Stress is not just a feeling, it is a physical response that can lead to a widespread hormonal imbalance in your body. Balancing all your hormones is an integral part of your health, and luckily, there are natural ways to do it. Let’s talk a little about what the stress and hormones connection or relationship is like. Later we will cover which hormones are commonly affected and the symptoms that hormonal imbalance can cause.
How Stress and Hormones Are Connected
The production of hormones naturally fluctuates throughout your life, so that the needs of each of its phases can be met. This includes puberty and reproduction for both sexes, as well as pregnancy and menopause in women. However, hormonal fluctuations due to stress are a different matter.
Stressors can be emotional, mental, or physical; they can come from physical injury, lack of sleep, exposure to toxins, leaky gut, or a diet full of inflammatory foods. It can be acute or chronic. Acute stress does not last long, and recovery is quick.
However, chronic stress, such as continual pressure to do challenging work or maintain a difficult personal relationship, has a different effect on your body and brain.
Chronic stress can damage nerve cells in the medial amygdala, which has a connection to increased anxiety and post-traumatic stress disorder. Acute stress, on the other hand, improves the effectiveness of the immune system.
Hormones are an integral part of stress because your response to stress is controlled by hormones. These are the different hormones your body can produce when you run into a stressor, and how these specific hormones could be affected by stress.
Adrenaline is commonly called “the fight or flight hormone,” and it is produced by the adrenal glands when they receive a message from the brain that there is a stressful situation to deal with.
Along with norepinephrine, it is responsible for the immediate reactions you do when you are stressed, such as sweating, racing heart rate, etc. It also gives you an energy boost and focuses your attention.
This steroid hormone is commonly called “the stress hormone,” and it kicks in within minutes rather than seconds after encountering a stressor. This is because a part of the brain called the amygdala must first recognize the threat before sending a message to your hypothalamus.
This causes a chain reaction that tells the adrenal glands to make cortisol. Cortisol mobilizes glucose stores for energy and facilitates the consolidation of fear-based memories so that you can survive in the future and avoid that dangerous situation.
However, excess cortisol can suppress the immune system, increase blood pressure and blood sugar levels, lower libido, and contribute to acne, obesity, and chronic diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, diabetes. , depression and asthma.
Your body is simply not designed to live in fight or flight mode all the time. You need to rest and relax to function optimally.
Testosterone is a steroid hormone that is continuously secreted by the testicles if you are a man and to a lesser extent by the ovaries if you are a woman. Psychological and physical stressors, such as surgery, have been shown to lower testosterone levels in the blood, which can cause many symptoms, including fatigue, hair loss, and loss of muscle mass.
When the adrenal glands release cortisol, it can stimulate certain activity that converts pregnenolone, a hormone that acts as a raw material for the production of several different hormones, into progesterone, which can alter the progesterone/estrogen balance, causing a dominance of estrogen.
This balance is important for healthy, pain-free menstrual cycles, a normal ovulatory cycle, and normal fertility levels, as well as healthy cognitive function.
Estrogen is commonly thrown out of balance in your body due to stress. This can have a significant impact on your everyday life. For example, higher than normal estrogen levels can affect your brain’s ability to deal with stress.
This affects fewer men than women, who are more likely to suffer from stress-related mental health problems than men. Estrogen deficiency can also lead to a decrease in serotonin and therefore depression. This is why it is so critical that your estrogen levels are in balance.
A great example of a stress-induced hormonal imbalance is when high levels of stress can cause your body to “steal” progesterone to make the stress hormone cortisol. This upsets your estrogen and progesterone balance, creating estrogen dominance, which can lead to problems like PMS, weight gain, and autoimmunity.
This hormone stimulates labor contractions and milk production in women during and after giving birth to a baby. It can also reduce anxiety, as well as heart rate, blood pressure, and cortisol levels.
In men, it is less important, but it helps move sperm and helps with testosterone production in the testicles. Having too little oxytocin has been associated with depression and post-traumatic stress disorder. Oxytocin has been studied and explored as a supplement to prevent and treat stress-related psychiatric disorders.
Vasopressin plays a role in regulating water and sodium in your body. However, it is also considered a stress hormone.
This keeps your cortisol and adrenaline levels high for longer as it inhibits the chemicals in your body that break them down, as well as the levels of other steroid hormones released by your adrenal glands, such as aldosterone, which plays a role in balancing sodium and blood pressure.
Dehydroepiandrosterone-ST (DHEA) is a steroid hormone produced in the adrenal glands. It is a very complex substance. It is the raw material of all sex hormones and is mainly converted into testosterone and later estrogen. Without the proper amount of this hormone, your body cannot synthesize estrogen.
This is produced by the adrenal glands and is believed to be secreted in response to stress. DHEA levels peak around the age of 20-25, then decline to 20-30% of peak values at age 70-80.
DHEA improves memory and reduces symptoms of depression.
According to studies, the levels of this hormone in relation to cortisol can indicate the degree to which your body can protect itself against the negative effects of stress. Fortunately, cortisol levels also eventually decline and then stabilize between the ages of 30 and 60.
The body needs to keep progesterone levels high after giving birth. But stress can intervene. A study on the effect of stress on women’s cortisol, estrogen, and progesterone levels showed that estrogen levels stayed the same, while progesterone and cortisol increased.
However, when your body has to prioritize defense over fertility, such as when you’re stressed, it will choose defense, making cortisol over progesterone through the use of pregnenolone, which reduces your chances of getting pregnant. This is called “pregnenolone steal.”
6 signs stress could be affecting your hormones
As we now know, chronic stress can cause hormonal imbalance, particularly in the hormones mentioned above. Any or all of the factors below could indicate that stress is the cause of the imbalance.
High blood pressure
Cortisol can increase systolic blood pressure to a very significant extent, as well as increase the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases, such as stroke.
High blood sugar level
Stress hormones, including adrenaline and cortisol, increase blood sugar and then insulin. This is particularly troublesome if you are diabetic as you may not be producing enough insulin for your blood sugar to stabilize.
This is also a problem for people with or without diabetes who also have Candida overgrowth, as Candida feeds on sugar.
Loss of libido and fertility
Stress can interfere with sexual desire as elevated cortisol levels can also cause irregular periods, affecting fertility. Studies have shown that women under a lot of stress have lower pregnancy rates. This may be due to the theft of pregnenolone.
Stressful events like the loss of jobs and loved ones have been linked to the onset of depression. The HHA axis is your hormonal response system to stress. It is made up of a part of the hypothalamus, a part of the pituitary gland, and the adrenal glands, and is where all the hormones involved in your stress response are released.
In one study, HHA axis dysfunction occurred in about 70% of patients with depression.
During an episode of acute stress, your appetite is often suppressed so you can focus on escaping danger rather than having your next meal. However, chronic stress promotes the intake of foods that are high in calories, particularly those that are unhealthy, since cortisol stimulates the appetite. This may be why chronic stress is linked to weight gain and obesity.
Stress affects a part of the brain called the hippocampus, which plays a key role in processing memories. Neuroimaging studies have reported that stress-related cognitive changes have a connection to hippocampal atrophy, which is associated with dementia and memory problems.Stress is not just a feeling, it is a physical response that can lead to a widespread hormonal imbalance in your body. Balancing