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Combating Cultural Stress

By: Howard Murad, MD
Posted: June 13, 2008

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As a result of this pursuit to stay ahead, workers are experiencing extreme levels of on-the-job stress. According to a report from the federal government’s National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health in 2000, 40% of workers find their jobs to be stressful, and 75% believe that their jobs are more nerve-racking now than they were a generation ago.

Americans’ busy on-the-go lifestyles have created yet another problem: There is no time to cook at home, so people have grown accustomed to eating out. Those who do this are faced with the stress of choosing a restaurant and making a reservation, or sometimes waiting an hour or more for a table. Others become reliant on unhealthy fast-food meals. As a matter of fact, an article titled “Fast Food Consumption of U.S. Adults” in The Journal of the American College of Nutrition reported that 42% of the money used on food items was spent on unhealthy fast food in 2001. In either case, Americans are consuming more processed foods than ever before. Eating meals that are high in sugar and saturated fats can cause glycation, which can result in increased susceptibility to diabetes. Refined foods also contribute to poor brain function and depression, and this often is combated with caffeine to stay awake and prescription sleep aids to instigate rest. Americans’ national sleep deficit has translated into an astounding 43.1 million sleep aid prescriptions in 2005, according to Barnes-Jewish Hospital in St. Louis, and more than $9.2 billion in retail coffee sales in 1999, according to the Specialty Coffee Association of America.

In order to help maintain mental and physical health, it is important to consume complex carbohydrates from whole grains, fruits and vegetables, and good fats—especially omega-3 fatty acids. This substance not only encourages water attraction to the cells, but also is a component of the cell membrane. In fact, studies chronicled in the recent Nutraceuticals World article “The Stability of the Mood Health Market,” by Marian Zboraj, have shown that omega-3s in food may help to decrease depression—a leading mental health disorder that has been linked to constant, overwhelming stress in people’s lives.

Cultural stress and clients’ skin

How does cultural stress affect the skin? As skin care professionals know, all of these conditions are reflected in the way the skin looks and feels. First of all, any kind of anxiety leads to a tremendous amount of nervous system activity. It can cause an outpouring of adrenaline, cortisol and other stress-related hormones. In recent years, I have observed an increase in rosacea and adult acne, which I believe is directly related to a rise in cultural stress. When you are stressed, researchers believe that an increased number of certain hormones that are known to worsen acne are released.

Another skin condition that I believe may be attributed to cultural stress is an increase in facial hair among adult women. Hormonal shifts and the outpouring of androgens that come with anxiety can cause hair loss, as well as the sudden growth of hair in places where it didn’t previously exist.

The water principle