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Stress: The Kryptonite to Your Body’s Healing Powers

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March 22, 2018 | Published by


Your body’s stress response and healing powers are done largely by cortisol and corticosterone, two hormones produced by the adrenal glands. 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.

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.

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. Below we’ll focus on 3 nutrients that are essential for tissue health and growth.

Vitamin A

Vitamin A is required for epithelial and bone tissue development. In addition to facilitating wound repair, vitamin A has been shown to reverse the corticosteroid-induced inhibition of cutaneous and fascial wound healing. It’s been suggested vitamin A benefits the wound by enhancing the early inflammatory phase, including increasing the number of monocytes and macrophages at the wound site, modulating collagenase activity, supporting epithelial cell differentiation, and improving localization and stimulation of the immune response.

Vitamin C

Ascorbic acid is essential for the synthesis of collagen and other organic components of tissues such as bones, skin, capillary walls, and other connective tissues. Humans lack the ability to store vitamin C, and certain populations are more likely to be deficient in ascorbic acid, including the elderly, alcoholics, drug abusers, and under-nourished individuals.

Subclinical vitamin C deficiency is being recognized increasingly in the general population. Published cases show that restricted eating patterns, prolonged hospitalization, severe illnesses, and poor dietary intake in both children and adults cause deficiency with significant clinical consequences.

In mammals, ascorbic acid is necessary for a normal response to physiological stressors, with the need for ascorbic acid increasing during times of injury or stress. Studies have shown the physiological stress of intense exercise generates excess reactive oxygen species (ROS), increasing the demand on the antioxidant defense system.

A similar elevation of ROS has been noted within wounds; therefore, substances that increase tissue antioxidants are thought to benefit healing. Events leading to wounds, including trauma and surgery, are perceived as physiological stressors that have also been correlated with a decrease in plasma ascorbic acid. Thus, the acute stress experienced by trauma or surgery patients may unmask marginal vitamin C deficiencies, leading to deficiency symptoms.

The combined effect of ascorbic acid on collagen synthesis, antioxidant status, and immunomodulation make it an appropriate supplement for wound repair. Research provides evidence for the use of low doses of vitamin C in vitamin C-deficient individuals, but many practitioners believe larger doses of ascorbic acid in non-deficient individuals are indicated for optimal wound repair.

Zinc

Approximately 300 enzymes require zinc for their activities. Zinc is an essential trace mineral for DNA synthesis, cell division, protein synthesis, and all necessary processes for tissue regeneration and repair. Zinc deficiency has been associated with poor wound healing and decreased breaking strength of animal wounds, which can result from decreased protein and collagen synthesis during healing found in zinc-deficient animals. Zinc demands are thought to be the highest from time of wounding throughout the early inflammatory phase. Sequential changes in zinc concentrations were studied in the incisional wound model in the rat. Zinc levels increased from wounding and peaked on the fifth day, at a time of high inflammation, granulation tissue formation, and epidermal cell proliferation.

Zinc concentrations returned to normal by the seventh day, when inflammation had regressed. It has been suggested that increased local demand for zinc resulting from surgery and wounding exposes otherwise marginal zinc deficiencies in humans.

Image CreditFlickr user ZaCky

References:

MacKay , D, and AL Miller . “Nutritional Support for Wound Healing.” Chiropractic Resource Organization, 8 Nov. 2003, www.chiro.org/nutrition/ABSTRACTS/Wound_Healing.shtml.

Christian, Lisa M., et al. “Stress and Wound Healing.” Neuroimmunomodulation, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 6 Aug. 2007, www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2792763/.

Gouin, Jean-Philippe, and Janice K. Kiecolt-Glaser. “The Impact of Psychological Stress on Wound Healing: Methods and Mechanisms.” Immunol Allergy Clin North Am, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Feb. 2011, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3052954/.

 


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