Stress: what do we actually mean?
The word “stress” is often misused. “I am stressed” is supposed to express overload, but it does not take into account the original definition by Hans Seyle (the “father of stress research”) that at the beginning of the stress there is a release of hormones of the adrenal gland, an expression of the general mobilization of defense forces in the body (alarm phase).
We now know that stress processes not only result in the release of classic stress hormones, such as cortisone and adrenaline, but also very complex reactions throughout our bodies.
The balance between tension and relaxation
Our goal should be to take therapeutically effective measures to prevent or counteract these processes. It is important to find the rhythmic balance between tension and relaxation. After each phase of exertion, there should be a deliberate phase of relaxation, where regeneration takes place and reserves of strength are collected. Through these rest phases, we can avoid exhaustion or even anger forced on the body.
Therefore, instead of waiting until exhaustion occurs, we should pay attention to the body’s needs. Burnout is a known reaction to overstrain, but metabolic diseases, pain of the musculoskeletal system, or premature menopausal symptoms in women can also occur.
Systems in our body work together to ensure the normal regulation of stress. Nutrition plays a major role: vitamins, minerals, and trace elements are just as important as fatty acids. The obvious supporters in a stressful lifestyle are magnesium, omega-3 fatty acids, or antioxidants, such as saffron, vitamin C, or green tea extract.
The acid-base balance is another system of stress regulation. However, excessive demands always end up in the following three organ systems:
Regulation of the acid-base balance plays an important role because complaints caused by stress can range from gastritis to peptic ulcer. Subsequently, the stress continues in the digestive system, which can lead to chronic inflammatory intestinal diseases.
Our skin is the reflection of our well-being, so small wonder that stress causes skin problems. Sudden skin rashes on different parts of the body can have different causes, such as skin diseases like neurodermatitis or psoriasis, infectious diseases like measles or chickenpox, or allergies. But stress can also be to blame. For example, sometimes people develop a skin rash without any “detectable trigger,” usually due to psychological pressure.
Mental strain and stress can cause skin irritations and intensify existing ones. Permanent stress often leads to metabolic disorders, manifesting as exhaustion, depression, and imbalance, as well as sleep or digestive disorders. This usually affects the skin and leads to redness or dry or oily skin and acne symptoms, such as stress spots, blackheads, and pustules.
Studies have shown that stress hormones are responsible for acne symptoms. Stress hormones norepinephrine and adrenaline favor inflammatory processes. In addition, the acne-promoting hormone cortisol is produced during prolonged stress.
Other studies blame the pro-inflammatory substances produced during continuous stress. In addition, wound healing decreases by up to 40%, which means acne cannot heal well.
The right nutrition and the effects on our skin
In stressful times, we usually lack the time for a healthy and balanced diet. However, our organism runs at full speed when stressed, the precise point where it needs sufficient vitamins and trace elements. A healthy diet is important for our metabolic functions so the body can better cope with stress. So-called “nerve foods,” such as seeds, nuts, green vegetables, dark chocolate, oatmeal, bananas, salmon, and pulses are good for stress reduction - your skin thanks you twice.
The lymphatic system runs through the entire body and, working closely with the bloodstream, plays a decisive role in the immune system’s fight against pathogens and foreign bodies. The restriction of this system’s function due to prolonged stress can cause higher susceptibility to infections, such as colds, fever blisters, or chronic sinusitis. This sheds light on the enormous increase in allergies or intolerances, in particular, which parallels the increasing stress in our lives.
The adrenal gland is representative of the entire hormonal system. The release of hormones of the adrenal gland and the activation of receptors for hormones activate the known defense forces in the body. This applies not only to acute life-threatening situations but also normal daily challenges, such as the physiological increase of cortisol in the morning.
The enormous increase in food intolerances, hyperacidity, and hormonal disorders is an expression of a continuously increasing, permanent stress situation. Often, it is also an expression of exhaustion and excessive demands on our regulation when the body can no longer keeps up.
It is especially important to recognize the early signs of exhaustion, the domain of orthomolecular medicine. Through appropriate diagnostics, typical patterns of a regulatory disorder can be recognized early, allowing for countermeasures before we reach exhaustion, with all its accompanying symptoms.