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Stress and Tissue Health: A Hard Knock Life


February 28, 2018 | Published by

A stressful life can be hard on your hair, skin and nails, and also on healing speed after an injury. During stress, your body’s survival priority is to prepare you to physically respond to the stressor (the “fight or flight response”). This means growth, maintenance and repair of tissues gets temporarily downgraded to a lower priority.

Simultaneously, several things happen in your body that decrease the availability of the resources needed for cellular growth. All the building blocks to repair and create healthy tissues come from the nutrients you digest and absorb. Stress hormones slow digestion, decreasing secretion of digestive enzymes and diverting blood away from your digestive system, which impairs nutrient absorption.

Available nutrients, oxygen and fuel are sent to your muscles first, leaving your cells with less of what they need for tissue growth and repair. Making matters worse, when you are under stress, your body burns through nutrients faster than normal and may deplete some nutrients, like biotin, that are essential for healthy tissue formation. When stress is a brief occurrence, your body quickly adapts and returns to normal.

However, when stress is frequent, prolonged or chronic, healing and rapidly growing tissues like hair, skin and nails are hit the hardest. For example, shiny hair, strong nails and tissue healing require minerals, but under stress, the demand for certain minerals such as magnesium and manganese increases while nutrient absorption and assimilation decreases. Deficiencies can show up as dull, brittle hair and shredding, ridged nails.

In someone with adrenal fatigue, absorption of these minerals and other essential nutrients is even more difficult, making the combination of high stress with adrenal fatigue particularly detrimental to tissue health. In addition to the reduced availability of nutrients, there are several aspects of stress that can actually damage tissues over time, including excessive cortisol (a stress hormone), accelerated free radical production, and elevated blood sugar and insulin. For example, skin normally has a fatty layer which protects and insulates it, retains moisture, and gives it a smooth softness.

Excessive cortisol damages this layer, resulting in thin, fragile skin prone to easy bruising, stretch marks, and infection. When free radicals are generated faster than your cells’ antioxidant mechanisms can neutralize them, they damage your cells and their DNA, interfere with the protein that keeps your skin firm and prevents sagging, hasten the formation of wrinkles, and speed up the aging process.

Conversely, if your adrenal glands become depleted by chronic stress (as in adrenal fatigue), they may not be able to maintain adequate cortisol levels to sufficiently sustain energy and stimulate nutrient metabolism for optimal tissue growth, repair and protection. With both high adrenal function and adrenal fatigue, a stressful life can be detrimental to your ability to grow healthy new tissues. Managing your stress and making sure you get the daily nutrients necessary for cellular growth and repair can make a positive difference to how you look and how quickly you heal.

Read more on how to better manage stress

Read more on nutrients for stressed hair, skin, and nails

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