How Stress Can Cause a Hormonal Imbalance
You’re probably aware that our hormone levels begin to drop with age. What you might not know is that stress can also cause a hormonal imbalance. Hormonal imbalances can cause a variety of complications, like decreased libido, mood swings, anxiety, lack of sleep, and more. New research shows that a testosterone imbalance may even link depression and increased body weight in premenopausal women. Long story short, a hormonal imbalance is something that can produce a lot of unwanted symptoms. And, the constant stress we are under isn’t helping.
Stress may be defined as any situation which tends to disturb the equilibrium between a living organism and its environment. In our day-to-day lives there are many stressful situations such as work, school, relationship and psychosocial stress and physical stresses due to trauma, surgery and various medical disorders. We tend to know when we are undergoing stress, but what is happening within our bodies is less known to some of us. The following will discuss how stress can cause a hormonal imbalance and how controlling our stress is a great way to supplement a hormone replacement program.
Cortisol is commonly referred to as the “stress hormone.” You can think of it as our fight or flight hormone. It works like an internal alarm system that works with certain parts of our brains to control our moods, motivations, and fears. It can also become imbalanced when we are sick or when we are consumed by a lot of stress. When this important hormone becomes imbalanced, it disrupts important processes in the body.
For example, Cortisol:
- Manages how your body uses carbohydrates, fats, and proteins
- Keeps inflammation down
- Regulates your blood pressure
- Increases your blood sugar (glucose)
- Controls your sleep/wake cycle
- Boosts energy so you can handle stress and restores balance afterward
Stress stimulates hormone responses in the body that cause weight gain and insulin resistance. Cortisol is a hormone produced in the adrenal gland that helps your body with its fight or flight instinct. This means that when your body is threatened in some way, Cortisol gives you a surge of energy that allows you to run faster, hear better, and even see further. It also shuts down your metabolism. This is fine in the short term, but after long periods of stress, weight gain, high blood sugar, high blood pressure, and muscle loss is common.
Too much cortisol is also damaging to other hormones in your body. Pregnenolone is a hormone that produces cortisol. It also produces your sex hormones, which we will dicsuss next. However, if your Pregnenolone is producing too much cortisol because of stress, it doesn’t have the time to produce the following important sex hormones.
Estrogen and Testosterone
Ok, let’s break this down. When pregnenolone is busy making cortisol to deal with your stress response, it is too busy to produce improtant sex hormones like estrogen and testosterone. Estrogen and testosterone imbalances can lead to a variety of sexual symptoms like decreased libido, sexual dysfunction and more. Low Testosterone can cause men to gain weight and lose muscle—in addition to causing sexual dysfunction, low sex drive, fatigue, brain fog, and even bone loss.
Estrogen is another very important hormone when it comes to looking and feeling young, and it also has a deep connection to the way we handle stress. Estrogen has a protective effect on the brain. Estrogen’s actions in the body are very complex and are being researched heavily to fully understand its role in the body. However, It is well known that estrogen receptors (ERs) are widely distributed in the brain (Hara et al., 2015) having important regulatory function on different processes such as cognition, anxiety, body temperature, feeding and sexual behavior (Do Rego et al., 2009).
Thyroid function is usually down-regulated during stressful conditions. T3 and T4 levels decrease with stress. Stress inhibits the thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) secretion through the action of glucocorticoids on the central nervous system. (3)
Stress can cause a hormonal imbalance that acts like a domino effect in your body. Hormone imbalances are even associated with increased risks for obesity. A recent study examined the interaction between the decrease in estrogen secretion and the prevalence of obesity in menopausal women. It notes: “The [sex] hormones help integrate metabolic interaction among major organs that are essential for metabolically intensive activities like reproduction and metabolic function. Sex steroids are required to regulate adipocyte metabolism and also influence the sex-specific remodeling of particular adipose depots. In humans, the factors that control fat distribution are partially determined by sex hormones concentrations.” In layman’s terms: your sex hormones are integral to both weight gain and fat distribution on your body.
Because stress can cause a hormonal imbalance in your body, it is very important that we manage stress in ways that allow our bodies to produce the hormones we need. Managing stress is also a way to boost the benefits of a hormonal replacement and optimization program. Below are Dr. Rosselli’s best tips for managing stress.
Dr. Rosselli’s Tips for Managing Stress:
- Avoid Caffeine, Alcohol, and Nicotine
- Get More Sleep!
- Try Relaxation Techniques like yoga, meditation, prayer, and more
- Talk to a therapist or even a friend. Talking is sometimes the best way to release pent up stress.
Call to schedule Bioidentical Hormone Replacement Therapy at RevitalIV: 561-406-2202 or click here to book online. Your body and MIND thanks you!
- Hara Y., Yuk F., Puri R., Janssen W. G., Rapp P. R., Morrison J. H. (2014). Presynaptic mitochondrial morphology in monkey prefrontal cortex correlates with working memory and is improved with estrogen treatment. Proc. Natl. Acad. Sci. U S A 111, 486–491.
- Do Rego J. L., Seong J. Y., Burel D., Leprince J., Luu-The V., Tsutsui K., et al. . (2009). Neurosteroid biosynthesis: enzymatic pathways and neuroendocrine regulation by neurotransmitters and neuropeptides. Front. Neuroendocrinol. 30, 259–301. 10.1016/j.yfrne.2009.05.006
- 9. Helmreich DL, Parfitt DB, Lu XY, Akil H, Watson SJ. Relation between the hypothalamic-pituitary-thyroid (HPT) axis and the hypothalamic-pituitary-adrenal (HPA) axis during repeated stress. Neuroendocrinology. 2005;81:183–92.
Dr. Matteo Rosselli, D.O.
Medical Director and Co-Founder of Revitalogy
With over two decades of experience as an anesthesiologist, Dr. Rosselli has witnessed the extraordinary benefits of intravenous hydration treatments firsthand. His specially-formulated treatments for conditions such as migraines, hangovers, and jet-lag, as well as his highly-innovative customized treatments for pre-/post-operative procedures have been so beneficial for his own patients that he was inspired to open RevitalIV and offer these treatments to the public. Dr. Rosselli’s priority is to provide the safest and most effective strategies for optimal health, slowing the aging process, and restoring the youthful vitality that decreases as we age. He believes that the integration of revolutionary medical research with his patients’ individual health profiles is the most optimal method for prescribing anti-aging medicine programs that will produce effective results.
His revolutionary syntheses of BioIdentical Hormone Therapy, IV hydration, and Physician-Formulated Vitamin Supplementation, have been drastically reducing age-related disease and symptoms while restoring a youthful and beautiful energy to his patients.