Why Brexit might be bad for our skin


As a Functional Diagnostic Nutrition practitioner, one of the topics I covered during my training is how stress affects our bodies. Brexit and all the uncertainty it has brought has put some of us in a state of turmoil and this means any of us will currently be experiencing a rush of cortisol. Before I explain how elevated cortisol levels can affect us, here’s a quick insight into the function of the adrenal glands:

  • The adrenal glands act as the critical control centre for many of the body’s hormones. The outer layer of the glands is the adrenal cortex, which produces hormones including cortisol, DHEA, estrogens and testosterone.
  • The centre of the glands is the adrenal medulla which produces epinephrine and norepinephrine (adrenaline).
  • The precursor to all the steroidal hormones is pregnenolone, manufactured by the adrenals from Vitamin B and cholesterol, (this us is why it’s vital to have healthy fats in your diet). Under normal conditions, pregnenolone is converted to progesterone and the mother hormone DHEA. From DHEA, testosterone and the estrogens (estriol and estradiol) are produced. So DHEA is absolutely necessary to balance our hormones.

When we are under stress, the body naturally shifts over to its ‘preferential stress pathway’ in order to raise cortisol, the body’s primary stress/anti-stress hormone. Now, instead of pregnenolone feeding the normal pathway of DHEA to testosterone, estrogen and progesteron, it is shunted away to cortisol. Left untreated, this will continue. Think of it as experiencing a car crash but not taking your car to the garage to get the damage repaired. The car’s engine might still work but the efficiency of the car will be drastically reduced.

When we are feel stressed we naturally experience as increase in cortisol, our body’s anti-stress hormone

Our health is a balancing act

Brexit and the ensuing events have put some of us in a state of shock, which will cause a rush of cortisol. In the presence of stressors, our body immediately attempts to increase cortisol levels. This increase is associated with both hormones and the body’s autonomic response to prepare to defend itself. Experiencing elevated cortisol levels for extended periods, however, negatively affect virtually every aspect of our physiology. It becomes more difficult to maintain correct blood sugar levels; to slow down for rest, recovery, and repair; to get good quality sleep to balance other hormones; to maintain essential levels of mucosal surface integrity, the first line of defence against pathogens; to maintain bone mass; to produce effective immune function; to effectively regulate inflammatory process and to detoxify the body.

Experiencing elevated cortisol levels for extended periods will negatively affect virtually every aspect of our physiology

Our skin reveals our health and, without proper intervention, continued adrenal hyperstimulation can lead to adrenal exhaustion. Elevated cortisol levels are wrinkles in the making thanks to inflammation at sub-level. Break outs are more likely to happen when the digestive system is under stress, the blood supply gets cut off from the skin making the delivery of vital supply of nutrients and detox more difficult. Redness and swelling can also be related to cortisol imbalance. Add to this a lack of sunlight from our poor weather and you’ve got a recipe for skin problems.

But help is at hand. Find out how to combat the effects of cortisol in two part coming soon...

Joan Burke