Is Stress Wreaking Havoc on your Hormones?

By Guest Writer:  Samantha F. Grant – Certified Nutritionist

Contributor’s Website:  Samantha F. Grant

The term “stress” is used to describe many things in our culture. In fact, most doctor visits in this country are due to it. But did you know that high stress levels in women can trigger Perimenopause (changes in your menstrual cycle that occur before Menopause) and eventually Menopause? Let’s see how the two are related.

Stress causes a physical chain reaction in the body. Your adrenal glands are the organs that respond to stress. It goes something like this:

You feel or perceive a stressor- (lack of sleep+ coffee to wake you up+ screaming kids+ traffic+ a call from your mother/ex/boss= STRESS overload-and that’s all before 9AM! We’re living with our foot on the gas most of the day!

The adrenal response “fight or flight” is set into action and before you know it, your body is in stress- hormone- producing overload. One of the main players in this internal battle is Cortisol. Cortisol is a steroid hormone that increases during stress and increases blood sugar, suppresses the immune system, and decreases bone formation. Overproduction can lead to “belly fat”, hypoglycemia, frequent colds and eventually osteoporosis. Over time this elevation of Cortisol can also lead to the depletion of a very important hormone- DHEA.

DHEA is short for dehyrdoepiandrosterone. This particular steroid hormone helps build estrogen and testosterone. These two hormones have very important functions. As we age (gracefully-hopefully!), the ovaries begin to slow down in their production of estrogen and the adrenals are there to assist. We need estrogen to keep our skin supple, our hair full and our moods stable. Testosterone is an anabolic, or building hormone that keeps our muscle mass in tact, aids in bone growth and keeps our libido strong-amongst other things.

The other important player in this hormone balancing act is progesterone. Prolonged stress also depletes progesterone. This can lead to hot flashes, hair loss, irritability, mood swings and loss of bone density as well as many other unpleasant symptoms. Perpetual PMS anyone?

So what’s a girl to do? Move to a tropical island? Buy stock in DHEA?

The first place to start is with a salivary hormone analysis. Generally you want circadian cortisol levels, testosterone, estradiol, progesterone and DHEA measured. Get a baseline, see where you’re at and be proactive in your adrenal and hormone health. This is where I come in. I can assist you with the testing and a customized protocol for restoring your hormonal health. Never self supplement with OTC hormones like DHEA unless you have been tested and shown to be deficient. There can be side effects if you take DHEA and do not need it- like hair growth on unwanted places!

Taking care of your adrenals now may save you from experiencing some of the unpleasant symptoms that are often associated with Perimenopause and Menopause later.

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Contributor’s Website:  Samantha F. Grant

Image Credits:  Help Button: StockXChng: Djaio: Jan 4, 2009; Pulling Hair Out-AKA-Nuts: StockXChng: Jepthe: April 12, 2002; Zero to 90-AKA-Ninety five miles per hour: StockXChang: dotlizard: June, 19. 2003; Red Capsules:  StockXChang: Fura: December 6, 2007; Test tubes: Jupiterimages/ Images.
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