responding to the thyroid hormone that we are giving her?  And is there another solution to her trajectory other than nagging her about her eating?

I’ve said in the past that “DS is not a tame disease.”  You don’t get a handle on it and then coast through the next years.  Nope.  Trisomy 21 is constantly on the prowl and as soon as I relax my guard it finds an opening and comes roaring back in.  Linda Kane, through sharing Scott’s story, gave me weapons to continue to fight for Mary.

The second take-home from the cruise conference was information gained from a reflex assessment.  Three specialists with Masgutova Neurosensorimotor Reflex Integration explained the effect that non-integrated primary reflexes can have on later development.  They spent an hour with Mary to assess her primary reflexes.  And I learned that Mary has not integrated her Fear Paralysis Reflex.  The FPR emerges in the womb and probably helps the mother deal with threats.  If baby freezes, mother is not distracted and can focus on the danger.  But, the reflex is supposed to integrate before or shortly after birth.  If someone has not integrated that reflex,  events would trigger irrational fear resulting in the muscles freezing up and the person becoming unresponsive if even for just a few seconds.

Having a non-integrated Fear Paralysis Reflex explains some of the behaviors that we see in Mary.   Poor kid!  Imagine living your life with events constantly triggering reflexive fear and freezing up!  Knowing that it is reflexive is soooo helpful.  No more trying to reason with Mary or teach her logical responses to what she perceives as threats.  That would be like trying to teach her not to blink when someone throws something at her eyes.  Logic isn’t going to solve it.    All this would be fairly useless information except that I also came away with exercises to integrate that reflex into her mature nervous system.  YAY!

The third take-home was that glutathione (GSH) is a big deal.  Yes, I’ve known about glutathione, and have even spoken about it, but this little molecule kept popping up in presentation after presentation on that cruise.  Glutathione  plays into a good bit of the pathologies associated with DS.  So, I need to revisit some recent research about GSH and its relation to DS.  This will probably result in changes to Mary’s supplement protocol.

So, I stepped away from my routine for five days to attend the cruise conference.  As a result, I may have found the way to step Mary off of a downward health pathway, found an explanation (and solution) forSharpened axe some of her inexplicable behavior, and found research relating to glutathione that can be applied to Mary’s supplements to keep her healthy.

Yes, the axe has been sharpened.

Posted in antioxidants, Cruise Conference, development, thyroid | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Mary, the voter

For the last month my household has been saving every piece of campaign literature that came in the mail.  So we had quite a stack.  Tuesday morning my daughter, Grace, sat down with Mary to read through it and decide who to vote for.  Mary wrote out a list of names.

Sometimes, it is rather confusing.  The farmer-guy running for county council says he knows the county best, but the other guy goes to the YMCA at the same time as daddy, so there is that personal connection.  Both ladies running for county Treasurer say that they are competent and experienced, though one did accidentally leave her wallet at the McDonald’s where Mary works (!) so that is a data point to factor in.  FWIW, Mary did not decide on a straight party vote, but split her vote based on some info from a pro-life voter guide.

No one in America enjoys voting as much as Mary.  She hums and giggles during the entire wait in line. For the second time in her life she used her official state-issued ID card (the other time was voting in the primary) and proudly signed her name.  The lady who checked her in is one of the employees at Curves, so she knows Mary and made it like a visit with friends.

The ballot was 7 electronic pages, with no opportunity to practice the turning of pages.  But Mary went up with her hand written list and the poll-worker got her started then backed off.  Everything went well for the first 5 pages, then page six had some races that were not on Mary’s list!  Apparently no one running for school board thought it was worth while to send us campaign literature, maybe because all three were unopposed..  And there was an unopposed race for judge; that guy hadn’t sent any literature.  So, Mary stood there stuck, not knowing what to do next.

So the poll lady asked if she needed help.  At this point my eagle eyes and ears zeroed in!  Don’t influence her vote!!   The lady walked Mary though her list, and checked each page to see that Mary had correctly marked the names on her list. (She had.)  Then on page 6, the lady told confirmed that none of those names were on Mary’s list and clicked to page 7.  That is ok with me, because nothing Mary would have voted would have changed those races.  Then, Mary confidently handled page 7, clicked FINISH, and walked away grinning and giggling.

And, finally, I threw away that stack of campaign literature.

Posted in home life | Tagged | 1 Comment

Sailing to Solutions

The speaker line-up for the DS Cruise looks GREAT!

Continue reading

Posted in Down Syndrome

Pain Tolerance in DS

Paul Doney has compiled a fascinating bit of research and anecdotal evidence about the role of Ginkgo Biloba in normalizing pain responses in Down syndrome.

Normal pain response is a gift.  Pain tells us to remove our hand from a hot surface.  It convinces us to stay off a damaged ankle so it can heal.  And it alerts us to sickness so we can take corrective action.  As much as we hate pain, we must realize that the absence of a normal pain response is dangerous.

Therefore, this is good news:

The main conclusion that I would TENTATIVELY draw from all of the following is that Targeted Nutritional Intervention, and in particular the supplementation with Ginkgo Biloba, MAY normalize or improve the pain tolerance of a child as well as “wake them up” from a more sedated state.

Paul details his research and evidence at Super Down Syndrome.

Posted in Changing Minds Foundation, ginkgo biloba, Health, TNI | Tagged , ,