Stress and Aging: How Adrenal Fatigue Impacts Collagen Production


by Erica Jones MHS

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Can stress make you age faster? 

Well, think about this. Have you ever noticed how different a president looks 4 years after they’ve been inaugurated? Suddenly their skin went from having a glow to having deep wrinkles and their hair is now completely grey. They look like they aged ten years in 4!

The answer is ‘yes’—stress does make you age faster. But why? And how? 

Chronic stress is a hallmark sign of adrenal dysfunction. When you are constantly stressed or anxious about work/life/family/your country—your adrenals go on overdrive cranking out cortisol, the stress hormone. And when that happens, it’s only a matter of time until adrenal fatigue sets in.  

When you have adrenal fatigue you’re lethargic, foggy, achey, and irritable. Not only does stress wreak havoc on your adrenals, but it also wreaks havoc on your skin and joints. Yup, it’s all connected. Stress and aging have a very close relationship and in this article, we’re going to explain how adrenal fatigue impacts collagen production.  

What is cortisol?

Cortisol is popularly known as the “stress hormone” because of its connection to the stress response. When you’re stressed, your adrenal glands secrete cortisol, letting your body know that something is wrong. Think of it as an alarm system for when there’s an intruder. Intruders these days can look like a large workload, a short project deadline, dishes in the sink, piles of dirty laundry, not enough sleep, too much caffeine, and a long to-do list. 

Your body has cortisol receptors located all over. When your body is on high alert, for example, cortisol can impact or shut down functions that get in the way. This is why when you’re stressed, you may have sower digestion, tummy aches, and a lower immune system. 

Cortisol has a bit of a bad rep these days because we live in such a constant high-stress society. But cortisol is necessary for our survival. The problem begins when we are constantly in fight or flight mode, and our cortisol levels get out of whack.

When our cortisol levels are out of balance, our adrenals are taxed, and we are in a state of chronic stress. Chronic stress is a hallmark sign of adrenal dysfunction. Research shows that stress can negatively impact collagen and increase aging.

But what exactly is collagen, and why is protecting it so important? Keep reading. 

What is Collagen?

Collagen is the most abundant source of protein in the human body and can be found in skin, muscles, bones, blood vessels, tendons, and the digestive system. It also contains 19 different amino acids! Think of collagen as the building blocks of our body. 

And get this, up to 30 percent of all of the protein in our body is collagen protein: 70 percent of hair, skin, and nails, 85 percent of tendons, 70 percent of joint cartilage, 90 percent of bones, and 100 percent of connective tissues are made from collagen! This complex protein quite literally holds you together.

The Relationship Between Collagen and Cortisol 

As we age, collagen production in our body slows, increasing signs of aging and affecting mobility. But age is not the only factor that impacts our collagen production. Chronic stress and cortisol release increases inflammation in the body, which breaks down skin’s collagen and elastin. When this happens your skin’s plumpness and glow can begin to fade. 

Research shows that stress can cause wrinkles to form because high, chronic amounts of cortisol break down collagen and elastin. 

A recent study looked at collagen type 1 synthesis in the presence of cortisol. The study looked at the gene and protein expression levels of collagen type 1 human dermal fibroblasts (HDFs) with three different concentrations of cortisol. The study found that collagen type 1 was reduced in the presence of cortisol. 

The researchers also explored the relationship of collagen and cortisol by treating HDFs with cortisol and certain collagen peptides. The study reported that collagen peptides diminished the effect of cortisol-dependent reduction in procollagen type 1. The authors suggest that at a cellular level, collagen peptides can module the effects of cortisol! 

The final conclusion of their study suggests that supplementation with collagen peptides can support skin and joint health. Additionally, they suggest that collagen peptides can support skin health under conditions related to stress. 

The problem with this is that today, the average American isn’t getting enough collagen through food sources, and they are getting way too much stress from news, family, etc. So supplementation is necessary to both combat stress-related aging and reduction in production. 

Benefits of Collagen Supplementation

  • Neutralize free radicals and prevent oxidative stress (a.k.a, aging accelerators)
  • Boost natural collagen production and cellular vitality
  • Promote skin cell turnover and slow the aging process
  • Minimize the appearance of wrinkles and fine lines around the mouth and eyes
  • Increase hydration and moisture retention
  • Promote elasticity and skin suppleness
  • Strengthen hair and nails; reduce breakage
  • Decrease fragmentation of the collagen network

How to Choose a Collagen Supplement 

The benefits of collagen are vast—there’s a reason why it’s one of the most popular health supplements on the market. It’s incredible for hair, skin, nails, gut, and joints. But here’s the thing: not all collagen products are equal. 

For the past decade, health enthusiasts have battled it out on social platforms over chicken collagen vs. fish vs. beef vs. vegan. But while everyone seems to be fighting over which type of collagen works best, they forget an important detail: the type of collagen you use is mute if it’s not bioavailable. 

Bioavailability refers to the proportion of a substance that enters the body and can have an active effect. If your body isn’t properly absorbing and assimilating collagen, you won’t get the effects you paid for. 

Increasing the bioavailability of collagen is critical to reap the anti-aging benefits. So how do we do that?

Potent antioxidants and herbal adaptogens that boost natural collagen production, promote skin cell turnover, and slow aging—collagen boosters. Ingredients like black pepper fruit extract, acerola cherry, and aloe vera are some of the best collagen boosters. 

When looking for a collagen supplement, make sure to purchase one with collagen boosters! For more than a decade, we’ve tried tons of collagen products, but when we couldn’t find one that worked to our standards, we set out to make our own. Instead of creating just collagen, we supercharged it with max bioavailability. Not only that, but we added in ashwagandha—one of the best adaptogens for helping you deal with modern-day stressors. And as we all know by now, stress is a huge culprit when it comes to aging. 

To learn more about our yummy vanilla-honey Beauty Collagen Complex powder, go here

Tips for Reducing Stress to Protect Collagen 

  • Take a walk in the park 
  • Practice breathwork 
  • Listen to music that makes you want to dance….DANCE!
  • Feel your feelings, name them, journal on them 
  • Remember your feelings are valid
  • Rest 
  • If you are a parent, get a sitter for a whole day and do things that will help you reset 
  • Eat nourishing, grounding foods. Potatoes are great for this. Leafy greens and hydrating foods will flood your body with nutrition 
  • Sing, hum- it stimulates your vagus nerve 
  • Try including adaptogens in your daily routine (ashwagandha is our favorite!) 
  • Look for nervine herbs. We love passionvine, damniana, and lavender

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Meet Erica

Meet Erica

Meet Erica Jones, MHS

Hi there! I'm Erica Jones, MHS.
I'm a mom to 4 amazing little kids, wife to an incredibly talented doctor and I’ve been doing this “healthy lifestyle” thing for over a decade. I’m super passionate about essential oils, health, wellness and making natural living easy. I’m so grateful to be living my BEST life and I'm here to help YOU live yours.

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