The physiological impact of stress on the body is nothing short of amazing. Stress is a necessary and needed reaction in the human body – it’s our ‘flight or fight’ response and it’s what gets us out of dangerous situations quickly, or what gives us that extra boost of energy when we are going through a tough stint at work or within our emotional lives.
When we are stressed, several things happen within the body to help us ‘cope’.
Firstly, our adrenal medulla secretes the hormone adrenaline which stimulates our sympathetic nervous system and suppresses our parasympathetic one. This hormone is what many of us might recognise in the physical form when we experience an increase in heart rate, shorter breaths, dilated pupils and perhaps even sweating. Other adaptations triggered by adrenaline are a suppression in our digestive and fertility functions allowing the blood circulation to move into our arms, legs, and brain giving us the energy boost we need in that moment. Once the stressor has passed, our body then reverts back into the parasympathetic state of ‘rest and digest’.
The second major hormone triggered when we are stressed is cortisol – released from our adrenal glands, this hormone enables the body to secrete and maintain steady supplies of stored glucose from the liver, which gets pumped into our blood stream to give us the increased energy we need during that moment. Whilst our cortisol levels are increased, our immune system is suppressed to allow for this process to happen effectively.
Both of these major stress responses are normal, and safe for the short term. Where stress starts to severely affect the body is when we are ‘on edge’ most of the time and therefore our body remains in the sympathetic state for much longer than desired.
Like much of our body, so many of us take our largest organ for granted - for us women, a quick coat of foundation or a few layers of make-up manage to hide the dryness, blemishes or dark circles... at least for a few hours.
When we have these temporary quick fix solutions, it can become all to easy to give up on actually trying to do the 'right' thing by our bodies. Excuses come pouring in and we manage to convince ourselves that 'this is just how I am an how I will always be'.
When it comes it our skin, the saying 'you are what you eat' resonates strong and true. So much of what we put into our bodies shows up in our skin - whether it be through dry patches, pimples, inflammation, flakiness, rashes or the like.
Chronic skin conditions are best managed and treated by a practising dermatologist but general skin conditions, can often be adequately managed through a healthy diet, a monitored external environment, and a reduction or management of stress.
Factors affecting skin conditions are often those which trigger an inflammatory response in the body. This could be anything ranging from an emotional stressor, a specific inflammation caused from an allergy to a particular food, material or plant, or an inflammatory response from too much of a certain food, or too little of the crucial vitamins and minerals required to support healthy immune function.