Stress: Not just An Immune Buster But Also A Hormonal Havoc!


Stress – it’s everywhere.  From the hyped-up news stories, to the staggering unemployment rates to the financial crisis that we find ourselves.  But ladies, this is not all that stress brings our way…

Stress can also cause a hormonal roller coaster.  Remember when we discussed perimenopause – the time when your cycles can go haywire – shorter cycles, heavier periods, more irritability, mood lability and major loss in libido – not to mention those darn hot flashes. How does stress affect all of this?

As we’ve learned from previous blogs, when we are stressed, our adrenal glands produce more cortisol, also known as the “stress hormone”.  Under acute stress (short-term), this elevated cortisol level can improve our ability to flee the wild-eyed tiger coming our way, raising our glucose levels to feed our muscles and sharpen our senses.  Yet, under chronic stress, such as the times we live in now where the stress levels may be higher than ever, prolonged elevation in cortisol can not only suppress our immune system (YES!  Making us MORE susceptible to possible infection) as well as cause a plummeting effect on our hormones, specifically estrogen and progesterone.  As these hormone levels fall, we can experience more hot flashes, night sweats, irritability, mood swings and so much more.

For menopausal women on hormone therapy, during this unprecedented time, your doctor may need to increase your dosages because you are metabolizing your hormones more quickly.

Here is a graph which shows how stress causes a decrease in our female hormones.  For men, stress is associated with a decrease in testosterone leading to some of their symptoms of fatigue and depression.

What can we do to help our hormones?

Here are my 3 favorite things to reduce stress and maintain healthy hormonal harmony.

1. Get enough sleep.  Sleep is critical for your brain to replenish and recharge.  If you have insomnia or difficulty sleeping, your cortisol levels will rise further and melatonin levels will decrease

2. Drink enough water.  Drink at least ½ of your body weight in ounces of water.  If you weigh 140 lbs, that would mean 70 ounces of water.  If you’re exercising outside, you’ll need even more to adequately hydrate.  My favorite hydration system is the i-H20 which is absorbed better than any other I’ve tried.  Here’s a link for more info.

3. Do something fun!  Recently, I took out my pasta maker which had been sitting untouched in my garage and finally put it together. What a pasta party it was!  And it was so much easier than I thought.  My favorite was not the shell pasta but rolling the dough on a wooden board to make a thin ¼” thick sheet.  I then rolled lengthwise, then cut, and voila!  Fettuccine strips!

What are some of the ways you are dealing with stress?

Are you suffering from any of the above symptoms?

In health and happiness,

Dr. Diana

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