Most of us are familiar with how stress can take a toll on our health, as it interferes with our mood, digestion, pain level, and even our ability to think clearly or to remember. Yet did you know that stress also has an impact on the production and effectiveness of collagen?
In fact, chronic stress weakens the ability of your skin’s collagen to do its job, which is to help keep your skin healthy, vibrant, elastic, and supple. In other words, collagen plays a significant role in avoiding wrinkles, lines, and sagging, all of which contribute to looking older.
Stress comes in many forms, be it financial worries, relationship woes, emotional challenges, poor sleep, nutritional deficiencies, chronic disease, and job-related burdens, among others. Demands of the holiday season often encompass several of these and other stressors, which means it’s important for you to acknowledge and recognize these attacks on your immune system and take steps to alleviate them before they get you down.
Collagen and cortisol
One of the main stress hormones is cortisol, and it plays a major role in skin health and aging. You should always remember, however, that stress, aging, and the presence of an autoimmune disease can alter the integrity and quantity of collagen in the skin. Stress, in particular, can impact the health of skin collagen by altering its production and breakdown, which means it is critical to find ways to manage stress.
Cortisol has been called “the enemy of collagen” by a nutritional biochemist named Shawn M. Talbott, PhD. Why? Because cortisol, which is found in the connective tissue in the tendons and skin, and collagen can be arch enemies when it comes to promoting your health. In fact, a confrontation between the two can result in acne, joint pain, anxiety, and many other responses since high cortisol is not a friend of your body.
Fortunately, you can take several steps to defeat this confrontational situation, such as:
- Boosting your intake of foods rich in antioxidants and essential fatty acids, such as fruits and vegetables, fatty fish such as tuna and salmon. Keep an eye out for these healthy foods when you are visiting the buffet table during the holiday season.
- Taking all-natural supplements that can complement or help you keep your daily intake of essential nutrients at a healthy level.
- Practicing stress-reducing activities such as meditation, visualization, tai chi, progressive relaxation, deep breathing, and exercise on a regular basis.
- Participating in activities that boost blood circulation and reduce stress such as walking, yoga, swimming, dance, tennis, and rebounding. Take time during the holidays to exercise!
- Reducing your dietary intake of trans fats, fried foods, processed foods, and other inflammatory items.
Cortisol has the ability to degrade collagen, which can result in the formation of wrinkles. Wrinkles are the result of the reduction and weakening of collagen and elastin fibers in the skin. If you are in a state of chronic stress, it means your body is constantly being assaulted by cortisol, which makes it difficult for the skin to form collagen and to repair itself.
However, if you can lower your cortisol levels and boost your beta-endorphins (which are anti-inflammatories), you can reverse the damage you are doing to your skin. To raise your beta-endorphin levels, you should always get sufficient sleep, engage in safe sex often, and exercise regularly.
Along with lowering cortisol levels, you may want to find ways to increase collagen in your body. One way is to take collagen supplements, which are available as a powder, tablets, chews, and capsules. Another approach is to pay attention to certain lifestyle habits, such as those mentioned above. In addition, be sure to reduce or eliminate added sugar, avoid overexposure to the sun, maintain a diet high in antioxidants, stay physically active as much as possible, take probiotics to maintain gut health, and be sure not to skimp on vitamin C and zinc.
[Editor's Note: With effective stress management, a supplemental form of collagen such as those from our sponsor NeoCell, can help you maintain younger looking skin.]
Kahan V et al. Stress, immunity and skin collagen integrity: evidence from animal models and clinical conditions. Brain Behavior, and Immunity 2009 Nov; 23(8): 1089-95
Petrucci K MD. What’s the connection between collagen and stress? Dr. Kellyann