Hormones and Stress

Hormonal Imbalances linked to Lifestyle

Your lifestyle is a major player in many aspects of your health, and that includes keeping your hormones balanced.

Hormones are proteins or steroids which are secreted directly into your bloodstream, playing a role in many body functions such as:

• Your body’s metabolism of minerals
• Regulation of fluids
• Reproduction
• Sexual function
• Responses to stress

The endocrine system, which includes glands such as the pituitary, hypothalamus, thyroid, parathyroid, pancreas, adrenals and ovaries produce hormones in women.  If your hormones are in balance, you probably sleep well, have lots of energy and a strong sex drive, and your immune system and digestive system should be functioning smoothly.  However, it’s relatively easy to imbalance your hormones, leading to an array of varied symptoms and hormone disorders including:

• Adrenal fatigue
• Hypothyroidism and Hyperthyroidism
• Polycystic Ovary Syndrome (PCOS)

You can also experience symptoms of imbalanced hormones without having a specific “disorder.” It’s important to understand, however, that hormone problems typically do not pop up overnight.  In a small number of cases, women’s hormone problems may be the result of a direct malfunction with your ovaries or other aspect of your endocrine system. But most commonly the problems are the result of a combination of lifestyle factors.

As I. Michael Borkin N.M.D. wrote:

People tend to think of women’s “hormone problems” as starting in midlife with the onset of menopause. In fact, a dysfunctional pattern can begin during adolescent years or even before birth. The severity of hormonal problems may increase with age, but it is not aging per se that is the root of declining health.

It is most often the cumulative physiological effects of stress that cause disruption of the natural rhythms and balancing mechanisms of women’s hormones, thereby eventually compromising overall health as well as sexual and reproductive health.”

Is your lifestyle interfering with your hormonal balance?

Female hormonal imbalances are often related to stress response. The more stress you’re under, the more it unbalances your cortisol levels. Not only is cortisol your primary stress hormone, it is a primary hormone in general, helping your body convert food into energy, normalize blood sugar, respond to stress and maintain your immune system’s inflammatory response.

When your cortisol levels become unbalanced due to chronic stress, this in turn deregulates your female hormones as well.

So what types of “stress responses” will interfere with your hormonal balance?

• Emotional stress
• Dietary stress
• Pain and/or inflammatory stress

Really, any type of stress on your lifestyle can negatively impact the way your body’s hormones function, and that includes:

• Too much work
• Job loss
• Financial trouble
• Relationship or family problems
• Eating a highly processed diet, too much junk food or fast food
• Hidden inflammation from exposure to chemicals and toxins in your environment
• Depletion of antioxidants or not consuming enough from your diet

Addressing hormone problems begins with changing your lifestyle

Treating hormone problems requires a whole-body approach, one that addresses the excess stress and unhealthy lifestyle habits that created the hormonal imbalance in the first place.
For example if you were to only measure female hormones and then replace them with bioidentical hormone therapy, you will virtually be guaranteed to fail because you have not addressed the underlying issues.

In this case it will likely only offer a short-term benefit and your symptoms will probably return.

The first step in addressing your hormone problemsis by making lifestyle changes, including discussing your situation with a qualified natural health practitioner. Saliva tests are more accurate that blood testing when it comes to hormone levels. By assessing all your hormones, individualised treatment can achieve lasting results by correcting the underlying imbalances.

It’s very important to take this step because weakened adrenals will not allow your hormones to equilibrate properly. Only after changing your lifestyle and addressing your adrenal function, should you evaluate and balance your female hormones.