We all know that stress is nor healthy. But how exactly does stress impact our body? and especially our hormones?
Short term stress is ok, but if we are running on stress hormones it takes a toll on our body. And the way we are living right now, is constant stress. There is barely a minute of quiet. And just because you don't feel stressed doesn't mean your body doesn't experiences stress!
When we experience long term stress our body produces cortisol. Cortisol is converted from Progesterone. Progesterone is a Hormone we need to keep us warm, for regulating our menstrual cycle but also to keep a pregnancy.
If our body uses the Progesterone to keep up with the Cortisol production, it doesn't have enough Progesterone to balance our Estrogen in the body. We develop estrogen dominance, which causes bad PMS, menstrual cramps, heavy bleeding, recurrent miscarriages and sleep issues.
It's also important for a healthy brain, skin and other tissues.
Long-term effects of high Cortisol
Persistent high Cortisol causes glucose utilization declines and Insulin resistance increase. That means that the body doesn't react to Insulin (hormone to reduce blood sugar) as it should be anymore and your blood sugar rises, increasing your risk of getting diabetes.
High Cortisol also increases the breakdown of muscle protein, blood lipids start to rise and abdominal fat tends to accumulate.
The immune system gets suppressed, which leads a decline of secretory Immunoglobulin A (sIgA). Immunoglobulin A is major immune barrier of our mucus membranes. Over time our gut lining becomes thinner, which leads to leaky gut syndrome, allergic responses, yeast overgrowth and chronic infections and inflammations.
Many chronic illnesses can be traced back to adrenal gland malfunction.
High Cortisol also reduces the hormone Testosterone. Men and women need Testosterone to have a healthy libido and to maintain lean body mass, bone density and skin elasticity. It's also involved in blood cell production and the building of tissue (it's a natural steroid hormone).
For men it's very important to have a healthy amount of testosterone to prevent diabetes, heart disease, stroke, osteoporosis, depression and Alzheimer's disease. Studies suggest that a low testosterone in men is a predictor for early mortality!
What is stress for the body?
When we think of stressors we often just think of big things like deadlines, moving, starting a new job,... but we have also stressors every day we don't even see as stressors but any of the things listed belong are causing stress in the body:
Skipping meals: When we skip a meal our blood sugar drops. To get the blood sugar back up to a healthy level our adrenal glands (little gland on top of the kidney) kick in and produce adrenalin, which activates the liver to break down the sugar it's stores and to send it into the blood.
Coffee: Coffee activates your adrenals to pump out more adrenalin. We think we have more energy but over time we actually drain our batteries even more - what can trigger adrenal fatigue.
Chemicals: we are exposed to a lot of chemicals every day, making our liver, lymphatic system and skin work overtime. Some chemicals even act like estrogen in the body creating an estrogen dominance 9which i mentioned earlier). Reduce chemicals as much as you can. That doesn't just include cleaners but also cosmetic, hairspray, scented candles, artificial food dyes, and more. For more information check out: the blog post on this website from Megan Telpner.
Other stressors are:
Not enough sleep - less than 8 hours
going to bed after midnight
Diet high in refined carbs and sugars
low fiber intake
eating in a hurry
Not enough exercise or too much exercise
Constant negative thoughts
many hours on a screen, especially right before bedtime
not enough daylight (sunlight)
We are going to face stressors every day, we can't eliminate them all. But we can do a lot to reduce stress on our body. It's as always the balance of things. Some things are easy to change some are not. What is for certain though every stressor you can aliminate or even reduce will make a huge difference for you and your hormones.