How chronic stress can cause hormonal imbalance


Is stressful life causing your bad PMS or period problems?

Feeling stressed causes your adrenals (those little glands sitting above kidneys) to start producing cortisol to help you cope with the situation, whether it’s real or only happening in your thoughts. Most stress these days takes place as anxiety about future, worrying about what might happen or just being too busy.

Adrenals also manufacture about 35% of the sex hormones in females and even more after menopause so any adrenal dysfunction will affect your hormonal balance greatly.

This is something conventional doctors overlook because they just focus on the health of ovaries and thyroid mainly when suspecting hormone imbalance. But the originating problem is often found in compromised adrenal function.

Life is busy these days, don’t we all know it. Work days are longer than ever and employers are demanding more. Long commutes in the rush hour make even the most zen person feel stressed. Then the pressures of family life and making enough money to afford this crazy rat race life…no wonder our adrenals are pushed to the limit!

To cope with life most will reach for a strong coffee, energy drinks or sugary, fatty foods which stimulate the already drained adrenals and contribute to the problem.

Early stress symptoms you might notice:

Weight gain (middle section)
High blood pressure
Blood sugar imbalance
Muscle wasting
Night sweats
Hot flashes
Memory loss

Later when adrenal fatigue kicks in your symptoms will usually change:

Extreme fatigue
Premenstrual syndrome
Chronic low blood pressure
Craving salt or sweets
Can’t concentrate
Sensitive to cold
Frustration and irritability
Depression and anxiety

Stress will lead to lower progesterone production

Your adrenals secrete pregnenolone, the “mother hormone” from which sex hormones progesterone and estrogen as well as stress hormones such as cortisol are made from.

When you are stressed your adrenals will need to make more cortisol. As progesterone and cortisol are both made from pregnenolone it means that your body will have to prioritise and skip making progesterone in order to have enough building blocks for cortisol to help you manage stress situations.

This is called “pregnenolone steal”, seen as the red arrow in the below image.

This is not a big problem in acute situations but if you have chronic stress then your progesterone production will be lowered all the time and it will affect your hormonal health.

Excess cortisol levels in the blood will also block progesterone receptors contributing to even lower progesterone levels.

Low progesterone can cause shorter luteal phase making it harder to fall or stay pregnant and even cause infertility or repeated early miscarriages.

Low progesterone = too much estrogen

In a healthy person progesterone and estrogen work nicely together balancing each other in perfect harmony and they both have specific roles in women’s monthly cycles. Many imbalance symptoms actually come from having these two hormones out of whack in relation to each other.

When chronic stress causes lowered progesterone levels, estrogen will be too high.

Also, high cortisol levels promote fat storage making it easy to put on weight but difficult to lose. And this fat tissue actually manufactures estrogen. Adding more estrogen to the mix only makes the problem worse.

This situation is known as estrogen dominance, a very common culprit behind hormone imbalance symptoms.

Typically estrogen dominance will manifest as premenstrual syndrome up to 2 weeks before period, hot flashes, heavy bleeding, sore breasts, weight gain, migraines, fibroids, moodiness, irregular cycles, clots in your period, fatigue, foggy thinking, low libido.

Adrenals are your base

Adrenals are your foundation. They balance kidneys and minerals. They regulate the immune system. Adrenals help you cope with stress. Anything that threatens our safety disturbs adrenals, whether it’s real or imagined threat.

In Chinese medicine, kidneys and adrenals is the place where we hold fear. 

One of my teachers also said that people who can’t stick to a routine often have weak adrenal function. Adrenals are associated with safety, security, stability and self-discipline.

How to look after your adrenals when feeling stressed?

I’ve had my fair share of stress over the last couple of years and there has been times when I experienced some proper adrenal fatigue symptoms.

I felt “tired but wired”, this is very common pattern seen in adrenal fatigue: you struggle getting up in the morning, feel tired all day but then start to perk up in the evening, often not being able to fall sleep easily.

I was also craving salt and started adding it to my water temporarily. I didn’t have energy to do much but felt restless at the same time. I had muscle stiffness. I was gaining weight. Classic stuff.

Kali Phos tissue salt has a calming effect on the nervous system, especially when you’ve been working or studying too much. This can be taken a few times a day for 1-2 weeks.

Ginseng + liquorice herbal tincture really boosted my levels once. I took it daily for 2 weeks. If you have a high blood pressure avoid this one.

Consider taking B and C vitamins, magnesium and zinc. Stress really depletes your body of nutrients.

Also, sleep and rest! Avoid caffeine, energy drinks, alcohol or too much sugar.

Individualised homeopathic treatment can help if you have more complex symptoms, such as hormonal problems, thyroid issues or gut symptoms.

Are you struggling with stress and hormonal imbalance?

Let’s organise a free discovery call and discuss your circumstances in more detail. 🙂 Book here!