The Role of Stress in Signs of Aging

By: Michael Lam, MD, MPH; Justin Lam, ABAAHP, FMNM

The Effects of Stress on Aging

Signs of aging can be increased by stress.Stress can cause many unpleasant changes in the body. Not only does stress change our body chemistry, it can also cause fatigue, lethargy, depression, and cause symptoms and signs of aging. A rather common phenomenon, if you look at pictures of popular public figures, such as presidents or other politicians who undergo tremendous stress during their career, undoubtedly you will notice a significant difference in the appearance of age. You may notice massive changes not only in their hair structure, such as thinning hair, a receding hairline, or the color turning to white or grey, but also their skin may look more dull and wrinkled.

What Causes Aging?

The primary cause of aging skin is the loss of collagen, as this is the underlying structure of skin as an organ. Compare a baby’s skin to that of an elder. The baby will have firm, soft, and bouncy skin, while the elder’s skin will seem pliable and loose, and this is from the loss of collagen, as we grow older.

Many people forget that the skin is a very large organ. Indeed, it is actually the largest organ of the body. When properly cared for, skin can retain a beautiful, healthy appearance as it ages. Millions of dollars are spent each year on skincare products in the hopes of improving skin texture, tone, and overall appearance, as well as reduce the telltale signs of aging, such as wrinkles, fine lines, discoloration, and the so-called age spots.

This obsession with caring for the skin not only goes for women, but men as well. In recent years, sales of men’s skincare have shot up drastically, particularly in highly developed countries like the USA, UK, South Korea, Japan, and others. Everyone wants to have good skin and fight the signs of aging.

How Stress Affects Aging

It’s not difficult to see why people in these countries with modern, high-stress environments would begin to feel self-conscious about their skin. Stress plays a frighteningly significant role in the aging process, yet the treatment of stress is often neglected and rarely considered when attempting to take proper care of the skin.

It’s important to keep in mind that too much exposure to ultraviolet radiation, in the form of the sun, can cause premature aging as well. In fact, sun damage is one of the leading causes of stress on the skin, and perhaps the biggest factor contributing to premature aging. The sun’s rays are very damaging, causing stress on the skin, which in turn breaks down collagen levels.

Using sunscreen can help reduce signs of aging.It’s important to wear sunscreen with an SPF of 30 or higher everyday when you go outside. Not only does stress affect the aging process on a purely physical level, but stress can also lead to an unhealthy lifestyle, which can exacerbate the aging process that is already taking place. It has been found that even the anticipation of stress can cause some signs of premature aging as well. When one begins to think about an upcoming event that, in foresight, seems stressful, your body will begin to exhibit signs of aging on a cellular level.

Stress also causes changes in the brain and body, and puts people in a position to care for themselves less. People who are under stress are known to make less healthy choices in their diet, exercise less, drink more alcohol, and may even fall into drug addiction all of these factors contribute to the aging process.

How The Body Handles Stress

The body’s ability to handle strain relies on the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) stress response. It takes into account all the organs and body systems that get affected by chronic stress and divide them into different connecting circuits. One part is the adrenal glands and the hormonal circuit it’s part of. Upon the onset of stress, to the body, the adrenal glands respond to signals from the brain to produce a hormone called cortisol. This hormone breaks down collagen, and as a result, the collagen structure of the skin becomes compromised. When collagen is broken down, the support of the skin is decreased, causing a loss of elastin and thinning out the skin, as well as weakening muscles, allowing ligaments to be torn easily, and even affecting the body in ways that allow basic stretching to breakdown the muscles and skeletal structure. In early stages of adrenal fatigue, the body pumps out more cortisol to compensate for stress. As this happens, collage start to break down.

As adrenal fatigue advances, cortisol production decreases, as does your body’s ability to handle stress. Nutritional reserves start to drop as well. As this continues, the body may enter a catabolic state. The body will start to break down compounds in its body to provide building blocks for hormone production to sustain energy and itself. This can accelerate the aging process as well.

For those who suffer with adrenal fatigue, while you may look okay on the outside in the beginning, your insides are already in a state of shambles, and if this is allowed to continue, premature aging will begin to appear visibly not only on your face and body, but also your bones and brain will begin to feel slower. Those who are relatively young and are experiencing hyperpigmentation, skin that appears blotchy with darker spots in certain areas, fine lines and wrinkles, and an overall tired, aged look should very much consider Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS) as one of the causes of stress induced skin problems.

Fighting The Signs Of Aging

Each individual's signs of aging may varyEvery individual handles stress differently. Some people require great amounts of stress for their body to be so negatively affected, while for others only a small amount of stress can cause the skin to show signs of aging. Regardless of whether your body is resilient or weak, continual and unyielding stress is indeed one of the greatest factors of premature aging.

The best approach in dealing with your premature aging is to not only examine your lifestyle and try to adopt a more stable, stress-free environment, but to also identify and heal your adrenals. A diet rich in antioxidants, spending time with family and friends, caring for your pet, gardening, meditation, and other relaxation techniques, are all great ways to reduce your stress levels and increase your body’s natural ability to cope with stress, as well as provide an anti-aging effect better than any facial cream or lotion. Oral Collagen is also available as a supplement to take and help rebuild your skin. For more information on battling aging skin, check out this article.

© Copyright 2016 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Signs of aging can be increased by stress.