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5 Surprising Stress-Related Skin Conditions

As the largest organ in your body, your skin protects you in several ways. For example, it protects you from the environment by preventing toxic chemicals from entering your body, and shields you from impact. In addition, using sweat, it helps to regulate your internal temperature, circulation, and fluid balance. Furthermore, the microbiome present on your skin helps to prevent harmful microorganisms from damaging your health. Moreover, the thousands of nerve endings in your skin transmit all the sensations you feel. However, all of this means that your skin is also very much connected with what is going on in your body, and as a result, it is vulnerable to the widespread effects of stress. It should therefore come as no surprise that you can suffer from stress-related skin conditions when your body is under pressure.

How Do Stress-Related Skin Conditions Occur?

An image of rash all over a person's bodyBecause your skin is an organ, it interacts with all other organs and systems in your body. When your internal organs become dysregulated due to stress, your skin is also affected, resulting in stress-related skin conditions.

One built-in mechanism your body uses to remain balanced is the NeuroEndoMetabolic (NEM) Stress Response, which consists of six inter-related circuits, each composed of three organs or organ systems. With continued stress, these circuits can become dysregulated, resulting in serious symptoms.

The Inflammation circuit, consisting of the microbiome, gut, and immune system, has especially strong connections to stress-related skin conditions. It is responsible for the inflammatory reaction that fights pathogens and keeps them out - but it can sometimes lose control. When the Inflammation circuit becomes dysregulated, a number of physiological events take place that ultimately affect your skin.

Firstly, the endometrial cells lining your gut begin allowing pathogens, viruses, and undigested food particles in, which provides them with access to your bloodstream. This occurs because the normally tight junctions between those cells loosen and begin to leak. This condition is known as leaky gut.

Secondly, the pathogens that invade your bloodstream trigger your immune system to begin its work in destroying the invaders before they can harm you. Part of this process involves causing inflammation to fight the pathogens. However, the number of pathogens attacking your body can sometimes overwhelm your immune system, making it work harder and even become hyperactive. As a result, your immune system not only causes more inflammation but can even wrongly identify healthy cells as invaders and attack them. When this happens, autoimmune conditions develop.

Thirdly, when your skin microbiome becomes out of balance, it can develop a similar condition to leaky gut. Leaky skin can develop, leaving you vulnerable to pathogens that inhabit your skin because its mission as a protective barrier becomes compromised. When this happens, your immune system launches an attack on these pathogens, resulting in inflammation of your skin. This can lead to several stress-related skin conditions.

The Role of Chronic Stress

The dysregulation of organs often occurs due to stress that is severe and chronic. This dysregulation happens particularly when you develop a condition called Adrenal Fatigue Syndrome (AFS).

When you feel stressed, your body responds in the same way, regardless of what type of stress it is. This stress initiates a process that results in your adrenal glands releasing cortisol and other hormones to prepare your body to fight the stressors. As stress continues and becomes chronic, your adrenal glands can become overwhelmed by the body’s demand for these hormones. Eventually, the adrenal glands become fatigued and unable to keep up with this demand. This signals the beginning of AFS.

AFS can affect all the systems in your body; leading to hormone imbalances, sleep disruption, nutrient malabsorption, rampant inflammation, and fatigue, all of which can worsen the issues that lead to stress-related skin conditions.

Some of the Stress-Related Skin Conditions

An image of a woman looking like she is feeling a pain in her right elbowWhile several skin conditions may respond adversely to stress, this article will detail five stress-related skin conditions that may surprise you. Published research shows that Americans are among the most stressed people in the world. Thus, in recent times, stress-related skin conditions appear to be on the rise.

Hives

When you experience a particularly stress-filled day, do you come home with itchy, swollen, pink skin welts? If so, you have joined thousands of other people who experience hives. According to the American Academy of Dermatology, hives most commonly result from food allergies, medications, or insect bites, but can also result from stress.

Most of the time, hives will go away within 24 hours or so. However, if you suffer from chronic hives, they can last for several weeks.
Typically, topical medications can reduce or eliminate itching and provide relief. However, if the welts appear on your face or throat, the swelling associated with them may cause more serious problems. In such a case, you should consult your dermatologist.

The relationship between stress and hives comes down to your sympathetic nervous system, which becomes activated when you experience stress. This results in the release of histamine, which can then cause hives. Other causes of hives include a detoxification reaction when trying to rid your body of toxins, and the toxins are released through your skin, causing itching.

Dehydration and Dullness

When under stress, people often begin to lose sight of the lifestyle priorities needed to maintain their health. Getting good sleep, staying hydrated, and eating properly typically lose priority when stress becomes chronic. This can lead to one of the stress-related skin conditions in which your skin becomes dry and dull.

Research indicates that getting sufficient sleep, drinking water, and eating a healthy diet all contribute to glowing and more resilient skin.

If you suffer from AFS, you likely experience problems with insomnia. The dark circles and bags under your eyes, puffiness, droopy eyelids, and more fine lines on your face all indicate a sleep deficit.

In addition, because of the lack of sleep caused by AFS, you may also tend to get less physical exercise. This prevents your skin from getting the good circulation it needs and leads to dull-looking skin.

Furthermore, AFS leads to the dysregulation of the aldosterone hormone. This hormone is responsible for regulating how much water your body retains by balancing the levels of sodium and potassium. When this balance is disturbed, your skin may become dehydrated. In addition, dry skin may result from thyroid dysfunction, a condition often connected with AFS.

Rosacea

Another skin condition, rosacea, can also result from stress. It is characterized by a red flush that worsens due to inflammation, broken capillaries and increased blood flow. In addition, you may experience acne-type breakouts with rosacea. When you are under stress, you may experience increased blood flow to your facial skin, exacerbating your rosacea symptoms.

Eczema

While this skin condition appears commonly in infants, adults can also develop it. One of the major causes of this stress-related skin disorder is an overactive immune system, typically resulting from dysbiosis of your gut microbiome. The development of eczema indicates an unhealthy skin microbiome, which weakens your skin’s barrier function, allowing pathogens to cause irritation and dryness.

Adding oatmeal or baking soda to a bath can help with the dryness and irritation that characterizes eczema. Your dermatologist may also prescribe a topical medication. Above all, try not to scratch the irritated skin as this will only serve to worsen your eczema.

Psoriasis

Psoriasis, one of the stress-related skin conditions that can become chronic, causes thick, red patches on your skin that can become covered in white scales. Published research indicates stress and worry can make psoriasis worse after a period of time. While stress isn’t thought to cause psoriasis, it definitely can make it worse by triggering increased signalling between the immune, nervous, and endocrine systems. The resulting inflammation leads to increased symptoms of psoriasis.

Remedies for Stress-Related Skin Conditions

Most of the time, people who suffer from stress-related skin conditions, such as those listed above, visit their dermatologists for relief. Prescriptions for either topical or oral medication to deal with these conditions work for a lot of people. Over-the-counter antihistamines can also be of benefit.

Most of these medications do provide some relief from the symptoms of these skin conditions, but unfortunately they do nothing to address the underlying root causes. Although they may relieve the inflammation behind the conditions temporarily, they don’t repair the gut microbiome dysbiosis that is so often the cause of such conditions.

In the case of someone suffering from AFS and related NEM dysfunction, these medications may actually increase the stress that lies at the foundation of their stress-related skin conditions.

Stress Relief

A basic approach to dealing with these kinds of skin conditions involves doing all you can to reduce your overall stress. Some stress reduction activities include:

  • Listening to music
  • Exercising, practicing yoga, or meditating
  • Seeking out someone to go on a walk with
  • Doing something fun with your family
  • Reading a good book

Natural Skin Products for Stress-Related Skin Conditions

An image of an oil bottle with a few nuts lying around itSome natural skin products that can benefit stress-related skin conditions include:

Argan Oil: This oil contains vitamin E, carotenoids, fatty acids, and phytosterols, which will help your skin retain moisture. In addition, it contains anti-inflammatory properties to help regenerate your skin cells.

Turmeric: Used as a topical remedy, turmeric root extract contains significant anti-inflammatory properties and can help control the growth of microorganisms on your skin. In addition, it helps balance the secretion of sebum, a powerful antioxidant.

Resveratrol: This natural compound contains powerful antioxidant qualities with proven anti-aging effects and is both antibacterial and antiviral.

Oral Antioxidants

In addition to topically applied products such as those listed above, oral antioxidants can help rebuild your skin cells from the inside out. Your skin constantly fights to counter the effects of oxidizing agents outside your body with antioxidants made within your body.

However, the number of antioxidants produced by your body most often cannot keep up due to the constant bombardment of your skin by toxins in the environment. Eating a healthy diet that is high in antioxidants will help in this battle. However, not many people eat this type of diet. Therefore, supplementation becomes very important.

Published research and clinical practice show the following optimum amounts of oral supplements to take for an anti-aging effect on your skin:

  • 500-1000 mg of Magnesium
  • 500 mg of Calcium
  • 500-3000 mg of vitamin C
  • 300-800 IU of vitamin E
  • 100-200 mcg of Chromium
  • 5000-15000 IU of Beta Carotene, which converts to vitamin A in your body

However, keep in mind that each person can have different reactions to topical or oral treatments, so it's best to start slowly with small amounts and always consult an experienced practitioner before starting any new products.

Treating Stress-Related Skin Conditions: Conclusions

An image of two adults and two kids sitting happily in a couchAs the largest organ in your body, your skin interacts with all of the other organs and suffers from the effects of stress in the same way they all do. Since it is visible to everyone, your skin shows these effects more readily than other organs.

With the current prevalence of chronic stress in the U.S., more and more people suffer from these kinds of skin conditions. The market for products to make your skin look younger grows tremendously every year. However, these products themselves often contain chemicals that can irritate your skin and actually worsen many of the conditions for which they are purchased.

Many people seek medical help for stress-related skin conditions. However, the medications prescribed only help with the outward symptoms and the related inflammation. They do not address the root causes of these skin conditions; hence, the conditions return when the stress continues. In fact, worrying about the skin condition itself often adds to the likelihood of more severe conditions and the risk of more outbreaks; a vicious cycle occurs.

In the case of people with AFS, many of the medications prescribed for skin conditions can actually increase the underlying stress that causes AFS and stress-related skin conditions. This makes it even more important to deal with the dysbiosis of the gut microbiome that so often leads to the inflammation involved in stress-related skin conditions.

What Can You Do About Stress-Related Skin Conditions?

If you are suffering from stress-related skin conditions, here are a few things you can do to alleviate the situation:

  • Reduce your overall stress.
  • Eat a healthy diet, including lots of antioxidant foods.
  • Take supplements that fight inflammation and increase antioxidants in your body.
  • Use only natural topical remedies in dealing with your stress-related skin conditions.

Whatever course of action you decide to take, please do so with the guidance of your healthcare professional who will assess the benefits of any option for you, as well as recommending the appropriate dosage of supplements.

If you would like to know more about supplementation for stress-related skin conditions, the team at Dr. Lam Coaching can help. We offer a free** no-obligation phone consultation at +1-626-571-1234, where we will privately discuss your symptoms and various options. You can also send us a question through our Ask The Doctor system by clicking here.

© Copyright 2021 Michael Lam, M.D. All Rights Reserved.

Dr. Lam’s Key Question

Stress-related skin conditions include psoriasis, eczema, rosacea, dry skin, and hives. Stress either causes the conditions or makes them significantly worse. Medications used to deal with these conditions fail to address the underlying causes. Therefore, supplementation with vitamins and minerals along with stress reduction best address the conditions.

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