The 411 on Stress and YOUR Hormones 11/07/10

WE HAVE ALL HEARD IT BEFORE… STRESS will kill you; however, many of us don’t actually believe this statement.  Well I am here to tell you that it is true and stress will wreak havoc on your body.

The True Definition of Stress

STRESS can be defined as a physical, chemical, or emotional factor that causes bodily or mental tension.  Short term stress can actually be good.  Sometimes short term stressors can result in an increase in productivity and performance; however, long term stress can and will be detrimental to your health.

STRESS causes our bodies to release the hormone known as cortisol.  Cortisol, the stress hormone is needed for our bodies to handle life’s various situations.  However; persistent elevated cortisol levels can have dire consequences.  To make matters even worse persistent high levels of stress can drain our bodies of cortisol resulting in extreme fatigue.

Comic Strip - Weight Loss and Stress

Stress and Hormones
So how does stress affect your hormonal status? Well the answer is not so simple.  Stress causes a release of cortisol and cortisol causes your body to produce more Sex Hormone Binding Globulin (SHBG).  This is a protein that binds up your circulating estrogen so that it can not make it to the receptors.  When SHBG is high you will feel like you need more estrogen to handle your symptoms such as hot flashes and night sweats.

Many women report worsening hot flashes and night sweats when they are under stress and high cortisol levels resulting high SHBG levels is the cause of this.

This will increase your estrogen load and more estrogen can lead to:

  • Irregular/ heavy bleeding
  • Swollen and tender breasts
  • Depression, fatigue, and poor concentration
  • Fibrocystic breast and fibroid growth
  • Endometriosis
  • PMS, water retention, and bloating
  • Fat gain around the hips and thighs
  • Breast and uterine cancer

STRESS can also affect your progesterone levels as well.  When our bodies can no longer keep up with cortisol production because we are under so much stress, we begin to steal progesterone to make cortisol.  This depletion of cortisol leads to further hormonal imbalance and you may experience symptoms of progesterone deficiency / estrogen excess.

So far we have discussed how the stress hormone cortisol can cause imbalances in estrogen and progesterone, but it is also important to remember that imbalances in cortisol itself can lead to a variety of issues that will affect your health and wellness.

High levels of stress have been linked a variety of conditions such as:

      • High Blood Pressure
      • Heart Disease
      • Stroke
      • Diabetes
      • People with High Stress Levels are more likely to DIE from illnesses such as: Breast Cancer

High levels of cortisol may result in:

  • Weight Gain
  • Depression
  • Sleep Disturbances

High Cortisol and Weight Gain & Depression
High levels of cortisol have been linked to belly fat and weight gain.  This may be due to the fact that high levels of cortisol decrease serotonin in the brain which causes anxiety, nervousness and leads to salt, carbohydrate, and alcohol cravings.  Serotonin is also known as the feel good hormone and a reduction in serotonin can lead to depression like symptoms.

Menopause - woman and doctor on scale

High levels of cortisol also decrease the thyroid activity and the thyroid gland controls your metabolism.  A sluggish thyroid will also lead to weight gain.

High levels of stress also deplete crucial B-Vitamins which are needed to help balance stress as well as for energy production.

High Cortisol and Sleep Disturbances

High cortisol levels result in a decrease of melatonin output which results in adequate sleep patterns.  High night time cortisol levels will cause people to feel like their mind is racing which will make it difficult to fall asleep or stay asleep.


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Low Cortisol Levels

Low cortisol levels can be just as detrimental to our health and well being.  When we exhaust our adrenal glands due to prolonged or extreme short term stress our bodies can no longer keep up with the stressors of life and our production of cortisol begins to decrease.

Low cortisol levels can lead to extreme fatigue throughout the entire day.  Individuals suffering from this type of exhaustion may experience extreme morning fatigue despite an adequate nights rest.  Also low cortisol may result in difficulty falling asleep.

People experiencing adrenal fatigue often times gain weight due to the extreme exhaustion that prevents them from exercising.  This extreme exhaustion also results in individuals consuming high amounts of candy and energy drinks which are loaded with sugar and packed with calories.


A glandular / nutritional supplement designed to help normalize cortisol levels resulting in the ability to balance stress.  This product is not a stimulant bur provides focused energy throughout the day without a jittery feeling.

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