We at VitaSoul love collaborating with only the best Natural Medical Professionals. People we trust and turn to when suggesting only the most effective supplements and protocols for our clients. Our blogger this month is one such expert we often call on and who has helped so many of our clients.
My name is Dr Chloe Fairlamb and I am very excited to be contributing to VitaSoul for the very first time. First up, a bit about me. After my Bachelor of Science in Complementary Medicine Degree, I specialized in Naturopathy. I am passionate about all aspects of health, especially in children and teens.
So I thought I would focus on something we have all experienced in the last year: Stress – more specifically a new type of stress impacting our Teens called the ‘COVID Stress Syndrome’.
We all remember the struggles of being a teen. For some of us, we are living them all over again through our own teenage children. Mood swings, weight concerns, pimples, and the difficulty of being stuck between childhood and adulthood, are just a few things our teens must work through. We know Covid has been stressful, we have lived every second of it, but what impact has this pandemic had on teens?
With the advent of Covid-19, we have seen a marked effect on young Teens’ immune system, digestive system and integumentary system (skin). How can we combat this as parents and more importantly, support these different systems in our children?
What is the “Stress Response”?
When our brains experience a form of stress such as worry, fright or anxiety, it releases a hormone called adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH). ACTH then stimulates our adrenal glands to release cortisol and adrenalin. When the body is releasing cortisol and adrenalin, it is in a state known as “fight or flight”. This causes reactions in the body such as: heart rate and blood pressure increase, slowed digestion, inflammation, and muscle tension.
While these responses may be necessary in short-lived stressful situations, they become detrimental when the stress is long-term and continuous. For example, if you are being chased by a lion, you don’t want your body focusing its energy on digesting the meal you just ate but rather on increasing blood pressure and circulation and thereby oxygenating your muscles so you can run faster!
However, if you are constantly stressed/worried and your body is constantly ‘distracted’ by the stress, you’re going to have a situation where your digestive system is constantly compromised. The increased muscle tension will inhibit the natural peristalsis action of the colon (large intestine), which is essential for optimal digestion. The continuous stress will also result in an increase in inflammation in the body, which leads to an overall compromised state.
Good Health Energy & Vitality is one of my favorite ‘go-to’ supplements for managing stress and anxiety. It contains significantly high doses of Withania and Rhodiola, which have been used for many years for their “adaptogenic” properties. This means that they can lower cortisol levels effectively, modulate the immune response and regulate the production of serotonin. If you notice stress, moodiness, tiredness and anxiety in your teen then this is the supplement to support them.
Product featured: Good Health Energy & Vitality
Good Health B Stress Free is a product I love to recommend when patients say that they are feeling “stressed, tired and just can’t make it through the day”. It contains the essential B Vitamins for optimal energy production, to support brain function and to replenish those B Vitamins depleted during times of stress. It also contains the powerful anxiolytic herbs (herbs that combat anxiety): Passion Flower, Lemon Balm and Licorice. This product is perfect for exam-time to help manage stress, aid effective concentration and provide teens with the calm energy to get through days of studying!
Product featured: Good Health B Stress Free
Coyne Felix Saffron contains Saffron which is a traditional Ayurvedic herb that has been used for centuries. It is particularly good for relieving stress, enhancing the mood, and helping those who tend to stress-eat. This powerful culinary herb is gaining popularity in the functional medicine world as there is growing scientific evidence of its efficacy in treating stress, anxiety, and mood swings – something which many teens need support with.
Product featured: Coyne Felix Saffron
What does stress do to the digestive system:
Now that we understand the basic stress response in the body, it is easier to understand how our digestive systems can be compromised in stressful situations.
- alterations in gastrointestinal motility (peristalsis action),
- an increase in intestinal permeability (meaning that there will be an increased absorption of “unwanted” particles moving through the gut and into the blood – commonly known as leaky gut),
- negative effects on the intestinal microbiota (negatively affecting the “good bacteria”/probiotics in the gut).
Probiotics are essential to support the gut, however, I’m a big believer in finding the right probiotic! The biggest problem with most strains of bacteria is that they are super-sensitive to the surrounding temperature and environment. This means that they are easily damaged and don’t necessarily reach where they are meant to be – the gut!
Good Health Immuno-biotic is one of those probiotics I absolutely love and the great news is that it can be taken by the whole family at breakfast time. This product contains a strain of probiotics called Bacillus coagulans which is known as one of the most “hardy” strains available. This means that 100% of what you take, reaches the gut. Bacillus coagulans is a spore-forming probiotic that promotes a favorable environment in the gut, which then promotes the growth of all good strains and inhibits the growth of bad strains like E. coli.
This product is vegan friendly as it is soil-based and also contains the scientifically researched EpiCor which not only acts as a prebiotic (what probiotics feed on), it also has an immune-modulating function, supporting a healthy immune system at the same time!
Product featured: Good Health Immuno-biotic
How does stress effect the immune system?
Stress has a domino effect as it compromises the gut which in turn, impacts the immune system. If your teen is low on nutrients such as Zinc and Vitamin C, the body will be unable to fight off foreign viruses and bacteria optimally.
A study done in 2015 shows that continuous stress experienced in adolescence caused an increase in circulating proinflammatory cytokines (these are proteins that control immune responses in the body) and cortisol. One of the metabolic effects of cortisol includes the suppression of some parts of the immune response. If there is a suppression of the immune response, one can understand why stress will cause a compromised immune system. In conjunction with “boosting” the immune system with food and nutrients, it is also important to address the stressor at hand (3).
Zinc is an essential mineral and I’m sure we’ve all heard much about why we need to take zinc during Covid! On top of the fact that it plays a vital role in both the first-line defense (preventing a pathogen from entering) and second-line defense (fighting off the pathogen once it’s entered the system), it is also an essential mineral for healthy skin and hormones. It also plays an important role in managing inflammation of the skin, acting as an antioxidant for the growth and maturation of cells of the skin. Zinc is also needed for healthy reproductive hormone production and proves a useful defense in an acne-prone teen.
Good Health Zinc Melts are a delicious vanilla-berry flavored chewable that dissolves on the tongue and contains Zinc Citrate – which makes it a highly absorbable form of Zinc! Everything about the product is aimed at optimal absorption and it’s great for the whole family. As an added bonus, it also contains a small amount of beta-carotene, which again increases the absorption of zinc but will also have benefits for treating problematic teen skin.
Product featured: Good Health Zinc Melts
How does stress cause problematic skin?
The relationship between psychological stress and skin health is intricate and complex. However, studies show that through nerve endings, skin cells such as keratinocytes, immune cells, mast cells and sebaceous glands, the two systems are indeed linked.
As we’ve learned, stress results in the production of stress hormones (cortisol) and proinflammatory factors which then, in turn, lead to stress-induced inflammatory events in the body. Some of these skin-related stress-induced events include aggravated acne, psoriasis and atopic dermatitis.
During young adulthood/teen years, acne is generally at its worst. With continuous psychological stressors such as Covid-related stress, one can understand why conditions such as acne will worsen (4).
As a Naturopath, I’m a huge believer in treating from the inside out. However, I do understand that sometimes these sorts of protocols can take time and sometimes we’re looking for more of a “quick fix”. Conditions like acne can worsen stress and anxiety which becomes an ongoing, vicious cycle of the acne-causing stress and the stress worsening the acne.
Living Nature Manuka Honey Gel is something I always like to keep on hand. This powerful combination of Manuka Honey, Manuka essential oil and Tea-tree oil is a potent treatment for acne breakouts, inflamed skin or any kind of fungal infection/rash on the skin. Manuka essential oil has been scientifically proven to be 33 times more potent that tea-tree oil. Due to its potent antioxidant, antimicrobial and anti-inflammatory properties, it’s the perfect treatment for acne (or “mask-ne”, which I’m sure we can all relate to).
Product featured: Living Nature Manuka Honey Gel
Recommended Naturopathic Treatment Protocols:
Being a teen is full of social pressures and stress, add a pandemic to the mix and these emotions can heighten substantially.
As the stress wheel turns, a compromised gut causes poor absorption of nutrients which results in lowered immune responses and aggravated conditions such as acne, leaky gut and irritable bowel syndrome (IBS).
The treatment and management of these conditions should be multi-faceted as the body as a whole system, with every system is inter-linked. Remember that treating the stressor should always be the first port of call as this is where the whole knock-on-effect begins.
Some of my top lifestyle recommendations are:
- Deep Breathing – studies show that 10 “deep belly breaths” (where the diaphragm visibly expands and contracts) can lower salivary cortisol. When you see your teen start to feel overwhelmed, encourage them to take a moment to breathe deeply and then go back to the stressor at hand with a calmer approach.
- Writing/journaling/meditation – Buy your teen a journal for next to their bed. Writing things down can often simplify the situation at hand and put to rest what may be on your mind and bothering you. Remind them to shift focus to the things they can control and away from the things that they can’t.
- Dietary recommendations – if you know that your teen is intolerant to specific foods (dairy, wheat, gluten), try your best to limit them in your home, serve alternatives or encourage your teen to eat them in moderation. Remember that if we are constantly exposing our gut to things that it struggles to digest, this will just result in an inflammatory response which will then compromise the immune system.
As we head into winter, we may see more signs that our teens are struggling with the stressors of a possible rise in Covid cases as well as just the annual ‘winter-blues’ that reaches for us all as we head indoors. Now, more than ever, we need to be encouraging our teens to talk about what they are experiencing and find positive ways to work through the stress – thereby assisting the body in performing optimally.
Yours in health,
Dr Chloe Fairlamb (Naturopathic Doctor)