How can stress cause hormone imbalance?
Are you feeling overwhelmed, moody and fatigued?
Do you suspect that stress has caused hormone imbalance?
Is your digestive system not behaving? Is your healthy diet is not giving you the lift you would like? There is always a cause. Let me explain.
Hormone Imbalance & stress making you TIRED AND WIRED is the expression that many of my patients say they feel. Along with this feeling they are often stressed and overwhelmed. Why is it so common?
Well, there are two sections of the autonomic nervous system (ANS) is split into two sections: The rest and digest system (Parasympathetic) and the fight or flight system (Sympathetic). I see that some people have an imbalance and are switched in the fight or flight too often. When your body is exposed to stress, whether it be physical or mental, it is flooded with two hormones adrenaline and cortisol. Both of these put you in the “fight or flight” response. Your pupils dilate, your heart races, you become tense, thoughts are short lasting, memory reduces and you are on edge. These may have been handy in the days when an animal would jump out of a bush, but not handy for modern day stress, in fact it is detrimental to your health and will make your body even more stressed.
What does this do to your Hormone Imbalance?
I call it the pregnenolone steal! What’s that? Pregnenolone is like a mother hormone, it can be used to make cortisol or it can be used to make reproductive hormones. When you are stressed your body goes down the cortisol pathway and then you can end up with hormone imbalance & stress. So if I stress less it will fix itself up? Not just yet, you see inflammation such as asthma, arthritis, heart disease, kidney disease, hepatitis, IBS, allergies or any other inflammatory condition will also cause cortisol to increase. So you need to reduce the inflammation in the body.
Cortisol causes the blood to be shunted from the digestive system to the muscles, causing peristalsis (bowel movements) to change and your nutrient absorption may possibly drop. This in itself can cause energy to drop, sleep quality to reduce, changes in skin, and lowered mood. Much of your serotonin production (happy neurotransmitters) happens in the gut, so any sort of reduced blood flow could result in reduced neurotransmitter production. Digestive enzymes are made in the gut, if you find that some days you can handle a food and the next day you cant, it could be a reflection of your stress response. Digestive becomes the second priority when you are in the fight or flight response.
Can you see it is hard for your mind to be clear when your body is not?
The stress/anti-inflammatory hormone Cortisol is what wakes you up in the morning. If you are stressed, it is high all day long, not the slightest bit useful when you are laying in bed trying to get to sleep. It will prevent you from getting to sleep. Your mind will race! I see this in many clients when we do saliva hormone testing (Cortisol is high at night and melatonin [sleeping hormone] is low).
It is more than likely that you have experienced the gut-brain connection. The expressions “gut wrenching” or “butterflies” are all examples. I have heard of instances where a person was so stressed from a trauma that it was then their digestive health deteriorated. For this you need to go back and correct damage that was caused, but more importantly address the brain and the gut at the exact same time.
It is always harder to lose weight when you are stressed. Cortisol also makes it difficult to lose weight, and you will hold more fat predominantly around the tummy. So no matter how much exercise you do the weight will be hard to reduce. Cortisol levels could alter your melatonin levels, the sleeping hormone. If this happens your leptin levels (a hormone that tells you to stop eating) reduces, so you will feel more hungry and more likely to eat carbohydrate or sweets and unable to control your portion size. The increased carbohydrate content then increases insulin, which promotes inflammation, causes another spike of cortisol. See how everything in the body is connected?
Being in the fight and flight response for too long a period of time can lead you feeling drained, this leads to you being more emotionally unstable and you may become teary easier. This not only affects you it affects those around you. And makes it hard to deal with day to day tasks. I say this, because I know what it is like. I have experienced anxiety and panic attacks, so my understanding comes from experience and not just knowledge.
Digestion go hand in hand with Hormone Imbalance & Stress. You should never just treat stress, you always need to dig deeper. The body needs balance, when one thing increases another decreases, when one nutrient is deficient for a pathway it will be ‘robbed’ from another and the imbalance continues. This is the beauty of Naturopathy, we address all aspects of your health, to enable you to live a happy, fruitful, abundant life!
Author Suzi Le Fanue ND
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