How stress impacts your hormones & how to mitigate it

Change the way stress effects you & your health!

It’s no surprise that stress is stressful! In fact, I could argue that 100% of women today experience stress in some way, shape or form. After my research and studies of hormonal health, I firmly believe that it is stress that is at the crux of all of our health crisis. 

Stress and anxiety are so close to home for me for many reasons; I am definitely a type A personalty. I like things organized and planned out. I can also be a control freak. I have always had high expectations of myself which put a lot of unnecessary pressure to perform which eventually resulted in  adrenal fatigue/burn out which fed into some pretty awful gut issues that no doctor could figure out…Sound familiar?! Ugh, not fun at all!

Here’s what I didn’t know tho- I had no idea the stress I was under was totally deteriorating my health. I also did not know how shifting my perspective of stress would be such a game changer in my health and all the hormonal imbalances I was experincing..

Let’s take a look at what stress is doing inside our body first:

Stress’s responsibility 

When you look at cortisol and it’s purpose is in our body- you realize how important this hormone is. Stress elicites an increase in cortisol which is the hormone that keeps us away from danger. When our body senses we are in danger, let’s say we are crossing the street and a car quickly speeds by-our brain signals the adrenals to release cortisol- cortisol then has 3 main jobs- raise blood sugar (to feed muscles), raise blood pressure, and suppresses the immune system- which in turn  give us the “fight or flight” fuel to save ourself from potentially being ran over (in this example) or any stressful event. So, thanks to those positive effects of cortisol we can keep ourselves alive. So, yeah- cortisol is actually a good thing!

Here’s the catch though- our bodies were not created for the fast paced- dynamic world that we live in today. Think about our life 100,000 years ago when we were hunters and gatherers, there was the stress to stay alive and be safe, and maybe some things in between but they did not have the stress of technology, finances, jobs, and other emotional and mental stresses of everyday life. With all this added stress, our bodies are creating an over abundance of cortisol in attempt to help us cope which starts to have reverse effects on our health and can eventually lead to burn out and exhaustion.  When we are in a state of constant stress- our adrenals are working on overdrive to keep up with the output of cortisol and adrenaline it thinks we need to stay alive.

Have you ever noticed you tend to get sick after a stressful event like a new job, move, deadline, or even the holidays? There is quite a bit of research out there that suggests the reason the cold/flu season peaks so high in the winter (outside of the change in weather) is due to the stress from the holidays (financial, personal, family, travel) as well as the food we eat consume (sweets, excess foods, etc) which also puts stress on our bodies. Cortisol will temporarily shut our immune system down to focus on the survival and getting through the situation.

Here’s the other problem with cortisol- Since it is our fight or flight hormone- we can consider it our alpha hormone- the most important one. So when it is elicited- our body is focused on that, and much less on the other hormones like estrogen/progesterone etc- this is how the beginning of hormonal imbalances start. I have seen so many people through my program suffer from infertility problems- ovulation problems, thyroid disfunction, ect- and there is absolutely a connection to the ongoing psychological stress in their lives- their body is focusing on staying alive and not so much focused on making a baby or bringing a baby into the world.

Hormonal imbalances causes from stress

With Cortisol being that alpha hormone-our body’s energy goes to resolving and managing the stress, therefore our other hormones will be put on the back burner. Constant neglect of those hormones is what spirals into hormonal imbalances such as cortisol dysfunction and adrenal fatigue. Check out the symptoms below and see if any of them apply to you-

Symptoms of Cortisol Dysfunction:

  • Rushing from 1 task to the next
  • Anxiety, nervousness
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Decreased fertility
  • High blood pressure and high blood sugar
  • Irregular periods
  • Inability to concentrate
  • Aches/pains in joints
  • Acne

Eventually, after prolonged periods of high cortisol- your adrenals will become fatigued- below are symptoms from adrenals being on overdrive and should definitely be a cue for you to know some TLC is needed asap

Symptoms of Adrenal fatigue

  • Fatigue and inability to maintain steady energy levels all day
  • Difficulty sleeping
  • Decreased fertility
  • Hair loss
  • PMS symptoms
  • Panic attacks, low stress tolerance, easily stressed
  • Weight gain-specially in mid section
  • Sick easily (immune system)
  • Low libido (reproductive system)
  • Cravings for salt/sugar

Did you currently experience any of these symptoms? Are you surprised to hear that they have to do with your body’s way of trying to deal with the stress it is experiencing? I certainly was surprised.

Now let’s look at what triggers a stressful response in our body- from foods we eat, to lifestyle choices we make.

Foods, beverages & everyday products contribute to stress

On top of emotional and psychological stress of life, the foods we consume can also greatly impact the stress we put on our bodies. Examples of food choices that add stress to our bodies are; food allergies and/or sensitivities (gluten, soy, etc), caffeine, skipping meals, alcohol, sugar, processed and artificial ingredients.

Personal care and cleaning products that contain harmful ingredients and chemicals also put stress in our bodies. Some of the top ones I highly recommend making sure are not in the products you use are;

-Mineral oil- common product filler that is filled with chemicals

-BHA/BHT- used to lighten skin and is considered a carcinogen

-Sodium Borate/Boric Acid- interfere with hormones and can cause infertility

-Mercury- used to lighten skin and can cause mercury poisoning

-Parabens- these mimimic estrogen and lead to hormonal imbalance

-Fragrances- chemical that body does not know how to process or break down

-Phthalates- block testosterone and can damage reproductive system

-Sodium Lauryl Sulfate- found in most shampoos/soaps and cleansers and is considered a carcinogen that can harm nervous system.

Let me know if you would like some recommendations on products that I use for both everyday personal care and cleaning.

Lifestyle choices that contribute to stress

There are many lifestyle factors that contribute to the stress such as over exercising, extreme dieting, eating disorders, demanding job, stress on the high way, relationship turmoil, fast paced world, and living in polluted city.

It is obvious our adrenals have taken a big hit in this world we live in today- which makes it more important than ever to nourish them- which can be done by managing stress more effectively. We need our adrenals to be in olympian shape! They are responsible for the production of so many important hormones in our body so it is up to us to nourish our adrenals through stress management protocols.

How to manage stress more effectively  

Since it is impossible to completely eliminate stress in the world we live in today it is critical to implement ways to manage and mitigate stress in your every day. Think of stress as putting your body in the “red” zone, and your goal is going to be to get your body in a “green” zone as often as possible. When you are in that green zone, it gives your body an opportunity to reset and recalibrate which includes focusing on rebalancing your hormones.

I am going to break down some ideas for managing stress into 3 categories (diet, lifestyle and mindset).

Mindset

-Changing your perspective stress- Giving stress a ugly face only makes it more stressful and overwhelming therefore start thinking of stress as a good thing! When something comes up that may feel stressful- allow yourself to acknowledge those feelings and thoughts that come up and remind yourself 1- this may feel stressful only because you care (and caring about things is such a lovely quality to have!), 2- remind yourself that what may be stressful in the moment- probably won’t be stressful in the future- everything always works itself out (think of times when you had a deadline, or an interview, etc and how that stress eventually goes away)- so yes, this too shall pass! 3- take the emotions out of it and 4- don’t worry about things that haven’t even happened yet. 5- ask yourself- is this stress worth impacting my health and wellbeing?

Here’s where it gets real interesting about the perspective shift of stress- our adrenals will product a hormone called DHEA vs cortisol when we think of stress in a positive way.  DHEA allows our brain to see stressful events as a challenge vs thinking we are in danger. DHEA will fuel our body with courage and focus versus cortisol flooding our body with stress and shutting down our immune system.

Diet

-Eliminate foods that you are intolerant to (either by hormone rebalance program/elimination diet, or allergy testing)

-Eat organic/non-gmo/high quality foods

-Eliminate caffeine alcohol

-Avoid processed sugars & foods

-Manage blood sugars

-Ask me about specific diet protocols for replenishing your adrenals! 

 

Lifestyle

-Finding intentional moments in the day for deep breathing & meditation

-Have boundaries with commitments and over scheduling yourself

-Technology disconnect- allow yourself 1 day a week to break from social media. Enjoy living in the moment!

-Technology disconnect before bed

-Walk barefoot on grass

-Get 8+ hours of sleep each night

-Discuss your feelings with a friend or family member

-Call a friend/ family member

-Practice yoga

-Go for a walk

-Dance

-Surround yourself with positive people

-Practice acceptance

-Be gentle with yourself

-Self affirmations

-Mindfulness

-Journaling

Your stress levels should be something you protect like a million dollars!

 

 

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