Thursday, July 20, 2017

Stress Research and Pig Nuts

Dr. Hans Selye’s (1907-1982) research and discovery gives witness to the present emerging future.

The medical professor in Prague examined Four patients in the amphitheater where all the students could observe. He came up with a different diagnosis for each patient. Selye’s observation generated a question, “What is going on in the human body that makes all four look sick.” I heard his words in a workshop in Davenport after he retired as a medical director in Montreal, Canada.

That question would haunt him. He couldn’t get it out of his mind. He went to his professor with the question. And in Selye’s own words from the workshop, the professor replied, “Selye, you want to get through medical school? Don’t ask questions like that.” The history I am sending from the web site, good as it is, has toned this down. His peers made the same reply as the professor.  Peers and professors were stuck in the past ways of practicing medicine. They were prisoners of their container. Selye was outside the box with a question that would require a rethinking in how our bodies and Faith work in unity. 

No doubt about it, the emerging future was present in the question.

I will continue with Selye’s workshop stories in his own words as I have retold them in my own workshops many times. Being a writer of verbatims I will say I have his comments verbatim.

The question was still on his mind 10 years later while doing research on hormones in Montreal, Canada.  The hormone research project was failing. And the next part is entirely absent from the web site story but in the workshop this was a turning point.  He was going to the slaughterhouse to pick up a bucket a pig nuts (gonads from castrated male pigs) for the research. He noticed the pig nuts were not all the same size. He asks, “What is going on to cause different sizes?” We have a new place and question in his emerging future and research into the adrenal pituitary glands.  

As a farm boy I could have told him since I was present to help my Dad hold pigs while being castrated. The runt of the liter would always have the small pig nuts.  On further exploration, Selye found all five glands shrunken because of the stress of not being able to get to the mothers milk and being pushed out by the other larger pigs. Here was a breakthrough for research on the stress response syndrome. Because on hearing a loud noise our body goes through an immediate reaction, clotting time increased, heart rate, and breathing different, a whole host of emotional impact. Most important, different stimuli can set off the same reaction. We have a non-specific response to stress where before researchers focused on the specific.

During Selye’s talk he covered eustress, a term which you don’t see mentioned very often. He worked 12 hours a day and was in a sense enlightened, encouraged, and motivated by his kind of good stress.

In his early book on stress, the last chapter, chapter 5 addresses the attitude of gratitude for the good effect on the pituitary adrenal gland and the production of ACTH (adrenocorticotropic hormone). 

The way to give ourselves a good day is with gratitude. Oprah has picked up on this. The mayo clinic's latest special healthcare bulletin has some of the same ideas with no reference to Selye. 

Selye is a challenge to science by showing us there is more to science then reductionism. His stress response syndrome talks about another kind of activity that the body experiences that can be referred to as non-specific and it turns out there is both a specific and non specific dimensions in how the body works.  
Selye’s research has set off a host of others. I will be commenting on some and telling about one research project where I was a participant. I am of the mind that story listening provides stress reduction as a health benefit. Pastoral Care has much to learn from his beginning insight as I will write about in the coming weeks. We are still learning, a eustress for me, where reflection on Scripture becomes a eustress.

The mind body connection and the discovery of stress

“The LegacyWith the knowledge of the G.A.S. and hypothalamus-pituitary-adrenal system, it was all of a sudden possible to begin gauging the role of stress in our lives – which is precisely what Selye and a multitude of researchers have been doing for the last half century.”

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